UNB News
News and stories from one of Canada’s top universities

Holocaust survivor and UNB honorary degree recipient appointed to Order of Canada

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Dec 23, 2020

Category: UNB Saint John

University of New Brunswick honorary degree recipient and Holocaust survivor Vera Schiff was recently named a member of the Order of Canada for her distinguished career as an author, well-known historian and public speaker.

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1926, Schiff, along with her father, mother, sister and grandmother, was deported to Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp located in the town of Terezin in what is now the Czech Republic. During her three years of imprisonment, her family died from disease and deprivation.

As the sole survivor of her extended family of 50, Vera went on to become a first-rate educator and speaker across Canada and the United States, penning various books, including Theresienstadt: the Town the Nazis gave to the Jews (1996), Hitler’s Inferno: Eight Personal Histories from the Holocaust 2002) and A Theresienstadt Diary: Letters to Veruska (2005). She was awarded an honorary degree from UNBSJ in 2012 as well as one from Thompson Rivers this year. Her upcoming book, titled Surviving Theresienstadt: A Teenager's Memoir of the Holocaust, will be released in 2021.

Dr. Cheryl Fury, a professor of history at the University of New Brunswick Saint John and a fellow and faculty member of the Gregg Centre for War and Society, edited Schiff’s most recent book. As a double UNB alumni (BA’88 and MA’90), Fury is a Holocaust educator and has worked as an editor on a number of research projects with Schiff. She has held a number of international and national research fellowships including the Alexander O. Vietor Memorial Fellowship in Maritime History at the John Carter Brown Library (USA) and the Institute of Historical Research’s Visiting Fellowship (U.K). She currently has a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant on diet, disease and disorder in the early East India Company.

Fury has also written and edited a number of books on the social history of English seafarers: Tides in the Affairs of Men (2002), The Social History of English Seamen 1485-1649 (2012) and The Social History of English Seamen 1650-1815 (Runner-up, Best Book of 2017, Keith Matthews Award, Canadian Nautical Research Society), as well as several articles in academic journals and chapters in books.

“Given the global rise of intolerance in our own day, Vera’s story is just as relevant today as it was in the dark days of the Third Reich,” says Fury. “I hope that this book finds the widest possible audience as it is a clarion call for respect and human dignity. Vera’s life has incredibly tragic elements, but this book also details how she found love, hope and resiliency at her lowest ebb. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to work with Vera on a number of projects. I believe this book to be the most important and poignant of those publications.”

Media contact: Angie Deveau

Photo credit: Ocean-Leigh Peters