Vera Hollander

A True Educator

Since coming to Canada, Vera has dedicated herself to educating others about the Holocaust.

Vera was born in 1926 in Bishtine, Czechoslovakia, to Gizella and Sandor Hollander.

On Vera’s eighteenth birthday, in 1944, German troops occupied Hungary. By spring, all the Jews in her village were deported to Mateszalka Ghetto. Soon after, Vera and her extended family were transported to Auschwitz. Vera and her mother were selected for slave labour to construct German military barracks at the Plaszow Camp in Poland.

They were later sent to Markkleeberg Camp, a slave labour factory of Buchenwald in Germany, to build airplane engines for the Junkers Aviation Company. As the war was ending, Vera and her mother were forced out on a death march, but fortunately managed to escape. Vera carried her mother, who then weighed a mere 80 pounds, back to camp. There, on April 13, 1945, the Americans liberated them.

On returning to her hometown, Vera learned that her beloved father had been killed in Mauthausen-Melk. Because the Soviet Union had taken over her village, Vera and her mother were again dispossessed of home and property. Five months later, Vera passed her Hungarian high school exams and was accepted into medical school in Prague. In 1947, Vera married Josef Slyomovics, whose parents had been murdered in camps. Joseph and a pregnant Vera trekked three weeks across the Semmering Mountains to a displaced persons camp in Salzburg, Austria, where their son, Peter, was born.

After receiving Canadian visas, the couple came by ship in October 1948 to Montreal, where their daughter, Susan, was born. As a member and later president of the local B’nai Brith chapter, Vera dedicated herself to Canadian Holocaust educational initiatives. Vera and her husband moved to Vancouver in 1969, where Vera was actively involved in Hadassah-Wizo and the Friends of Hebrew University. She was one of the founding members of the annual Vancouver Holocaust Education Symposium for western Canadian high school students. In recognition of her outstanding achievements in Holocaust education, the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award was bestowed on Vera in 2002.