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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
1 June 1939
Vera Schaufeld, was born Vera Lӧwyova in a town called Klatovy in south-west Bohemia, Czechoslovakia (now in the Czech Republic). Her father, Eugene Lӧvy, was a lawyer and a prominent figure within the Jewish community, Vera’s mother Elsa Lӧwyova (nee Lezeritz) was a doctor, specialising in Paediatric Medicine.
Vera remembers her childhood as very happy. She was an only child and felt loved by her parents and her grandmother, who had moved from Germany to live with the family in 1934. At school Vera had many friends, both Jewish and Christian. Despite being one of the few Jewish children in the local primary school, Vera was hardly aware of being a minority and it was not until the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939 that she understood what this meant. Within a few days her father was arrested and the atmosphere of fear grew.
Shortly after the German invasion, Vera experienced antisemitism first-hand from a teacher. She remembers realising that to the teacher she had become ‘the Jew’, losing her personal identity. Her father was arrested and her mother was no longer able to practise as a doctor.
One day, after school, Vera’s mother surprised her by taking her to a small park. She was told that she must go to England on her own. Trying to reassure her, Vera’s mother said that she and Vera’s father would try to join her in England as soon as they possibly could.
When Vera arrived at Prague station, she was devastated to be told that the parents of all the children were not allowed onto the platform to say goodbye. This would be the last time Vera would see either of her parents. Her aunt and uncle boarded the train in Germany and stayed with her until the last station in Germany. Her parents had also arranged for Vera to be met by other relatives in Hook van Holland. Vera has a photo of her encounter with these relatives, who gave her a doll as a present.
Vera’s memory of arriving in England was sitting at Liverpool Street Station, surrounded by other children who had also been saved by Sir Nicholas Winton, fearing that she would not be collected by anyone.
A Christian family agreed to take Vera into their home. They were called Leonard and Nancy Faires. Their daughter, Betty, was three years older than Vera and Vera remembers her as being very kind. She was evacuated with Betty to the Cotswolds. Before the war broke out on 3 September 1939, Vera’s parents would send her presents and they were even able to speak to her on the telephone. After the declaration of war, however, Vera had no further news of her parents and learnt after the war that they had not survived.
After arriving in the UK, Vera had very little contact with other Jewish refugees or Jewish organizations. She therefore decided after the war to travel to Israel to spend a year working on a Kibbutz, where she met Avram Schaufeld, who had survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Vera and Avram were married in 1952 and they moved back to the UK, where they raised two daughters. Vera continued to work as teacher and became involved with the council of Brent to improve provisions for children whose first language was not English. Vera became a sought-after speaker and is an active Holocaust educator.
Many interruptions, as interviewee felt dizzy.
Klatovy. Prague. Nicholas Winton. Kindertransport. Leonard and Nancy Faires.
And my normal happy childhood continued until the day when I came downstairs in the morning, and I saw my family – my mother, my father, my grandmother, my nurse - all sitting listening to the radio. And there was such an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. And I said, “What’s happening?” And I think my father said, “England has let us down. The German troops are marching into Czechoslovakia, and nobody is stopping them coming.” And within, I think it was two days, my father was arrested. And my mother and my grandmother kept me home from school. My nurse had to go back to her village because she wasn’t allowed to work for us anymore.
My mother came and took me to a little park outside the school, sat me on a bench and said to me, “Look Vera, I'm very sorry, but we can't leave Czechoslovakia. But you understand that it's not safe for us to be here anymore. But you can go to a country called England. And you will go on the train, and you won't know the other children. But they’ll all be children whose families feel that it's not safe for their children to be here anymore. And you'll go on the train. And you'll go to a country called England. And we will- we've sent fifty pounds to the English government so that though we want to come to England, if we have a problem with that, what we're going to do is we're going to be able to go to any other country, and we will send for you. Because the money is there with English government and you'll join us. And we'll be together. But you have to be very brave. And until we come.”