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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Vera Gissing, Who Was Rescued by ‘Britain’s Schindler,’ Dies at 93

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“There would have been no possibility of me surviving had I stayed behind, if my parents did not have the moral courage to let us go,” Mrs. Gissing said in an interview in 2006 with a Holocaust survivors’ archive at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

“The scene at Prague station will be with me forever,” The Daily Telegraph quoted her as recalling. “The forced cheerfulness of my parents — their last words of love, encouragement and advice. Until that moment, I felt more excited than afraid, but when the whistle blew and the train pulled slowly out of the station, my beloved mother and father could no longer mask their anguish.”

She and her 15-year-old sister, Eva, wore dresses that fit exactly, in the hope that they would return soon enough not to need larger sizes to grow into. Mrs. Gissing said she was given a leather-bound diary in which to deliver messages to her parents indirectly during the interim.

“Every day I wrote my parents a letter,” she said.

She had filled the pages of more than a dozen diaries by the end of the war, when she learned that her father had been fatally shot while on a death march from the Terezin concentration camp in December 1944 and her mother had died from typhoid two days after she was liberated from another camp, Bergen-Belsen.

Mrs. Gissing wrote an autobiography, “Pearls of Childhood” (1988), and collaborated with Muriel Emanuel on “Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation” (2001). Her story was recounted in a children’s book by Peter Sís, “Nicky & Vera” (2021), fictionalized in the movie “All My Loved Ones” (1999) and told in the documentaries “Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport” (2000), which won an Academy Award, and “The Power of Good: Nicholas Winton” (2002), which won an International Emmy.

Veruska Anna Diamantova was born in Prague on July 4, 1928, to Karel Diamontova, a wine merchant, and Irma (Kestner) Diamontova, who worked in her husband’s office. She grew up in Celakovice, about 20 miles east of Prague.

“My sister was very serious and studious,” she said in the interview for the University of Michigan archive. “I was a ragamuffin who always got into scrapes.”

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