Thompson Rivers University

Lost to the Shoah: Bleak, unforgettable, and vitally important

  Posted on: February 6, 2020

When one edits a book, certainly the process can be challenging.

But the latest book edited by Dr. Jeff McLaughlin, Lost to the Shoah: Eight Lives, is more than challenging — it is emotional, and heart-wrenching, and despite having read each story scores of times, it never became easier, nor should it.

This is the second book the philosophy professor has edited for Vera Schiff. A Holocaust survivor, Schiff is now in her mid-90s and has spent much of her life sharing stories about the people she knew and about her own experiences living and being forced to work as a nurse in Theresientstadt, one of 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust.

Dr. Jeff McLaughlin, Professor, Philosophy

Lost to the Shoah tells the stories of people Schiff interacted with daily. Unlike Bound for Theresienstadt: Love, Loss and Resistance in a Nazi Concentration Camp, the first book written by Schiff and edited by McLaughlin, Lost to the Shoah is as bleak as the title would imply.

“This book is more tragic. There are no happy endings. In the first book I added questions that the reader might ask and provided Vera’s responses. In this book I let the stories speak for themselves,” McLaughlin said.

He first met Schiff several years ago while teaching a course for nursing students on medical ethics. He was asked if he would be interested in having a Holocaust survivor come to speak with the class. The talk Schiff gave was unforgettable. 

“I have met many survivors. Vera is exceptional, and has this scholarly expertise. Every time I talk to her, I learn so much,” McLaughlin said.

In the preface of Bound for Theresinstadt, Schiff writes that it is her “personal mission to never allow the world to forget the Nazi era,” and that she believes the best way to remember this tragedy is not through memorizing events, but in reflecting on the Holocaust’s humanity.

“It is not the data that penetrates the conscious or heart of students and allows them to identify with times bygone; rather it is the poignant stories of those who fell under the wheels of Nazi hatred,” she wrote.

In Lost to the Shoah, Schiff continues her mission, bringing into focus the lives of “eight real and interesting human beings,” and in the book’s preface, McLaughlin notes that “every victim was more than just a victim. Each one lived, laughed, loved and were loved. Then they were murdered.”

Despite her advanced aged, Schiff is already discussing the next book, and McLaughlin says he is determined and honoured to help her tell these stories.

More information

Dr. Jeff McLaughlin, Professor
jmclaughlin@tru.ca
250-371-5734