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Survivor Profiles: Ava Kadishson Schieber

I never perceived myself a victim; I survived ... because the Nazi force didn’t catch me. Ever since, I have felt the obligation to testify what I know about that murderous hunt.

Ava Kadishson Schieber

Her Story:

Born in Novi Sad near Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Ava’s parents were Jewish. The family moved to Belgrade in 1940 where they prospered until the Nazis arrived. The family made a decision to go against Nazi decrees and not register as Jews. Instead, they separated and went into hiding. Ava’s mother had converted from Catholicism and still retained her baptismal certificate, enabling her to live more openly. Her father went to Hungary and her sister stayed with her non-Jewish Serbian fiancé.

In 1941, then fifteen-year-old Ava was sent into hiding on a Serbian farm 12 miles outside of Belgrade owned by relatives of her sister’s fiancé. She was forced to make an abrupt transition from urban, school-focused life to the arduous life of a rural farm hand. For four years she pretended to be deaf and mute. Her family background and understanding of the dangerous situation she was in, combined with her courage to master physical challenges, enabled her to use every available resource for both physical and emotional survival. Ava continued to create art despite her dire circumstances. In fact, one of her watercolors from that time hangs in the U.S. Holocaust Museum. She also continued her studies by reading a set of large German encyclopedias she carried into hiding.

After the war, Ava discovered her father and sister had been killed. She reunited with her mother and lived with her in Yugoslavia for four years. During that time, Ava won a scholarship to attend Zvezda Film Institute in Belgrade to learn to be a theater set designer. Living under the communist regime proved untenable. She and her mother emigrated to Israel in 1949. She married Yitzek Kadishson and worked with him at the Cameri Theatre, an improv theatre in Tel Aviv of which he was one of the original founders. She also began to paint and collect artifacts. Ava and Yitzek had three children-Rafi Kadishson, Benjamin Kadishson, and Shira Kadishson Yannay. After Yitzek died in the early 80s, Ava began to exhibit her art in the United States. In 1985, Ava married Chicagoan Nathan Schieber and settled in the city before returning to Israel at the end of her life.

Learn More:

Speaking with students Chicago Tribune article USHMM collection Present Past Soundless Roar: Stories, Poems, and Drawings

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