Werner Schiff was born on August 27, 1936 to Herta Schiff at the Frankfurt Jewish Hospital in Germany. Herta and her family were from Bad Drisburg, a town in North Rhine - Westphalia, Germany, where Herta ‘s father Moses Schiff was a well- known merchant who traded in hides, skins and scrap. Herta’s mother ran a small hotel and shop where she sold hats and fashion goods. On the night of Kristallnacht, November 8, 1938, the windows of their home were broken and Moses was arrested along with other Jews. From 1941 all Jews living in Bad Drisburg were forcibly quartered in the Schiff home and strictly supervised by the Gestapo.
Herta moved to Frankfurt and worked in a high end department store. When Herta returned home six months later, she was pregnant. She was then sent to a home for Jewish girls in Weissenburg, Germany. When her son Werner was born, they lived together for a few months before she placed him for protection in an orphanage. At the age of 2 years, in August 1938, Werner was adopted and sent to America on the ship US Europa accompanied by an unknown nurse. Werner was met at the ship by Irwin and Esta Alifeld, his new adoptive parents from Brooklyn. Werner’s name was changed to Warren.
The Schiff family in Germany was torn apart when Herta, then just 31 years old, and her sister Paula were deported to the Warsaw Ghetto and eventually murdered, possibly at Auschwitz. Their parents perished at Theresienstadt concentration camp. Many of the children who remained in the German orphanage did not survive.
Growing up, Warren was never told he was adopted from Germany. Eventually the Alifeld family settled in Atlanta where Warren graduated from Grady High School and Georgia State University with an accounting degree. It wasn’t until Warren turned 18 and he was required to produce a birth certificate in order to register for the draft that his parents were forced to tell Warren about his adoption. The Alifelds had kept their secret so not to expose their son to anti- German sentiments and discrimination. His mother showed Warren his original German immigration card, but Warren expressed no further interest in his past. The Alifeld were his parents.
When Warren married his wife Cheryl in 1993, she was determined to research his unknown past. Cheryl contacted the Red Cross and the International Tracing Service (ITS) of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. They discovered a first cousin in North Carolina, Martha Wulf, the daughter of his uncle Rudolph and Erna.
When they met, Martha showed Warren pictures of his grandparents. Warren, Cheryl and Martha went to Bad Drisburg in 1997 to visit the site of his home and conduct further research. There they met a man who was recognized as a Righteous Gentile who had collected information on the fate of Jews from Bad Drisburg. On a trip to Utah, Cheryl visited the Mormon genealogy library and discovered Warren’s original birth certificate. When their youngest grandchild traveled on a school trip to Auschwitz, he saw Warren’s mother’s name on a memory wall.
Warren was fortunate to have two loving mothers who protected and cared for him. Together Cheryl and Warren have 4 children and 8 grandchildren. Their interest in the family history continues.