Fischer escaped Shoah, became SLU professor


Vernon W. Fischer, a retired professor at St. Louis University School of Medicine, died Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010 after a long illness and a stroke last year, according to an announcement by the university.

Mr. Fischer died at the Life Care Center nursing home in St. Louis. He was 86 and had been a resident of University City.

Mr. Fischer started work at the university in 1956 as a medical laboratory technician in the Pathology Department. Eleven years later he began graduate studies in the Anatomy Department to fulfill a lifetime goal of becoming a teacher.

Mr. Fischer was born in Germany in 1923. In August 1939, a month before the Nazis invaded Poland to start World War II in Europe, Mr. Fischer fled through the Kindertransport, which helped 10,000 children and some of their mothers escape Nazi Germany. He lived in England before moving to St. Louis.

Mr. Fischer earned his master’s degree in 1969, a doctorate in 1972, and later joined the SLU Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, where he taught full-time until 1992. He continued to teach medical students and mentor researchers, retiring as professor emeritus in 2002.

Dr. Raymond Slavin, a friend and professor at the medical school, praised Dr. Fischer for earning his doctorate at an advanced age. “Dr. Fischer received his doctorate at an age when most people wouldn’t have gone through the arduous process of getting a Ph.D., and indication of his intellectual curiosity. He was a well-rounded man who read a great deal and had a wonderful sense of humor.”

Senior medical students at SLU recognized Mr. Fischer as a top teacher, presenting him the Golden Apple Award.

“Whenever a Holocaust survivor passes away, it is really another loss of a piece of history,” said Dan Reich, curator and director of education for the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

“We value the stories of all of our survivors, including Dr. Fischer, who came here after escaping Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport and built a wonderful life and career not only for himself, but which benefitted the entire community. His passing is truly a loss to all of us.”

Mr. Fischer never married or had children. Among his survivors are two cousins, Margot Prinz and Miriam Dennison, both of St. Louis County.

The funeral was held last Sunday at Berger Memorial Funeral Home, followed by burial at Ohave Shalom Cemetery, 7400 Olive Boulevard, a small cemetery for Holocaust survivors.

Memorial contributions may be made to a charity of choice.