Bertha “Betty” Shane, 91, perished last week in a fire at her house in the UK neighborhood of Hampstead. Mrs. Shane had no children and a little family when she passed away, but thanks to a social media appeal, a minyan was present for her funeral at the Bushey cemetery last Friday.
She was described as “a character, a one-off, a poet, and a fiercely independent woman who was still passionately protective of her freedom” by Shane’s niece Dawn to the Jewish Chronicle. She didn’t have a fear of anyone and wasn’t a wimp.
Ms. Shane, born in Antwerp on June 2, 1931, was the youngest and last surviving member of a family of seven. Up until May 1940, the family stayed in Belgium before escaping to England.
Her father, Moishe Shayngesicht, waited in Antwerp for her aunt’s spouse, who was Mr. Shayngesicht’s brother, at her aunt’s behest. Both were discovered by the Nazis, who then transported them to Auschwitz to die.
Mrs. Shane gave up to £500,000 to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in his honor in her latter years.
“Betty cherished her father and had an extraordinary affinity with him,” Betty’s niece stated during her eulogy.
She never stopped remembering and talking about how dad used to care for her and how close that link was throughout her entire life. He was her life’s love in many ways.
Ms. Shane relocated to London after the Blitz and was given a place to stay with a couple who helped her learn English. English language, literature, and poetry became her great love in life.
She moved to Market Harborough in 1942 to live with her mother and later enrolled in a Jewish organization in London to study shorthand and typing. She was the primary provider for the family at the age of 17.
She and her Sephardic husband resided in Israel from 1956 and 1961.
Although the marriage did not survive long, her experience there had a significant impact.
She spent the last ten years of her life writing a memoir about that time with Dudley Miles, a friend she had known for more than 40 years and who was there at the funeral.
Shane returned to England and started teaching, “changing the lives of many.”
For the last 18 months of Mrs. Shane’s life, Esther, one of the attendees, served as her social worker.
She admitted to the JC, “I am devastated. She consistently made me chuckle. Although self-reliant, she frequently complained about something, typically technology.
I will always remember her and the time we spent together.
“She told me a story from her youth the last time I went to see her. As a young girl fleeing Antwerp, she described how she promised her best friend: “I’ll play with you again when this is all done.” She did so while sobbing.
The last time she saw her friend was that, though. She carried a trauma with her for the rest of her life, from losing her father, best friend, and other loved ones during that time.