TORONTO (JTA) — An octogenarian couple — both Jewish Holocaust survivors — killed themselves in Toronto in an apparent suicide pact.
Police are treating the deaths of Vladimir Fiser, 89, and Marika Ferber, 84, as a double suicide. Their bodies were found Tuesday at the base of their apartment building. They are believed to have jumped to their deaths from the balcony of their 18th-floor apartment.
“At this point, investigators do not believe the deaths are suspicious,” Toronto Police Constable Sarah Diamond said. “It’s being treated as a double suicide.”
Friends and neighbors have said the couple were ill and in chronic pain. Police reportedly found two notes in their apartment saying goodbye.
Both Fiser and Ferber were born in the small Croatian city of Osijek on the eve of World War II, reported the Toronto Star, quoting a longtime friend and neighbor. They befriended each other as children in the small Jewish community, which was torn apart when the Nazis defeated Yugoslavia in 1941.
That year, Fiser’s father, a lawyer, was executed along with many family members. Fiser fled to the Italy-occupied part of Croatia and became a war refugee until the Germans invaded Italy in 1943. He was hidden by a sympathetic policeman and smuggled to Switzerland, where he spent the remainder of the war. Fiser returned to Yugoslavia after the war and graduated from the University of Zagreb with a degree in economics.
Less is known about Ferber, who reportedly had been a ballerina and teacher.
Both Ferber and Fiser went on to live in Israel. When their spouses died of cancer a day apart, they turned their lifelong friendship into a second marriage, their neighbor related.
In Toronto, Fiser earned a master’s degree in social work and worked at a psychiatric hospital. He suffered from heart problems.
In recent years, Ferber suffered from chronic back and leg pain and needed a walker or a wheelchair. Her husband took her to a clinic daily to get injections for pain relief, the Toronto Sun reported.
“They were truly in love,” another neighbor told the Sun. “But they were tired of all the pain.”