Liane's Polish-born Jewish parents were married in Vienna, where they lived in a 14-room apartment in a middle-class neighborhood near the Danube River. Liane's father, a dentist, had his office in their home.
1933-39: After Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Liane's father was found dead, a probable suicide. In May 1939, four months before war broke out, her mother booked passage on the St. Louis, a ship bound for Cuba. But Cuban authorities turned the ship back. Along with some other refugees from the ship, Liane, her mother and brother disembarked in the French city of Boulogne, and were then sent south to Loudun.
1940-44: The Germans invaded France. The Reifs soon boarded a train for Limoges, which had not been taken by the Germans. At first they were housed in a stadium used for circus performances, where they slept on the rows of stone bleachers. They had hardly any food; during the course of a day Liane's meals consisted of a little milk, boiled brown lentils, and day-old bread. Occasionally there were potatoes, or an egg. On her sixth birthday Liane's mother brought her the nicest present she'd ever had--a peach and some dried fruit.
In 1941 the Reifs settled in New York, after relatives helped them arrange passage to the United States via Portugal. Liane later earned a doctorate in chemistry.