Vera Stein Ehrlich was born to a prominent Jewish family in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She studied education and psychology at the universities of Berlin and Vienna. At age 19, she began publishing scholarly papers on education issues of children and youth. She was among the first to study the social and economic status of women in Yugoslav society. She also spent many years studying family life and relationships in rural areas of the country. Among her books was Savremeno dijete (The Contemporary Child, 1936). During World War II, her husband Dr. Benno Stein, a noted psychologist, was murdered at the Croatian death camp at Jasenovac. Vera managed to flee the country and save her research material, which later became the basis of her 1964 book Porodica u transformaciji (Family in Transition: A Study of 300 Yugoslav Villages). After the war, she was a psychiatric social worker for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), working with displaced persons in Italy. She later went to the USA and earned a PhD degree in cultural anthropology at the University of California Berkeley, where she was a research fellow and taught Slavic languages and anthropology from 1952 to 1960. In 1960, she returned to Yugoslavia and became a professor of anthropology at the University of Zagreb. Her later published works included U društvu sa čovekom (In the Company of Man, 1968), which was used as a textbook at universities in Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, the USA and UK.