Elsa Thon, née Synalewicz, was born to a Jewish family in Pruszków, Poland. At age 16, she was a photographer's apprentice when the Nazis occupied her hometown in World War II. After her family was deported to the Warsaw Ghetto, she was recruited by the underground resistance and sent to Krakow with false papers. She passed as a Polish Catholic while working in a photography studio before being betrayed, and spent the rest of the war in forced labor camps. She survived to be liberated and ended up in the Feldafing displaced persons camp in Germany, where she met and married Mayer Thon, a Soviet tank commander. The couple moved to Israel in 1948. They later moved to Argentina, and then emigrated to Canada in 1980. She wrote a memoir, If Only It Were Fiction, containing poems, fables, and family stories, published in 1997 as part of The Azrieli Foundation Series of Holocaust Survivor Memoirs.