By Nate Sterling ’14
Sala Garncarz was a member of a family who lived in Sosnoweic, Poland in the 1930’s. On September 4, 1939, her city was invaded by Germany. She wrote in her diary, “How do I say good-bye?… I tried to keep a smile on my face… though my eyes were filled with tears. One must go on bravely, courageously, even if the heart is breaking.” Sala was taken to a camp called Geppersdorf, located in the district of Falkenberg, Germany. She was one of a number in the lot of women who worked in the kitchen and laundry. Torn from her country and her family, Sala sought the only means of communication available to her – through the mail. While she was working at Geppersdorf, her parents were tirelessly searching for employment. Her sister Raizel wrote the most followed by Sala’s friends from home. Writing became the means of communication that kept their lives from being lost to each other. In one of the letters Raizel writes about the letters being their proof of each other’s existence. She writes: “Do you know why I write so much? Because as long as you read, we are together.” Sala would risk her life to keep the letters of the people she loved. She would hide them during line-ups, hand them off to friends, throw them under a building, and even bury them (Dwork). Sala always managed to keep these letters close to her heart.
While these letters were of a great importance to Sala, her friend Ala proved to be an even greater companion. Ala worked in the camp office at Geppersdorf, and made it possible for Sala to have more food and a private room. Soon the two friends were torn apart from each other. Sala was sent back to Geppersdorf while Ala was later backed into the Sosnowitz ghetto in March 1943. It was here that Ala found her Bernhard Holtz, the prisoner she had fallen for while at Geppersdorf. They were soon married, and on the first of August the members of the ghetto were cleared out. Ala was sent to Aushwitz to work at a factory. Being the ambitious and confident rebel that she was, she soon joined an “underground conspiracy to smuggle gunpowder to the Sonderkommando” (Dwork). In 1944, the “Sonderkommando blew up Crematorium IV and shot several SS gaurds” to complete the only armed revolt at Auschwitz (Dwork). After the revolt, Ala was among the four women who were tried and charged with acts of sabotage and resistance. They were all tortured and hung in public on January 5, 1945 – just a few weeks before the camps were liberated.
Sala was more fortunate and survived the war. She was soon to meet an American soldier from New York, Corporal Sidney Kirschner, while attending the first Jewish New Year in freedom. Soon, they became engaged and were then married in Ansbach, Germany, March 5, 1945. After the completion of the immigration process, Sidney was able to bring Sala into America. At age 67, she passed on the collection of letters to her daughter Ann. This entire story and more can be found in the Atkinson Museum from 10AM till 12PM and from 1PM till 5PM every weekday.