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Sala's Gift: My Mother's Holocaust Story Paperback – June 12, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (June 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416541705
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416541707
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #666,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This moving account illuminates a little-known aspect of the Holocaust: Organization Schmelt, in which Jewish leaders supplied slave labor to the Germans for the war effort. In 1940, 16-year-old Sala Garncarz, a young Polish Jew (and the author's mother), went to work in a Schmelt labor camp in place of her frail older sister, Raizel, who had been ordered there for six weeks by the local Jewish Council. But six weeks stretched into five years. Sala worked at seven German, Polish and Czech camps until she was liberated by Russian soldiers. In 1999 Sala shared with the author the box of letters that she had written and received during this period . Sala survived by her wits and the protection of Ala Gertner, an older woman who was later hanged for participating in an uprising at Auschwitz. Sala's correspondence with Ala after the latter left the work camp, and the letters she exchanged with Raizel and other family members and friends are heartrending testimony to the extreme suffering of Polish Jews. After the war, Sala married an American soldier and immigrated to the U.S. Kirschner, president of a management consulting company, has skillfully crafted her mother's documents, interspersed with a powerful and informed narrative. 16 pages of photos. (Nov. 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Kirschner knew that her mother was born in Poland, the youngest of 11 children, and that she had survived a Nazi camp and came to the U.S. as a war bride. In 1991, when Sala Kirschner was 67, she learned that she needed triple-bypass surgery and then showed her daughter a collection of more than 350 letters, postcards, and scraps of paper, some written in barely legible, tiny, cramped handwriting, others in beautiful italic script, and some dashed off in blunt pencil scrawls. They were from her years in seven labor camps from 1940 to 1945. The letters were written by more than 80 people and they told the story of a family, a city, and an elaborate system of slavery. There are hand-drawn birthday cards, some with poems, and love letters that had been smuggled to Kirschner's mother by a suitor named Harry. Kirschner posits that these private papers "create an emotional history of the war, a complex figure of fear, loneliness, and despair, always returning to the dominant theme of hope for tomorrow." George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Ann Kirschner is a native New Yorker and writer of wide-ranging interests. Her first book, SALA'S GIFT, (Simon and Schuster, 2006), tells the story of her mother's wartime rescue of letters from Nazi labor camps, and has been published in seven languages, and inspired Arlene Hutton's play, LETTERS TO SALA. She stumbled on the story of Josephine Earp when a friend asked her why Wyatt Earp was buried in a Jewish cemetery. And that led to her latest book, LADY AT THE OK CORRAL, now available on Amazon.

She is also an innovator in education, media, and technology, whose career spans an unusual range of experiences and organizations. She began as a lecturer in Victorian literature at Princeton University, where she earned her Ph.D. As an entrepreneur, her five start-up businesses include PRIMETIME 24, NFL.COM, and FATHOM.

Ann Kirschner is the University Dean of Macaulay Honors College of The City University of New York.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 51 customer reviews
Thank you, Mrs. Kirschner, for your gift to us.
The Lifelong Learner
This is an important collection, the letters being the most personal account to date.
A Serious Reader
It is the story of a life that is much too important to be kept in a box.
M. Winter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Ace VINE VOICE on November 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I grew up in NY City in the 50's, and was taught about the Holocaust at a very early age - a sobering education for a child just beginning to understand the world into which I was born. A few of my neighbors had survived the concentration camps (including one beautiful sweet young lady -- my heart went out to her), but not much was said about it.

Sala's Gift, with its detailed narrative opened my eyes even more than I expected, and adds so much more to the human aspect of the holocaust experience. Anne Kirschner, with her meticulous research, her stellar narrative and her deep love for her mother Sala and her mother's journey, brings us into Sala's home, her youth, lets us meet her family, mingle with her friends - we celebrate the Sabbath with the Garncarz family, we admire their sparse home filled with love, if not always with the daily necessities of life. How loving they were -- how brave they were, even in the most peaceful of times!!

Although the brutality of the concentration camps was not dwelled upon, the human fortitude and camaraderie forged from suffering and deprivation certainly was. How amazing to read about Sala and her camp friends, who looked after one another and made the best of a terrible situation -- the "birthday cake" of layered pieces of bare-subsistence bread being one example. This network of friends, acquaintances and even the friendship of some of the camp commanders were harbors in the storm for Sala, and her camp friends as well.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Princeton Reader on November 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Highly Recommended! What is it like to be a teenager and be sent to a Nazi labor camp away from home? How is it like for the family left behind? The combination of a fluid narrative and beautiful autentic letters makes for a powerful reading experience like no other book.My heart went for sala and her family. Her grace while enduring the darkest of human experiences is truly captivating. Would you believe that the picture of beautiful Sala on the cover was taken during a three day vacation from labor camp spent with her family and friends in Sosnowiec?a slave on a three day break? All I see in her face is love light and beauty there is no hatred depression or darkness. The love of her family,truth and the hope for the future. Having your children born in a free land and bringing the story and the letters to light. Thank you Sala:you gave us a hugh gift and thank you Ann, second generation of love and light.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By L. Burnham on November 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Richly detailed and meticuously researched, this moving account of the labor camps of the Holocaust is also a well-written and memorable read. I found myself engaged from the opening sentence, and as soon as I had reached the final page, I went right back to the beginning in order to "re-view" the characters from the point of their lives after the ordeal of the Holocaust. Thank you, Ann Kirschner, for this gift of a book.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Batova on November 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is so outstanding. It is different than the average memoire by combining the story of a girl who sent to a Nazi labor camp(for only 6 weeks...turned into five years!)with the incredible collection of letters she was able to hide from the Nazi monsters.What will you get by reading the book?

1. A deep insight into the history of the Labor Camps.This part of the history of the holocaust has not been as highlighted as that of the concentration camps.

2. A very moving description of Sala's hard work while keeping her diginity and fighting to survive to reunite with her loved ones,and those who had written the letters.

3. A glimpse into this unbelievable collection of letters that survived against all odds.( the letters and other photos in the book are of superb quality)

4.A powerful inspiration;no need to read any other motivational books ever!

5.Daugher Mother relationship. I can only imagine how many years it took Ann to write this book.It was her gift to her mother:Ann's decision to write the book was free will. Sala's decision to go to labor camp also seemed to some extent to be free will;to spare her sister. The Nazis demanded slavery!

I hope that one day there will be a sequele to this book. How did it all impact Ann? her life and her children? What if there were no letters left? what if the decision was never to go back and visit the sites of the painful memories, especially Sosnowiec?

Thank you Sala and Ann for a true gift!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Anyechka on March 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This wonderful book focuses on an aspect of the Shoah not incredibly well-known, Organization Schmelt. This was an umbrella group of a network of labor camps in Poland and Germany, where the inmates were actually engaged in real work, treated and fed reasonably well in comparison to the slaves in the death camps (and thus stood a greater chance of not only survival but also being liberated in relatively good health), and, most importantly to this story, allowed to send and receive mail. Ms. Kirschner's mother hadn't spoken of her wartime experiences at all until 1991, when on the eve of heart surgery she suddenly presented her with a box full of old letters, postcards, greeting cards, and photographs, all of which she had carefully guarded and preserved throughout her ordeal in seven camps over five years. (She had actually gone to the first labor camp in place of her sister Raizel, whose selection they felt must have been some sort of bureaucratic fluke since she wasn't the type of person who would have fared very well in such an environment.) The teenage Sala's correspondence paints a vivid fascinating portrait of what life was like in those years, on so many levels--religious life in Poland, what it was like to be so poor you had to burn paper in the stove to pretend you were cooking food and thus avoid charity, the constant fear, sadness, and uncertainty, how life went on as best it could even in spite of everything, the hopes and fears of those she had left behind in Sosnowiec, the hopes and fears of Sala herself, the conditions in the Schmelt camps, her friendship with a German family she worked as a seamstress for until Geppersdorf got its own sewing machine, the friendships that sustained her, and what it was like after the liberation.Read more ›
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