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Letters to Sala: A Young Woman's Life in Nazi Labor Camps Teacher Packet

Traveling Exhibition created by Jill Vexler, sponsored by the French Children of the Holocaust Foundation Host Site: Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA), Heritage Discovery Center, 201 6th Ave, Johnstown, PA 15906, (814) 539-1889, www.jaha.org Contact Information: For questions concerning tours and field trips: Jayme L. Brooks, JAHA Assistant Director of Visitor Services, jbrooks@jaha.org For general questions concerning the exhibition: Kaytlin Sumner, JAHA Curator, ksumner@jaha.org This packet includes: A brief introduction to the exhibition A description of the exhibition tour, including an onsite activity A follow-up exercise, including a teacher guide that you may use in the classroom with your students after the visit Relevant PA Department of Education Academic Standards A glossary, a map detailing the labor and concentration camps Sala was in from 1940-1945, and a list of additional sources Introduction to the Exhibition Letters to Sala, a traveling exhibition from New York Public Library and the French Children of the Holocaust Foundation, is on display on the second floor of the Heritage Discovery Center from March 10-August 31, 2013. The exhibition is about Sala Garncarz Kirschner, who, at the age of 16 was deported from Sosnowiec, Poland into the Nazi labor camp system. Her six week work detail turned into five years of imprisonment, from 1940 to 1945, in seven different camps. During her time in Nazi labor and concentration camps, she saved over 300 letters, postcards, photographs and documents sent to her from family outside and friends within the camps. Following her liberation in 1945, she met and married an American soldier, Sidney Kirschner, and moved to New York in 1946. She then hid her bundle of letters for fifty years. The items that Sala saved in the camps were donated to the Librarys Dorot Jewish Division by Salas daughter, Ann Kirschner, and form the basis for the exhibition. The letters document the harsh consequences of the Nazi slave labor system on both the interned Jews and their torn families, who were ultimately either deported to other labor camps or killed at Auschwitz. They also reflect Salas deep relationships with her sister 1

Raizel, friends from home, a boyfriend Harry, and the charismatic and brave woman Ala Gertner, who years later became one of four women hanged after helping to plan the only an armed rebellion at Auschwitz. Letters to Sala reveals rare documentation of a womans tenacity to life through the written word. Letters to Sala is about the power of language. The exhibition will be accompanied by educational materials that focus on letter-writing as a form of communication and inspiration. Activities will explore the power of writing and the importance of letters as artifacts of history. The exhibition explores universal themes with particular resonance to middle and high school students.

Student Exhibition Tour


Your students will be given a docent-guided tour of the exhibition during their field trip. The second floor gallery of the Heritage Discovery Center is small, so students will be viewing the exhibition in groups. Students with receive the following worksheet to add structure to the visit and provide additional engagement with the materials. Notes that students take during their visit can be used in follow-up exercises in the classroom.

The Exhibition Detective: Discovering A Young Woman's Life in Nazi Labor Camps
Name: __________________ Date: ________________ Class: ___________________

1. Detecting Censorship All letters and postcards mailed to and from Nazi labor camps were read by German censors. Find one example of Nazi censorship. How can you tell that the postcard had been reviewed by a censor? Describe it and draw it. __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ Use the space below to sketch a document and its censorship mark.

2. Scarce Paper In wartime, materials that are normally in abundance become scarce. Find an example of how Sala's friends and family made the most of a limited amount of paper. Write a short description of this document, paying attention to both the material and the language used. What would you do if you had to say a lot on a small piece of paper? __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

3. The Power of Names As World War II progressed, Nazis made a law requiring that all women be called Sara and all men Israel. Find one example of this and jot down your reactions to this law. How would you feel if someone told you to change your name AND everyone had to be addressed by the same two names? __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ 3

Follow-up Exercises
Print the following pages for a follow-up exercise for students. In the exercise students are asked to read two letters written to Sala and respond to them from her perspective. Before students begin their letters, use the following questions to set the tone to consider Salas day-to-day life and position her experience in the broader context of the Holocaust and World War II. How would Sala be feeling physically when she finally found time to write? Tired from a long workday? Would she have had enough to eat? 1. If she were writing at the end of a long day, what kind of light, if any, would she have had? 2. What writing materials did Sala have? Was there enough paper? Did she always have a pen or pencil? How did she get anything to write with or on? 3. Assume that Sala needed to inquire about the wellbeing of a family member. What kind of coded language would she use to find out if, for example, her sister had been taken to a concentration or labor camp? 4. What other events would she need to describe or inquire about with code words? What language would she use to hide the true meaning from the censors? Lets create a list of things she would want to talk about, and possible corresponding code words or phrases.

Salas Voice
Name: _______________________ Date: ____________________ About Sala Garncarz At age sixteen, Sala Garncarz was deported to a Nazi labor camp. Over the five years from 1940 to 1945, she was imprisoned in seven different labor camps. During that time she was able to collect and preserve more than 300 letters, postcards, documents and photographs sent to her by friends and family from outside and within the camps. To our knowledge, most of the letters that she wrote during the war to family and friends were lost. What did her letters say? What do you think Sala would have written to her family and friends? If her letters were being read and censored by the Nazis, what could she have been able to say without risking harm to herself or her loved ones? When Salas sister writes, for example, she talks about not being invited to a wedding in her village when she really means that another group of her friends and family were taken to labor or concentration camps. How might Sala have coded her remarks to pass the Nazi censors? Reading and Responding Read the following two letters that Sala received and respond to one from her point of view. Remember that your letter will be read by Nazi censors, and that you will need to be careful about what you say and how you say it. What do you think the censor would be on the lookout for? And what do you think would happen if a censor found something he or she didnt like? What might happen to you, your letter or your loved ones who might have received it? Letter One. The first postcard written by Salas sister Raizel to her at Geppersdorf (German) labor camp Sosnowiec November 4, 1940i Dear Sister, We were very happy to get your postcard, as you can well imagine. But Sala, dont think that we stopped worrying just because we received your postcard nothing of the kind, because you write so little about yourself. Write in more detail. How is the food? What do you eat, when, and do you like the food? Do you cook? Write as often as possible! How are the sleeping arrangements? You write that you have separate beds, do you have covers? Do you have heating? We are anxious to know everything. Dear Sala, we certainly want to know everything about you, but one forgets the right thing to ask, so please fill in whatever is missing. Sala! We did not send a package as yet, because there was no time. We will try to send it, maybe tomorrow, as soon as we find out how. 5

All is well with uswhen Mother received your postcard, she was the happiest person in the world. May your words only prove to be the truth. As of now, our brotherin-law David remains at home. We dont know if he will leave. Laya Dina and the children are in good health. You should have seen how Salusia kissed the postcard from Aunt Sala. Raizel Letter Two. From Ala Gertner in Bendsberg to Sala in Geppersdorf, (Reveals Alas positive manner of communicating caring and hope) 12/10/41 Good, little Sara, Several days ago I sent you pajamas and a nightgown to keep you warm. Please write what else you need. I'm at your disposal any time. But maybe you'll come home to me soon?! What [do you think]?!? Little one, I won't wait any longer - I'll have to get you out. I assume that "seamstress" is written all over you, right? How often I talked about our being together! Such memories! My cousin Fela took our photo home and gets [giddy] about it. Unfortunately, I have no contact with your family. What is your sister's name? I had to part with my camera - I did it with great regrets. I will have to sell the "harty". Many things have changed, but you will certainly find work in the shop. Please write about the two new women, you know, I'm curious. How is your room? Who is in charge now? Yesterday I ironed my laundry, but you're better at it. How is Mrs. Kaphan doing? Sarenka! Just don't lose hope, everything will be fine. Be good - ha! I kiss you - Yours, Alinka How are my colleagues Kaufman and Silberstain?

Pennsylvania Department of Education Academic Standards


1.1.8 Learning to Read Independently D. Identify basic facts and ideas in text using specific strategies. E. Expand a reading vocabulary by identifying and correctly using idioms and words with literal and figurative meanings. Use a dictionary or related reference. F. Understand the meaning of and apply key vocabulary across various subject areas. G. Demonstrate after reading, understanding and interpretation of both fiction and nonfictions texts, including public documents. 1.2.8 Reading Critically in All Content A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas. C. Produce work in at least one literary genre that follows the conventions of genre. 1.3.8 Reading, Analyzing, and Interpreting Literature A. Read and understand works of literature. B. Analyze the use of literary elements by an author including characterization, setting, plot, theme, point of view, tone and style. E. Analyze drama to determine the reason for a characters actions taking into account the situation and the basic motivation of the character. F. Read and respond to nonfiction and fiction including poetry and drama. 1.4.8 Types of Writing C. Write multiple paragraph informational pieces. 1.5.8 Quality of Writing A. Write with a sharp, distinct focus. D. Write with an understanding of stylistic aspects of composition.

1.1.11 Learning to Read Independently F. Understand the meaning of and apply key vocabulary across various subject areas. G. Demonstrate after reading, understanding and interpretation of both fiction and nonfictions texts, including public documents. 1.2.11 Reading Critically in All Content

A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas. B. Produce work in at least one literary genre that follows the conventions of genre. 1.3.11 Reading, Analyzing, and Interpreting Literature A. Read and understand works of literature. B. Analyze the relationships, uses and effectiveness of literary elements used by one or more authors in similar genres including characterization, setting, plot, theme, point of view, tone and style. F. Read and respond to nonfiction and fiction including poetry and drama. 1.5.8 Quality of Writing B. Write with a sharp, distinct focus. E. Write with a command of stylistic aspects of composition.

Glossary
Antisemitism: Opposition to and discrimination against Jews. Auschwitz - Birkenau A complex consisting of concentration, death and labor camps in Upper Silesia, southwester Poland. It was established in 1940 as a concentration camp and added a killing center in 1942. Auschwitz I: The main camp. Auschwitz II (Also known as Birkenau): Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp in northwestern Germany. Erected in 1943. Thousands of Jews, political prisoners, and POWs were killed there. Liberated by British troops in April 1945, although many of the remaining prisoners died of typhus after liberation. Concentration camp (Konzentrationslager, KZ) Prison camps constructed to hold Jews, Gypsies, political and religious opponents, resisters, homosexuals, and others whom the Germans considered enemies of the state. More than 100 concentration camps were created across German-occupied Europe. They were an essential part of Nazi systematic oppression. Living conditions varied considerably from camp to camp and over time. Death, disease, starvation, crowded and unsanitary conditions, and torture were a daily part of concentration camps. Death camp: Nazi extermination centers where Jews and other victims were brought to be killed as part of Hitler's Final Solution. Also Death Camps: Term used to describe those camps that came to be used solely for the purposes of killing, where people were murdered in assembly line style by gassing, though many also died there from medical experiments, deliberate maltreatment, starvation and so on. Death marches: Forced marches of prisoners over long distances and under intolerable conditions was another way victims of the Third Reich were killed. The prisoners, guarded heavily, were treated brutally and many died from mistreatment or were shot. Prisoners were transferred from one ghetto or concentration camp to another ghetto or concentration camp or to a death camp. Dehumanization: The Nazi policy of denying Jews basic civil rights such as practicing religion, education, and adequate housing. DP: Displaced Person. The upheavals of war left millions of soldiers and civilians far from home. Millions of DPs had been eastern European slave laborers for the Nazis. The tens of thousands of Jewish survivors of Nazi camps either could not or did not want to return to their former homes in Germany or eastern Europe, and many lived in special DP camps while awaiting migration to America or Palestine.

Final Solution (The final solution to the Jewish question in Europe): A Nazi euphemism for the plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. General Gouvernement (General Government): An administrative unit established by the Germans on October 26, 1939, consisting of those parts of Poland that had not been incorporated into the Third Reich. It included the districts of Warsaw, Krakow, Radom, Lublin, and Lvov. The Germans destroyed the Polish cultural and scientific institutions and viewed the Polish population as a potential work force. Genocide: The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, cultural, or religious group. Ghetto: The Nazis used the medieval term ghetto for the compulsory "Jewish Quarter." Ghettos were usually established in the poor sections of a city, where most of the Jews from the city and surrounding areas were subsequently forced to reside. Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945): Nazi party leader, 1919-1945. German Chancellor, 19331945. Called Fhrer, or supreme leader, by the Nazis. Holocaust: Derived from the Greek holokauston which meant a sacrifice totally burned by fire. Today, the term refers to the systematic planned extermination of about six million European Jews and millions of others by the Nazis between 1933-1945. Judenrat: Council of Jewish "elders" established on Nazi orders in an occupied area. The Nazi (National Socialist German Workers') Party: The Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei /natsional sotsialistishe doiche abaita patai/ or NSDAP was founded in Germany on January 5, 1919. It was characterized by a centralist and authoritarian structure. Its platform was based on militaristic, racial, antisemitic and nationalistic policies. Nazi Party membership and political power grew dramatically in the 1930s, partly based on political propaganda, mass rallies and demonstrations. Prejudice: A judgment or opinion formed before the facts are known. In most cases, these opinions are founded on suspicion, intolerance, and the irrational hatred of other races, religions, creeds, or nationalities. RAB Lager (Reichsautobahnlager): This is the name for the labor camps whose workers constructed the huge German highway system called the autobahn. Shoah /sho a/ : The Hebrew word meaning "catastrophe," denoting the catastrophic destruction of European Jewry during World War II. The term is used in Israel, and the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) has designated an official day, called Yom ha-Shoah, as a day of commemorating the Shoah or Holocaust.

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Sonderkommando /zon der ko man do/ (Special Squad) : SS or Einsatzgruppe detachment. The term also refers to the Jewish slave labor units in extermination camps that removed the bodies of those gassed for cremation or burial. Stereotype: Biased generalizations about a group based on hearsay, opinions, and distorted, preconceived ideas. Swastika (Hakenkreuz/haa ken kroits/) Nazis as their emblem. : An ancient symbol appropriated by the

Third Reich /raich/: Meaning "third regime or empire," the Nazi designation of Germany and its regime from 1933-45. Historically, the First Reich was the medieval Holy Roman Empire, which lasted until 1806. The Second Reich included the German Empire from 1871-1918. Underground: Organized group acting in secrecy to oppose government, or, during war, to resist occupying enemy forces. Yiddish: A language that combines elements of German and Hebrew.

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Map of Salas Europe

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Additional Resources
Letters to Sala: A Young Womens Life in Nazi Labor Camps, Online Exhibition Guide, New York Public Librarys Online Exhibition Archives, http://static.nypl.org/exhibitions/sala/index.html Ann Kirschner, Salas Gift:My Mothers Holocaust Story, New York: Free Press, 2006. Ann Kirschner, Letters to Sala: A Young Womans Life in Nazi Labor Camps, Exhibition Guide, with an Essay by Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, New York: New York Public Library, 2006. Letters to Sala Museum and Library Installations Photographs, Ann Kirschner, https://plus.google.com/photos/108749861818042393512/albums/ 5125673145045239057?banner=pwa

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