Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sharing One Woman's Story; Library Exhibit Shares Bits of Her Journey and Struggle at Nazi Labor Camps

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sharing One Woman's Story; Library Exhibit Shares Bits of Her Journey and Struggle at Nazi Labor Camps

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

In July 1943, Ala Gertner sent an optimistic letter to her friend Sala Garncarz, who was living and working in a Nazi labor camp at the time.

"Today is a gorgeous day, we are in the best of spirits, and have great hopes for the future," Gertner wrote her fellow Polish Jew.

Her hopes crumbled. Gertner was sent to Auschwitz, where she was hanged by the Germans in 1945 for her part in blowing up a crematorium at the infamous concentration camp.

But Sala Garncarz and her letters did survive. She went on to become Sala Garncarz Kirschner, have children and become the inspiration for a Holocaust remembrance exhibit on display at the Jacksonville Main Library downtown through Tuesday, May 15.

The exhibit is the result of cooperation between the Remembering for the Future Community Holocaust Initiative, the Jacksonville Public Library and Rachel Marcus-Mitchell, a niece of Kirschner's who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach.

The significance of "Letters to Sala: A Young Woman's Life in Nazi Labor Camps" is that it will educate younger generations about the World War II genocide in time when Holocaust denying is on the rise, Marcus-Mitchell said.

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day in Judaism, is Sunday. The day has the same purpose.

Rather than being sent to concentration camps for immediate execution, Kirschner was among those Jews forced into labor camps where they produced equipment, clothing and other materials for the Nazi war machine.

To give the appearance of normality, the Germans allowed labor camp workers to send and receive mail.

"It gave the [Jewish] community a false sense of well-being," Marcus-Mitchell said, adding that all correspondence was to then be quickly destroyed. "It was a public relations stunt."

But Kirschner defied the Nazis by hiding the letters as she moved through seven labor camps in Poland and Germany from 1940 to 1945. …

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