Oral History

Sophie Turner-Zaretsky describes her years in Poland living under a false identity

Sophie was born Selma Schwarzwald to parents Daniel and Laura in the industrial city of Lvov, two years before Germany invaded Poland. Daniel was a successful businessman who exported timber and Laura had studied economics. The Germans occupied Lvov in 1941. After her father's disappearance on her fifth birthday in 1941, Sophie and her mother procured false names and papers and moved to a small town called Busko-Zdroj. They became practicing Catholics to hide their identities. Sophie gradually forgot that she was Jewish. It was not until after their liberation and move to London that Sophie learned the truth about her past.


Regarding living there, we arrived there in winter of 1942. My mother had a job as an interpreter for the head of the Gestapo of the area because she spoke German and Polish. And so that although I said we were starving, I was very cold and we lived in very poor conditions, nevertheless she had a job and I went to school, and to all appearances I was just a normal Polish five-year-old girl. And I had, I had, my coloring was that of a Polish girl. I had light blond hair and I had gray-green eyes so we were kind of safe on that ground. We could never tell where we came from. We could never talk about our family. And at this point I had been brainwashed and I felt that I was a Catholic that I was actually Roman Catholic and we went to church every Sunday. The school class went to church every Sunday; it was required, mandatory to go to church. And I was very comfortable with this. I became the prefect who took attendance for church in the class and I was quite antisemitic, I mean very antisemitic. The teaching was very antisemitic at that time including the blood libel and a lot of--my mother tells the story that the Poles there laughed about the Warsaw uprising in the Warsaw ghetto that they were laughing, "what did the Jews think?" You know, she heard them talking. She used to tell me, I used to come home with these stories and my mother used to say well, she did know some very good Jews. You know she couldn't say we were Jewish. Our security depended on the fact that I was completely unaware that we were Jewish.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection

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