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.
First of all I didn't deal with the Holocaust until the late '80s. And I really didn't deal with, I dealt with it on a very small level. I regarded myself as a refugee and also as a person who'd lost a father, as a sort of semi-orphan. That was the major way I identified myself. I'd lost my father. I'd grown up without a father. When I came to the United States, I'm not sure when the term "Holocaust Survivor" was coined, I don't remember exactly, but somewhere in the '80s, the late '80s, I began to pay some interest to what was going on with other survivors. And there was a breakfast meeting, a Sunday morning meeting at the synagogue we belonged to in Bell Harbor and they had a survivor speak, a hidden child. That was the first time I actually went to hear someone speak and that was in the, probably late '80s. And I went to speak to her afterwards and we became friends. From then on I dealt with it just a little at a time. It was...I felt like I had everything in a box and every now and then I'd open the box just for a few minutes and then close it again and put it away. And then little by little I dealt with it more. And then in 1991 there was the International Gathering of Hidden Children in New York City, and I saw an announcement about this in a magazine called, "Women of Valor", which was put out, I think, by Yaffa Eliach's group in Brooklyn. I don't know how it came into my possession, but there was this little announcement and I found it and I thought to myself; well now, this would be interesting but I don't think I'm a hidden child because I don't really qualify. Because I lived with my mother in the open, you know, and I thought a hidden child had to be in a convent with no parents and all that, which was the most typical experience. So, but little by little I decided and I called and I spoke to them and I said "Well, maybe I'll go for part of it, I'll see." I don't really belong there, but maybe I'll go. Well I did go and like for many others, this was like the defining point. And after that I just call myself a Holocaust survivor. It was validated there that I was a hidden child.
We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.