Sala's Gift

My Mother's Holocaust Story

Sala's Gift

"Ann Kirschner allows her mother's poignant story to emerge from these heartbreaking missives, filling in the gaps with a dignified, quietly eloquent connecting narrativean incredible journey through hell and back" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

For nearly fifty years, Sala Kirschner kept a secret: She had survived five years as a slave in seven different Nazi work camps. Living in America after the war, she kept hidden from her children any hint of her epic, inhuman odyssey. She held on to more than 350 letters, photographs, and a diary without ever mentioning them. Only in 1991, on the eve of heart surgery, did she suddenly present them to Ann, her daughter, and offer to answer any questions Ann wished to ask.

When Sala first reported to a camp in Geppersdorf, Germany, at the age of sixteen, she thought it would be for six weeks. Five years later, she was still at a labor camp and only she and two of her sisters remained alive of an extended family of fifty.

Sala's Gift is a heartbreaking, eye-opening story of survival and love amidst history's worst nightmare.
  • Free Press | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416541707 | 
  • June 2007
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
Sala's Gift
By Ann Kirschner

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think Ann Kirschner effectively strung together her mother's vast collection of letters with the information she gleaned from Sala's diary, survivor interviews, and her own library research to create a cohesive narrative?

  2. Was there any particular correspondence in the text that moved you the most by? What different emotions did you experience as you encountered each new letter? What feelings or conclusions do you think Ann Kirschner hoped you would carry away from this book?

  3. While the Holocaust was a time of unimaginable horror and inhumanity, it was also a time in which incredible generosity, selflessness, and bravery were demonstrated under the most difficult of circumstances. Sala relied on a network of supporters, such as Ala, the group of protecting male prisoners at Geppersdorf that included Chaim Kaufman and Bernhard Holtz, the Pachta family, and of course her family and friends. In what particular way do you think each of these people helped Sala survive her time in the labor camps? Is there one person who you believe played the most significant role in her survival?

  4. Ala, Sala's most dear friend during the war, is unanimously praised throughout various letters in the book for her inspiring spirit and her unwavering, pragmatic resolve. Kirschner wonders what motivated h
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About the Author

Ann Kirschner
Photo Credit:

Ann Kirschner

Ann Kirschner is University Dean of Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York. She began her career as a lecturer in Victorian literature at Princeton University, where she had earned a Ph.D. in English. A writer and contributor to a variety of newspapers and other publications, she has built a career as an entrepreneur in media and technology. She lives with her family in New York City, a short drive from her mother's home.