Sara Zyskind

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Sara Zyskind
Born Sara Rachela Plager
(or Sara Rachela Plagier)
(1927-03-26)26 March 1927
Died 1 January 1995(1995-01-01) (aged 67)
Pen name Sala Plagier (childhood name)
Sara Plager-Zyskind
Sara Plagier-Zyskind
Occupation Writer on the Holocaust
Nationality Polish and Israeli
Ethnicity Jewish
Period Post-War period
Genre Memoirs
Spouse Eliezer (Elazar) Zyskind
(b. 22 June 1925 in Brzeziny;
husband from 1948)[1]
Children three children

Sara Zyskind, also Sara Plager-Zyskind (Hebrew: שרה פלגר-זיסקינד) (b. 26 March 1927 in Łódź; d. 1 January 1995 in Tel-Aviv), was a prominent Polish–Israeli writer on the Holocaust. She was a survivor of the Łódź Ghetto, and of the Auschwitz, the Mittelsteine concentration camp, and the Grafenort Nazi concentration camps. Her style as a writer on the Holocaust has been praised for its effective literary technique that allows the reader to identify with the reality of the period.[2] Her writings constitute valuable primary sources in Holocaust historiography.[3][4][5]


Sara Zyskind was born in Łódź to the family of Anschel (Anszel) Kalman Plager (1897–1943), a native of Drohobycz, and his wife Mindla, née Biederman (1900–1940), who came from a well-known family of Łódź in­dus­tri­al­ists. (At least on some occasions, Zyskind will spell her maiden name "Sala Plagier": see External links below.)[6] Zyskind's child­hood in Łódź was a very happy one, as she was swaddled in love and support from family members.[7]

An unidentified girl child works in the paper factory in the Łódź Ghetto

At the age of 12 she saw her world crushing down around her after the Nazis invaded her town on 8 September 1939.[8] Within three months of the occupation the town's residents of Jewish origin were required to move into a newly designated Ghetto, which was subsequently declared off limits to outsiders on 8 February 1940 and sealed to the outside world on 1 May 1940.[9] Her mother, who endured the ensuing privations with uncom­mon tact and cheerfulness, died the same year. She and her father mutually supported each other during the following years, successfully evading arrest and de­porta­tion, until he died during the Passover of 1943. Upon the "liquidation" of the Ghetto Zyskind was deported to Auschwitz in August 1944, at the age of 16 (her inmate number was 55091),[10] and thence to the Mittelsteine Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp, 17 kilometres to the north-west of Kłodzko (Ger., Glatz), the latter being then an all-female subcamp of the Gross-Rosen,[11] and subsequently to the Grafenort Nazi concentration camp, 27 kilometres away (12 km south of Kłodzko), where at the end of the War the hundreds of pris­on­ers held there (virtually all Jewish women deported from the Łódź area) were worked at a murderous pace building trenches in the Nazis' frantic attempts to fortify their retreat against the advancing Soviet forces — and where Zyskind concluded that she would not be able survive her wartime ordeal.[12] She writes:

The work was far beyond our capacity. We were nothing but living skeletons, unable to lift the shovelfuls of heavy soil above our heads, let alone work at the speed demanded of us.[13]

After the liberation she returned to Łódź in the spring of 1945, at the age of 17, only to find her entire world of human relations completely wiped out, at which time she decided to emigrate to Palestine. She left Poland on forged wartime papers with a group of other refugees from Łódź. (Zyskind would not return to Poland until 1988 when she, then aged 61, together with her husband and their three children would visit Łódź and Auschwitz.) Aided by a Jewish relief group called Escape, they wandered across Europe for two years, crossing national frontiers surreptitiously. She finally reached Palestine on 15 May 1947. Because of British restrictions on Jewish emigration.

David Patterson wrote about Sara Zyskind in his monograph about the memoirs of Holocaust survivors:

The essence of Nazism was murder, and the target of Nazi murder was the image and essence of the human being; it was the image of the divine that makes this being human, which is to say, it was the being-for-the-other of human being. (...) Sara Zyskind remembers, "Our friendship and our care for one another enabled us to preserve something of our humanity..."[14]

Together with Eliezer Zyskind, Sara participated in armed combat in the First Arab-Israeli War of 1948. In December 1948 she married Eliezer Zyskind (b. 1925), a native of Brzeziny, a locality 24 kilometres distant from her native Łódź.[15] Her brother was a co-founder of the first textile mill in Tel-Aviv.


  • (1977) העטרה שאבדה : בגיטו לודז׳ ובמחנות
  • Stolen Years (1981; translation of ha-ʻAṭarah she-avda)
  • Bet loḥame ha-geṭaʼot (1985)
  • Struggle (1988; translation of Maʾavako shel naʻar)
  • Światło w dolinie łez (1994)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Karl Liedke, "Destruction Through Work: Lodz Jews in the Büssing Truck Factory in Braunschweig, 1944–1945", Yad Vashem Studies, vol. 30, Jerusalem, Yad Vashem Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, 2002, p. 187. ISSN 0084-3296.
  2. ^ Paul Wieser, "That We Do No Less"; in: Working to Make a Difference: The Personal and Pedagogical Stories of Holocaust Educators across the Globe, ed. S. Totten, Westport (Connecticut), Praeger Publishers, 2002, p. 229. ISBN 0897897099.
  3. ^ Thomas Taterka, Dante Deutsch: Studien zur Lagerliteratur, Berlin, Erich Schmidt, 1999, p. 203. ISBN 3503049118.
  4. ^ Cf., e.g., Die Chronik des Gettos Lodz / Litzmannstadt, ed. S. Feuchert, et al., 5 vols., Göttingen, Wallstein-Verlag, 2007, passim. ISBN 9783892448341, ISBN 3892448345.
  5. ^ Andrea Löw, "Arbeit, Lohn, Essen: Überlebensbedingungen im Ghetto"; in: Ghettorenten: Entschädigungspolitik, Rechtsprechung und historische Forschung, ed. J. Zarusky, Munich, Oldenbourg, 2010, pp. 71–72. ISBN 9783486589412.
  6. ^ Cf. Andrzej Strzelecki, The Deportation of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto to KL Auschwitz and Their Extermination: A Description of the Events and the Presentation of Historical Sources, tr. W. Kościa-Zbirohowski, Oświęcim, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2006, pp. 12, 97. ISBN 8360210187. (Cited invariably as "Sara Plagier [sic]" throughout.)
  7. ^ Sara Zyskind, Światło w dolinie łez, tr. (from the Hebrew) Sara Zyskind (in collaboration with K. Koźniewski), Łódź, Wydawnictwo Łódzkie, 1994, publishers' blurb on back cover. ISBN 8321810063.
  8. ^ Michal Unger (2004), "The Status and Plight of Women in the Lodz Ghetto"; in: Holocaust: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, ed. David Cesarani, vol. 4 (Jewish Confrontations with Persecution and Mass Murder), London, Routledge; p. 235. ISBN 041527513X. Cf. Isaiah Trunk, Łódź Ghetto: A History, tr. & ed. R. M. Shapiro, Bloomington (Indiana), Indiana University Press, 2006, p. 224. ISBN 0253347556, ISBN 9780253347558.
  9. ^ Michal Unger (2004), "The Status and Plight of Women in the Lodz Ghetto"; in: Holocaust: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, ed. D. Cesarani, vol. 4 (Jewish Confrontations with Persecution and Mass Murder), London, Routledge; p. 235. ISBN 041527513X.
  10. ^ David Patterson, Sun Turned to Darkness: Memory and Recovery in the Holocaust Memoir, Syracuse (New York), Syracuse University Press, 1998, p. 165. ISBN 0815605307.
  11. ^ Muzeum Gross-Rosen (2008), Filie obozu koncentracyjnego Gross-Rosen: Informator, Wałbrzych; pp. 35, 51–54. ISBN 9788389824073. Cf. Obozy hitlerowskie na ziemiach polskich 1939–1945: Informator encyklopedyczny, ed. Cz. Pilichowski, et al. (for the Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce and the Rada Ochrony Pomników Walki i Męczeństwa), Warsaw, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1979, p. 509. ISBN 8301000651. The Lager Mittelsteine operated as a subcamp of Gross-Rosen from 23 August 1944 until its liquidation on 30 April 1945.
  12. ^ On the Grafenort camp, see Zygmunt Zonik, Anus belli: ewakuacja i wyzwolenie hitlerowskich obozów kon­cen­tra­cyj­nych, Warsaw, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1988, p. 293. ISBN 8301083255.
  13. ^ Sara Zyskind, Stolen Years, tr. M. Insar, Minneapolis (Minnesota), Lerner Publications, 1981. ISBN 0822507668.
  14. ^ David Patterson, Sun Turned to Darkness: Memory and Recovery in the Holocaust Memoir, Syracuse (New York), Syracuse University Press, 1998, p. 152. ISBN 0815605307. The Zyskind quotation is taken from Sara Zyskind, Stolen Years, tr. M. Insar, Minneapolis (Minnesota), Lerner Publications, 1981, p. 223. ISBN 0822507668.
  15. ^ Andrzej Strzelecki, Deportacja Żydów z getta łódzkiego do KL Auschwitz i ich zagłada: opracowanie i wybór źródeł, ed. T. Świebocka, Oświęcim, Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau, 2004, p. 161. ISBN 8388526804. Karl Liedke, Das KZ-Außenlager Schillstraße in Braunschweig 1944–1945, Braunschweig, Appelhans, 2006, p. 18. ISBN 9783937664385.


External links[edit]