Just sixteen when imprisoned, Sala Kirschner survived five years in Nazi labor camps. For decades afterwards, Sala kept her story of the Shoah secret from everyone she knew. Despite being awakened by her nightmares, Sala refused to tell her American husband and children how she survived Nazi labor camps. “They killed my mother and father and my sister and my brother,” says Sala, “There’s no purpose in talking about it.” Fifty years later, facing open-heart surgery, she gives her daughter a box containing over 350 letters, postcards, and photographs she’d received while enslaved. The letters are donated to the New York Public Library. As her past is revealed, her life is transformed.
Sala's letters were literally her lifelines, sustaining her, giving her comfort and hope. Yet after liberation, meeting and marrying an American G.I. and moving to New York to start a family, she never shared them. She never told her story, not even to her children, whom she wished to protect from fear and hatred. Only when faced with triple bypass surgery did Sala reveal her letters. As she recuperated she began to share her secrets with Ann and, eventually, with us. Sala’s story is performed Off-Broadway and in in over 100 high schools, colleges and regional theaters.
WMSP - Global Outreach of Sala
Sala Kirschner is the very emblem of the World Mother Storytelling Project. Her story of self-sacrifice and strength has inspired and moved many beyond words. Sala's story has been adapted into a play - Letters to Sala - and has been performed in theaters and schools around the world. The WMSP is proud to be the official platform for the global outreach of Sala.
SALA invites us to consider our own place in history and to think about our own role in opposing and perpetuating oppression. We're called to contemplate how each one of us would deal with the extreme circumstances in which Sala found herself. We learn from Sala's resilience, her faith, tolerance, and her regard for each human life. By example, she teaches us not to judge groups of people, but rather to look only at the actions of each individual. She shows us the value of connection to family and friends, and how these relationships sustain us in times of hardship.
Watch the trailer of Sala
“It doesn't just focus on the Holocaust, it focuses on families of the future generations and the impact that their parents' experiences or their grandparents' experiences have on them,” said Theater Arts Director Melissa Staab. “The big question the play is asking: 'How do we handle these horrific events that didn't happen to us, but now are given to us based on our birthright?'”
Worried that she might die during cardiac surgery without passing on a secret she had concealed for 50 years, Sala Kirschner in 1991 handed her daughter, Ann, a battered red cardboard box from an outdated children’s game. Inside was an extraordinary cache of 350 letters, postcards and photographs from family and friends that she had squirreled away from the eyes of Nazi guards as an inmate in seven forced-labor camps over five years, starting when she was just 16...
SALA details one woman’s story of survival amidst the 20th century’s most infamous crime. Yet the voices in the letters Sala Kirschner saved speak to universal themes of resilience, resistance, and the power of personal connection to sustain life in the face of trauma and oppression.