Dr. Sophie Turner-Zaretsky papers

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2007.35.1
Level of Description
  • German
  • English
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium




Biographical History

Selma Schwarzwald was born on September 2, 1937, in Lvov, Poland (Lviv, Ukraine), to Daniel and Laura Litwak Schwarzwald. Her father had a successful timber export business. Her mother had studied economics at the Lvov Academy of Commerce before her marriage. Lvov was in eastern Poland which was occupied by the Soviet Union in September 1939. It was then occupied by Germany following their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Daniel obtained a job as a guard in a hostel for Organization Todt construction workers, a Nazi civil and military engineering group. His work permit provided a little protection for the family, but in November 1941, they were forced into the Lvov ghetto, along with Laura's parents, Josef and Mina Litwak, and three of her siblings, Emanuel, Adela, and Fryda. Her brother, Edek, had emigrated in the early 1930s to Palestine, where he died of typhus in 1935. In March 1942, the Germans began to deport ghetto residents to the Belzec killing center. Laura watched the deportations from their apartment and one day, a Polish landlady suggested that Laura and Selma should flee and seek refuge in a nearby Polish resort town. She supplied them with a Christian Bible and prayer book to give them cover. In August, Selma’s grandparents were deported to Belzec. By this time, the ghetto was nearly empty. Daniel worked to secure false documents for then, but with the deportations so frequent, a hiding place was arranged for Laura and Selma. They hid in a platform under the roof of an adjacent house. Laura had to throw Sophie across an airshaft to someone who would catch her on the other side; then Laura would jump across. Daniel obtained a birth certificate for Selma and a marriage document for Laura. He also obtained false papers for Adela and Fryda. On September 1, Daniel went to the Judenrat [Jewish Council] to make different living arrangements. But while he was there, the Gestapo arrived to arrest the entire membership of the Council in reprisal of the death of a German soldier. Daniel tried to escape by jumping out the window, but he was shot and killed. The Judenrat members were rounded up and hanged. The three Litwak siblings decided that Laura and Selma would be the first to escape and they left on September 6. With the assistance of a Pole, who subsequently stole their luggage, Laura and Selma boarded a train for Krakow. Adela and Fryda managed to reach Krakow soon afterwards, but Emanuel was arrested at the Lvov train station and later executed. Laura and Selma were living under the aliases of Bronislawa and Zofia Tymejko. Zofia had blue eyes and blonde hair, so people were not likely to think that she was Jewish. They moved constantly as Laura was afraid the SS would find them. While her mother looked for work, Selma (Zofia) had to stay with an old woman who made her pick up cigarette stubs in the street. Her mother taught five year old Selma to tell people that her father had been taken by the Russian Army. Laura managed to get a job in a German bank, but she and Selma soon left for the resort town of Busko Zdroj. In a resort town people were used to seeing strangers and it was more common for people to come there in search of work. Laura was hired by an SS officer named Leming to be a bookkeeper at the Regional Agricultural Mercantile Cooperative; she also worked for him as a translator and housekeeper. Later, she tutored Polish children in German and Latin, though this was illegal. She and Selma lived in a small rented room with a kitchen. Laura's sister, Adela, joined them in December 1944, after working for two years as a governess in Krakow. Her other sister, Fryda, had volunteered for forced labor in Germany, after briefly working in a pharmacy in Bochnia. Selma-Sophie completely adopted her Polish Catholic identity. She attended church and, after liberation by Soviet troops in January 1945, celebrated her First Communion. When the war ended in May 1945, they remained in Busko Zdroj. They learned that Fryda had been killed in the summer of 1944, when her forced labor group in Gelsenkirchen was hit during an Allied bombing raid. After there was a violent anti-Jewish riot [pogrom] in the area, Laura decided that they must leave Poland. She contacted Rosa and Emil Honig, her aunt and uncle in London, who helped to arrange their move to England. It was not until they arrived in London in 1948 that Laura revealed to Selma Sophie her true identity as a Jew. The news shocked her; in the antisemitic environment of her Catholic school and neighborhood where she had grown up, she had been taught to hate Jews. Soon after settling in England, Laura took the last name of Turner, and Selma became Sophie Turner. Sophie finished high school and continued on to college and medical school in England. In 1963, she immigrated to the US, where she completed her medical residency and began a career as a radiation oncologist in New York. In 1970, she married David Zaretsky. After several years in England, Laura moved to Canada to be with her sister Adela, now Ann Rozycki; she then went to the US to be with Sophie. Laura died in New York on January 16, 2002.

Archival History

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sophie Turner-Zaretsky

The collection was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007 by Dr. Sophie Turner-Zaretsky.

Scope and Content

Collection consists of documents relating to Laura Turner (the donor's mother), who attended different educational institutions to establish herself in England after surviving the Holocaust in the Lvov ghetto and later in hiding. Includes a document issued to Xenia Osoba (real name Adela Litwak; donor's maternal aunt), stating that she is a Pole and is on her way to Warsaw; dated September 5, 1942 in Lvov; in German.




This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.