“They Will Make Soap Out of You.” Sally Wasserman’s Account

Starsza kobieta w ciemnym sweterku pozuje na tla okna
fot. Przemysław Jaczewski/Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN

“My mum wrote this letter to her sister. She was writing from the ghetto in Dąbrowa. Her sister had gone to Canada some time before the war:

«I work at a factory for ten hours a day, six days a week. My only salary is a bowl of soup which like water and two slices of bread. I feed my kids with what I earn at night, sewing. I want you to know that I managed to find a place for my Salusia at the home of a Polish man, Mr Turkin. I met him a couple of months ago. I’ve never met his wife, but I know in my heart that they are both very honest and they will take good, loving care of Salusia.

These are the last days of my life. Death may come upon us any day now. We do know what kind of death we are expecting. Our end will be bitter and tragic. My beloved sister, I can see the Angel of Death standing right in front of me. I don’t believe that any miracle could save us now. Me and my son Wowek are the last victims and martyrs».

One before the liquidation of the ghetto, my mum told me:

«When they open the gate, go.. But don’t go in the direction they’ll tell you to go. Always go in the opposite direction. Don’t turn around. You’ll meet Mr. Turkin, he will be waiting for you. And when they resettle us, he will bring you to our place». She didn’t kiss me goodbye; she told me not to turn around, not to wave, not to do anything.

«Just go», she said.

Mum was holding my brother by his hand. The sun was shining, it was very hot.

That was the last time I saw my mother and my brother.

They had to go to Sosnowiec on foot. They waited three days before they got on the train to Auschwitz, where they were taken directly to gas chambers and killed”.


“I wept a lot in the Turkins’ cellar. Because I saw a rat or a mouse. I was sure it was a rat. Besides, I was dirty and hungry. I was dirty because I was in this tiny space all the time. And when Ms Turkin put me in the bath and started to wash me, she told her husband, «Never again will she go to that cellar!». They started arguing. «But they will find her. And then we’re dead. We won’t save neither her nor ourselves. Somebody will find her here». But she didn’t care. She just didn’t care”.


“I could walk around the apartment only at night. During the day I stayed in their bedroom. They had never opened the curtains in the bedroom. Their apartment was located in the courtyard, in the basement. The biggest window, the one in the kitchen, overlooked the courtyard. The window was always opened and people waved to greet Mrs Turkin when they passed by”.


“There were days when Auschwitz worked in full swing, day and night. When the wind was blowing in the right direction, you could smell the smoke in Dąbrowa. I heard some women saying, «They burn people again. They burn Jews». Children were playing in the courtyard. Sometimes, they would say one to another: «If you don’t give that back, they’ll make soap out of you»”.


Sally Wasserman – survived the ghetto in Dąbrowa Górnicza thanks to the help of Mikołaj and Ewa Turkin, a Polish couple. In 2012, the Turkins were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations. For many years, Sally Wasserman has been taking part in the Marches of the Living. She retells her story to the next generations of Jews. She resides in Canada.

Interview and editing: Joanna Król, in cooperation with Eli Rubenstein.

From the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews the oral history collection. Interview conducted on 29 May 2014.

Witness accounts are recorded within the framework of the project Neighbors–Witnesses. Objects, People, Stories realized as part of the Jewish Cultural Heritage program.

Supported from the Norway and EEA Grants by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.


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