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Teenage Sonia Warshawski was living with her mother, father, sister, and brother in Międzyrzec, Poland, when the German army invaded. Her father and brother were shot, her sister disappeared and her survival was uncertain, and Sonia and her mother were forced to work as slave laborers until the day they were deported to the Majdanek death camp. After her mother died in the gas chamber, Sonia was sent first to Auschwitz-Birkenau and then to Bergen-Belsen, where she was finally liberated as the war drew to a close.

This film by her granddaughter gives students insight into both the horrors of the Holocaust as a whole and the profound effect that it had on one individual and succeeding generations. Now in her nineties, Sonia is a vibrant, busy woman who loves interacting with family and with the customers who come to her tailor shop. She speaks to school groups, prison inmates, and others about her experiences. Her story is one of unimaginable suffering, but also of hope, of resilience, and of a refusal to let herself hate.


Lesson 1: An Introduction to the Holocaust in Poland (Social Studies)
Lesson 2: Getting to Know the Real Sonia (English Language Arts, Film Literacy)
Lesson 3: Learning from the Past: An Oral History Assignment (Social Studies, English Language Arts)
Lesson 4: Viewing a Documentary Film (Social Studies, Film Literacy)
Lesson 5: Maladaptive Stress Response and Intergenerational Trauma (Psychology, Human Development)





Access our activity for Big Sonia using USC Shoah Foundation's IWitness survivor testimony archive.

Big Sonia - Curriculum Guide