Sonia Nothman

"We should love not hate each other. Never lose hope."

Name at birth
Sonia Garfinkel
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Chmielnik, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Kalman, Bought wheat from farmers
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Sara (Gitel) Tarkeltaub, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and seven children: Fishel, Rachel, Regina, Helen, me, Bela and Nathan
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
Regina, me ,Helen, Bela and Nathan
Bergen-Belsen was hell on this earth, people were dying everywhere.  There was horrible starvation.  It was winter; we had to eat snow to survive.  I think my parents prayed for me. I found my two sisters at Bergen-Belsen.
I have been most steadfast in observing the Sabbath.  I rarely go out on Friday evenings, instead, I stay home to light the candles at sunset, to say the blessing, and to let the flame burn to the wicks’ end.  I would not miss Friday.  There’s something in me I cannot change.  It’s part of my life growing up.  This way I remember my parents. 
“As I strike the match I am reminded of my mother, Sara, performing the same ritual more than fifty years ago in Chmielnik.  Whenever I pray over the candles, I see a picture: my mother walking into Treblinka with Fishel on one side and Rachel on the other side.  I always see this without fail.  Each Friday, as I face the candle flames alone, I brush away my tears.”
(* Sonia Nothman’s story was written in Sara's Children: The Destruction of Chmielnik, by Suzan Esther Hagstrom, Sergeant Kirkland’s Press, 2001)
Name of Ghetto(s)
Nathan, Plumber
Sandra, teacher Sam, plumber Carol, writer
Three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren
What do you think helped you to survive?
Hope and my family. I was with my sister Helen all of the time.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
We should love not hate each other. Never lose hope.
Charles Silow
Interview date:
To learn more about this survivor, please visit:
The Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive, University of Michigan

Contact us

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our email newsletter to receive updates on the latest news

thank you!

Your application is successfuly submited. We will contact you as soon as possible

thank you!

Your application is successfuly submited. Check your inbox for future updates.