Sally Friedman was born Sala Niemova on June 12, 1926 in Działoszyce, Poland as the middle child of three. Her family relocated to Sosnowiec after a flood destroyed their town in the mid-1930s. Following the Invasion of Poland in 1939, German troops forcefully took over Sosnowiec and renamed it Sosnowitz. In keeping with Nazi Germany’s decree that one person from every family could work at a labor camp in exchange for another family member’s deportation to a concentration camp, Sally’s older sister volunteered to go in 1941. Sally went to a labor camp a year later before being transferred to Oberalstadt in 1943. She remained there until 1945 when the Russians liberated the prisoners. Her mother, sister, and younger brother perished in Auschwitz, and her father was killed while working as a baker in a ghetto. She stayed at a displaced persons camp after liberation before emigrating to the United States in 1946. She met Victor Friedman while working in Brooklyn, New York, and the two married in 1949.
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