Library gears up for Holocaust exhibition with “Big Sonia” screening

PHOTO BY GLORIA FEINSTEIN “Big Sonia” is a documentary about Sonia Warshawski, a Holocaust survivor who lived through imprisonment at three major concentration camps, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, and Auschwitz. It will be shown at the Marshalltown Public Library on Wednesday at 2 p.m.

The Marshalltown Public Library (MPL) will be hosting the “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit at the end of March, and in preparation for the main event, Library Director Sarah Rosenblum has scheduled several programs on the Holocaust in the coming weeks.

The first is a showing of the documentary “Big Sonia,” which details the struggles of Sonia Warshawski, a Holocaust survivor, who ran John’s Tailoring — her late husband’s shop — for years.

As the Kansas City mall where the shop was located began to die out, she was served an eviction notice, and was forced to decide between retirement or opening a new shop in her late 80s, while her trauma from past experiences loomed over her head.

Rosenblum said Sonia’s story really touched her, and she thought it would be a great film to start off the month leading to the “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit.

“First off, this is a story about humanity. Sonia’s a survivor, she survived three concentration camps, three of the major camps — Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, and Auschwitz, of course,” Rosenblum said. “Her shop was the last shop in a mall that is dying, and when I saw that, I immediately thought of (the Marshalltown) mall, which is not doing so well, and it just resonated with me immediately.”

The movie not only explores the challenges Warshawski faced with the tailor’s shop but also her personal struggles with what happened and how they would affect her once the business closed. Rosenblum said one of the reasons she chose “Big Sonia” was because she felt community members could see themselves or their family and friends in Warshawski.

“It’s such a great story, and knowing our community, I thought “Big Sonia” would really resonate with them,” Rosenblum said. “It is open to the public. You might cry a little. I’ll provide Kleenex.”

In addition to the “Big Sonia” showing, the library will be hosting a book discussion about “Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz” by Michael Bornstein on Mar. 10, followed by a showing of “Denial,” a movie centered around Deborah Lipstadt, the author of “Denying the Holocaust,” on Mar. 11.

Lipstadt will be presenting at the library on March 21, just five days before the Holocaust exhibit becomes available. The MPL is one of the 50 libraries across the country selected to host this exhibition.

“Big Sonia” will be played in the library’s community meeting rooms at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.


Contact Susanna Meyer

at 641-753-6611 or



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