Sonia Orbuch, who fought Nazis as a girl, dies in California


Sonia Orbuch, who survived the Holocaust as a teenager in Eastern Europe by joining a resistance group that was sabotaging the Nazis, has died in Northern California. She was 93.

Orbuch died Sept. 30 at her home in Corte Madera, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday, quoting her son, Paul Orbuch, and a longtime friend, Fred Rosenbaum. No cause of death was given.

She was born Sarah Shainwald in the eastern Polish town of Luboml and was 16 when German forces took over the area in 1941 and began killing Jews, the newspaper reported. Her family fled to nearby forests and hid there for the winter.


By spring, they joined a group made up of Soviet soldiers and civilians who targeted Nazi troops by blowing up trains, ambushing convoys and sniping at outposts.

The group was reluctant to take in a Jewish family with no military skills, but the leaders were persuaded by Sonia’s uncle, who had been a scout in the Polish army and knew the region.

The group thought her original name sounded too Jewish, so she was renamed Sonia.

She had no medical training, but Sonia learned to tend to the wounded. She kept watch and went on raids. She always carried two grenades — one for the Nazis and one for herself. She did not want to be taken alive.

“Suddenly, I was not afraid of bombs — me, a girl who had been afraid of a fly,” she said later.

After the war, she married Isaak Orbuch and they moved to the U.S. Her husband died in 1998.

Later in life, Sonia Orbuch became an author and lecturer. In 2009, she wrote her autobiography, “Here, There Are No Sarahs,” and helped found the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, which honors the memory of the 20,000 to 30,000 Jews who fought in resistance groups in World War II.


The foundation confirmed her death on its website.

“She deeply touched young people in particular, teens who were the same age as Sonia when she fled to the forest and fought back,” Rosenbaum, the longtime friend, said in a eulogy at her funeral Wednesday.

Orbuch is survived by a son, a daughter and a granddaughter, the Chronicle said.