On Monday 19 Feb, Bethany was visited by Mala Tribich MBE, of the Holocaust Educational Trust.
A Holocaust survivor, Mala was born Mala Helfgott in 1930 in Poland. When the Nazis invaded in 1939, Mala’s family fled eastwards. When they returned, Mala’s family had to move into the ghetto which was established in her hometown, the first in Poland. Life in the ghetto was terrible with families living in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions.
The family decided that it would be safer for Mala and her cousin, Idzia Klein, to be taken to the city of Częstochowa to try to pass as Christian children and stay there until the deportations were over. Life was at times uncertain for the girls and they often felt vulnerable. Mala was eventually taken back to her home town, where her father was waiting for her in the attic of a flour mill. Shortly after Mala’s return to the ghetto, there were further round ups during which her mother and eight-year-old sister were taken. When the ghetto was liquidated, Mala became a slave labourer until November 1944, when the remaining Jews were deported. Mala was separated from her father and brother and was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
After about 10 weeks they were transported in cattle trucks to Bergen-Belsen where conditions were appalling and Mala contracted typhus. At the time of the liberation by the British army, Mala was very ill. She was transferred to a hospital/children’s home and it was many weeks before she recovered. Three months later she was sent, with a large group of children, to Sweden where she spent nearly two years. Not expecting any of her family to be alive, Mala was surprised to receive a letter from her brother Ben in England, the only other member of her close family to have survived.
In March 1947, Mala came to England to be reunited with Ben. She learnt English, attended secretarial college and within a year was working in an office. In 1949, she met Maurice, whom she married in 1950. Whilst her children were growing up, Mala studied and gained a degree in Sociology from the University of London. Today Mala has two children and three grandchildren. Mala’s testimony can also be found in the book The Boys by Sir Martin Gilbert.
Simon Cuthbert, Head of Religious Studies, said “It was a privilege to welcome Mala, a Holocaust survivor, to Bethany and to hear her own perspective on the horrors of the Holocaust. Our Year 9 pupils were deeply moved by what they heard and we are grateful to the Holocaust Educational Trust for making Mala’s visit possible”.