UCL Centre for Holocaust Education wishes Holocaust survivor Mala Tribich a very happy birthday. She is 90 today (24 Sep) .
As you can see from the photo here– taken just a few months ago – she looks only a little over half her actual age. She has grace, poise and such a gentle smile – one could easily think that life had spared her harm and sorrow. Yet, as a child, she survived a period in hiding, the Piotrkow ghetto, Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. For many years Mala has travelled up and down the country speaking to teachers and students in schools about her traumatic experiences during the Holocaust. Her worked only temporarily was put on hold due to the Covid pandemic.
It was only fairly recently that she began to tell of a particularly remarkable story. During one of the ghetto round ups, surrounded by armed soldiers and snarling dogs she was forced to stand in a long column of women and children waiting for her turn to be taken away (almost certainly to her death).
Twelve year old Mala took her chance, stepped out of line and walked up to the senior Nazi guard overseeing the deportation – an action that almost certainly would have resulted in a fatal beating or being shot on the spot. She simply asked him to let her return to the ghetto to be with her father and brother. Whether it was due to the sheer audacity of her action or her courage that struck the guard, no one can be sure, but astoundingly, he let her return. What’s more, she went back to rescue her five year old cousin who stood beside her in the line and who she had vowed to protect. This brave move saved both lives.
As part of the UK government sponsored project Belsen75 created by UCL Centre for Holocaust Education and Holocaust Educational Trust, our Centre made a short film about Mala and another remarkable Belsen survivor, Susan Pollock. Both were 14 years of age when they were liberated by the British army on 15 April 1945.
When Mala is at home she tends to her compact but lovely terrace garden. She has green fingers and enjoys bringing back to life forlorn plants that to most would appear to have long gone. I often have tea with her on that terrace and enjoy listening to her tell me with great enthusiasm how her garden grows.
Mala, may you have many more years tending your garden and doing the remarkable work you do for Holocaust Education and remembrance.
Today also sees the first in a series of workshops with SLTs of our Beacon School programme. It will look at whole school priorities in the current context such as recovery curriculum and student/staff wellbeing. It will also explore how the Beacon School programme can contribute to in some way to these wider school priorities.
Finally UCL’s brand new MOOC continues to recruit participants. To book your place on this innovative course, which has been co-created by, UCL Centre for Holocaust Education and Yad Vashem register here.
Have a great weekend