By speaking out, it is my greatest hope that something positive will be handed to the future generation.
- Mala Tribich

Mala was born in 1930 in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland. She was the second eldest of her siblings, with an older brother, Ben, and a younger sister, Lusia. After the outbreak of war in Poland in 1939, the advancing German army began bombing Polish towns, Mala’s town being one of the many that were affected. After moving to Sulejow, Poland to be with Mala’s uncle, the family then fled into the woods when they bombs seemed to have stopped. For a while, Mala and her family travelled through the woods, moving in the night, and hiding during the day. But as the German army drew closer, they decided to return to Piotrkow.

By November 1939, under the instruction of the Nazi regime, Mala and her family had moved in the newly established ghetto. Mala’s father still had connections outside of the ghetto and arranged for Mala and her cousin Idzia to be taken in with a Christian family in Czestochowa. They were to assume the identity of relatives visiting from Warsaw. But Mala remembers the dangerous and vulnerable circumstances of their life there, constantly risking discovery and having to think quickly when asked who they were.

Soon Mala and her cousin had become very homesick. Idzia pleaded with the family to be returned to Piotrkow but was told that it would not be safe and that deportations were still occurring in the ghetto. Finally, they agreed to take her to the Mackowiaks, a family that were looking after Mala’s family’s valuables and possessions.

Mala felt that her cousin was very lucky to have been returned to her family, especially since Mala had to wait. When it was Mala’s turn to be returned, the couple brought her to her father and Mala was surprised to see Idzia’s father was also present. Seeing that just one girl had returned, Idzia’s father demanded to know where his daughter was, but the couple told him that they had returned her to the Mackowiaks.

Later it was discovered that the couple had returned to the Mackowiaks with Idzia, but they took a suitcase of valuables and left with her. Idzia was never seen again, and the circumstances of her disappearance remain a mystery to this day.

Back in the ghetto, conditions had become much worse, and Mala’s family were residing in the corner of one room with many other families. Other members of Mala’s immediate family had also been in hiding but returned to the ghetto when it had been declared that those without a work permit would be safe. Mala’s mother and sister Lusia were among these. However, this promise of safety was fallacious.

 Over a few days many of those without work permits were rounded up and incarcerated inside the Great Synagogue within the ghetto. They had no food, water or light and Ukrainian guards would occasionally shoot through the windows to amuse themselves, often killing and injuring people. After a few days, the people inside the synagogue were led into the nearby woods where they were murdered. Despite Mala’s father’s efforts to try and free them, Mala’s mother and sister were among those that were murdered.

Mala was now in the ghetto with her father and brother and had also become the caregiver of her five year old cousin Hania, whose mother had been sent to a labour camp, and father had been shot.

In July 1943 the ghetto was liquidated and Mala and her cousin, being children and unable to work, were put in line to board lorries to concentration camps. Mala bravely asked one of the SS guards if she could return to her father and brother in the ghetto and surprisingly, he said yes, eventually letting her bring Hania as well.

They stayed in the ghetto for another year until November 1944, when Mala and her cousin were put into cattletrucks with no food or water and transported to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Her father and brother were taken separately to Buchenwald concentration camp. Mala and Hania were in Ravensbrück for two and a half months before they were put into cattletrucks once more and transported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Upon arrival they found abhorrent conditions, with many people dying of starvation and endemic diseases. Mala had become increasingly worried about Hania’s wellbeing and decided to ration a piece of bread in a bundle in case she ever needed it, this was an extremely difficult thing to do, as Mala herself was also starving. But one day she fell asleep and when she awoke it was gone.

Mala managed to secure a place for herself and her cousin in a children’s barracks, where they received care from the female inmates working there, but conditions were still awful, and Mala contracted typhus.

Mala and Hania were liberated from Bergen-Belsen on 15th April 1945. Mala was 14 years old. Mala and Hania were moved to Sweden where Mala made contact with her brother, Ben who was now living in England. Mala discovered that her father had been shot trying to escape a death march, as had her uncle. Hania’s mother had survived, and they reunited, as had Idzia’s mother. All of the other members of Mala’s immediate family did not survive.

Mala decided to join her brother Ben in England and they were reunited in 1947 after many years apart.

In later life, Mala recognised the importance of speaking about her experiences during the Holocaust. She has been a long-standing friend and supporter of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum and continues to give her testimony whenever she is able. Her testimony has contributed greatly to Holocaust education and continues to provide meaningful, educational experiences for those who hear it.