Scrapbookpages Blog

March 13, 2014

Mala and Ben Helfgott, Holocaust survivors with an amazing story to tell

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 8:56 am

Today, I read the heart-warming story of Mala Tribich, a Holocaust survivor who recently spoke to students in the UK about her ordeal in the Bergen-Belsen “death camp.”

This quote is from a news article about Mala’s talk to the students:

After being smuggled back into the [Piotrkow] ghetto, Mala’s mother and eight-year-old sister were among hundreds of Jews rounded up and taken to the nearby Rakow forest, where mass graves had been dug.

Her mum and sister were among 560 adult Jews and 39 children murdered that day.

This quote from the news article immediately caught my attention:

Born Mala Helfgott in 1930 in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland, Mala was approaching her ninth birthday when World War II broke out on September 1, 1939.

I previously blogged about Ben Helfgott, who is the brother of Mala Helfgott, at

In that blog post, I wrote this:

I first heard of Ben Helfgott in a book entitled Holocaust Journey, written by Martin Gilbert several years ago. I remembered Helfgott’s name because he said something about the German people who were burned alive, near Theresienstadt, as they tried to escape from the angry Czechs who expelled them after the war. I was impressed that he could show sympathy for the German expellees who had suffered.  (The former Dachau concentration camp became a home for German refugees from Czechoslovakia for 17 years.)

This quote is from the news article about Mala’s talk to students in the UK:

After a time as a slave labourer alongside her father and brother Mala, now 13, and her young cousin Ann and aunt were taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where they were stripped and had their heads shaved.

“We just felt that was the end. We weren’t going to survive,” said Mala.

“My aunt died within three days of our arrival. My best friend died soon after that. Conditions were terrible. We were four people to a bunk.

“Our rations were half a slice of black bread and a grey liquid called soup and a brown liquid called coffee and occasionally a nub of margarine.”

Two to three months later, Mala and Ann were taken to Bergen-Belsen in Germany in cattle trucks.

Bergen-Belsen was not a “death  camp,” as reported in the news article.  It was an EXCHANGE camp.  Ravensbrück was a camp for women.  How did Mala rate a transfer, from Ravensbrück to the Bergen-Belsen EXCHANGE camp?

I would love to know the whole story of Mala and Ben Helfgott. Why weren’t they taken to Rakow to be killed, along with their mother and sister?

You can read Ben Helfgott’s story at

This quote is from the website, cited above:

One morning, four days ­before Christmas in 1942, Nazi soldiers went to the synagogue in the Polish town of Piotrków, where 560 Jews were crammed, and ­demanded that 50 strong men ­accompany them to the woods. The men were told to dig five pits and then shot. In one week in October, 22,000 Jews (out of a population of 25,000) had been sent from Piotrków to the Treblinka gas chambers, so the men were under no illusions what they were digging.

The following morning, the SS took the rest of the people in the synagogue in groups of 100 to the woods. They were told to undress next to the pits and then they were shot. Among the victims was Ben Helfgott’s 37-year-old mother and his eight- year-old sister, Lusia.

Twelve-year-old Ben was working in a glass factory outside the ghetto and so regarded as “legitimate” by the Nazis. His 11-year-old sister, Mala, somehow escaped the roundup and his father had a permit to live in the Piotrków ghetto. But his mother and Lusia were seen as illegals and so went into hiding, fearing that they would be ­murdered. Then the Nazis offered illegals like Ben’s mother asylum. It was a ruse, but she and Lusia came out of hiding and were held in the ­synagogue. It was hardly a place of sanctuary: for amusement, guards would shoot in through the windows, killing and wounding people.

You can read more about the Piotrkow ghetto and the massacre on this website: