Churcher’s College was honoured to welcome Mala Tribich MBE, to share the testimony of a survivor, a child at the time, almost 75 years after Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated. Mala is now among the last people able to give a first-person account of what she and others suffered, and what was done to them.
“It’s hard to bear, even after all these years. All those bodies,” said Mala, eyes full of memories she can never erase. “I can actually see it. Like something out of hell.”
The 500 pupils, parents and guests listened in silence to the blisteringly powerful talk which painted a haunting and vivid picture of life inside the camp. Mala described the destruction wrought at the infamous concentration camp in northern Germany where an estimated 52,000 people – most of them Jews – died during the last phase of the Second World War.
Mala was born in Poland and forced into a ghetto before being sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp and then, when she was 14, Mala was sent to Bergen-Belsen. Before the camp, some of her family members were rounded up by the Nazis, marched into a nearby forest and executed. “So that’s how I lost my mother and sister,” she says, with a gentle, crushing sigh. She recalls finding her way to the children’s barracks and how Luba Tryszynska, “the angel of Belsen”, took care of them. She recalls that, on the day British troops liberated the camp, she saw people running. “All I could think was: how have they got the strength to run?”
“It felt far more personal and engaging to hear it from someone who had experienced it first hand,” explained Maddie and Annabel, 4th Year (Year 10) Churcher’s students.
Mala’s visit and a production of Goodrich & Hackett’s stage play of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ are both events at Churcher’s to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. By coincidence, Bergen-Belsen is the camp where Anne Frank and her sister Margot were held before they died in Spring 1945. Mala’s visit offered the cast a unique opportunity to hear directly the experiences of a young Jewish girl at that time.
“Mala is an inspiration, a hero for sharing her story to ensure we learn the lessons from the past,” explained Megan, the student who plays Anne Frank in the school production.
As the Holocaust ebbs from living memory, survivors of the notorious concentration camp underscore the importance of remembrance. Mala’s message of the evening was very clear, if you see prejudice or racism, you must speak out. That is how these terrible events started and they can end in a horror such as the Holocaust.
"Without hope, there is no survival" - Mala Tribich, MBE
All proceeds from the event are to be donated to the Holocaust Education Trust (HET).