Friday, May 4, 2018

...a heroine you may not know

She slapped a Nazi in the face and staged one of the most dramatic acts of wartime rebellion

Mala Zimetbaum was the first Jewish woman to escape Auschwitz and she refused to let the Nazis decide her fate

Children liberated from Auschwitz in World War II, 1945.
“I will die a heroine, but you will die like a dog!”
 Mala Zimetbaum (Museum Kazerne Dossin)
These were the words Mala Zimetbaum spat at an SS officer as she slapped him — hard — across the face. The blood that streamed from her slit wrists sprayed over his face and neck, and the symbolism of that moment was hard to miss: He literally had her blood on his hands. She would pay bitterly for this act of resistance, which was her last but certainly not her first. On September 15, 1944, the young woman who fought the terror of the Nazis time and time again, first in Antwerp, then in Brussels, and finally in the living nightmare known as Auschwitz, was murdered after having escaped weeks beforehand with her lover Edward Galinski (known as Edek), a Polish political prisoner in the camp.
 Edward 'Edek' Galinski
When Zimetbaum was sent to Auschwitz in 1942, she was given a relatively desirable job as a courier and translator due to her fluency in German, Polish, English, French, and Flemish. That’s where her real legacy began to take shape: Many Auschwitz survivors have her to thank for their lives. Her privileged job allowed her to bring food and clothes to those who needed it the most, warn sick people when “selections” were coming up so that they could pretend to be healthy (any sick person was immediately sent to the gas chamber on selection day), strike as many names as possible off of selection lists, and send messages to the outside world.

Along the way, she somehow, miraculously fell in love — and together they planned their escape. In June 1944, Zimetbaum became the first Jewish woman to escape Auschwitz. But the good fortune was short-lived: They were caught 13 days afterward, and interrogated (read: tortured) in the hopes that they would reveal their collaborators. Both refused to speak. Some say that Zimetbaum and Edek managed to see each other one last time before their execution, others say that they were only able to exchange messages. You can still see their names today, which they carved into the walls of their cells.

When the day came for her “trial,” Zimetbaum refused to participate in the show. She was going to take matters into her own hands, and somehow — probably through one of the many supporters she had amassed at the camp — managed to get ahold of a razorblade. When the verdict against her was being read aloud, she slashed her wrists — and when the SS officer tried to stop her, all her rage, fear, and indignation was channeled into the ferocious slap she delivered to the face of her torturer, right in front of the other inmates of the women’s camp. He grabbed her arm and broke it. The camp staff jumped on her, knocking her to the ground, and taped her mouth shut. She was beaten violently, and was probably dead by the time she was dragged off to the crematorium — although the head supervisor of the women’s camp supposedly yelled that “this beast should burn alive in the chimney.”  
Up to the very last moment of her life, 26-year-old Zimetbaum remained defiant, bold, courageous — a heroine.

 Malka Zimetbaum, 
also known as "Mala" Zimetbaum or "Mala the Belgian" 
26 January 1918 – 15 September 1944

Now, go make something beautiful.

¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)(¸.•´
(¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this heroine’s story. Gail

peggy gatto said...

What a story. Makes life's inconveniences seem quite insignificant!

Sylvia said...

Tristan, Thank you for sharing that heart warming history of a wonderful woman. Have a great week. Sylvia D.

Neet said...

I didn't know of this. What a wonderful woman.
Thank you so much for sharing this story with us.
Neet (tearfully) x

JP Bloch said...

More people should know about her.The Nazis often are depicted as if to suggest that no one dared to stand up to them whatsoever.

Janet Ghio said...

I have never read about her before. Thanks for sharing her story

Gail said...

A truly brave heroine. There were many in that dark era that we will never know. I'm glad to know Malka's story

Jeanie said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Tristan. I don't know anything about her and I will now have to look her up, see if I can find more. She is a most remarkable, courageous woman and what a legacy to leave. I can't tell you how grateful I am to know of this.

Jackie PN said...

What a story! Thank you so much for sharing this Tristan- a beautiful and courageous woman! I agree with JP more should know that some made it a point to let the Nazi's know they would not decide their fates!
Jackie xx