Malka Baran expressed her love of children by caring for a toddler hidden in the barracks of a concentration camp and teaching first grade at her DP camp. It was the start of her lifelong commitment to early-childhood education.
Photos and Artifacts
Malka Baran, born Mela Klin (back row, second from right), with seven of her peers, all wearing the Star of David, 1940. This is the only surviving photo from Malka’s childhood. Credit: Courtesy of Boaz Munro.
Malka Baran (back row, center) at a DP camp in Wegscheid, Austria, ca. 1946. At the time, Malka taught first grade in the camp. One of the children in the photo is
Harry Schneider, who was a neighbor of Moshe Baran, Malka’s surviving husband, in Pittsburgh. A few years ago, Harry showed Moshe the photo, telling him, “This is a picture of me as a child in the DP camp.” Moshe was shocked to see his late wife in the photo. Credit: Courtesy of Boaz Munro.
Page from a list of surviving Jews in Czestochowa, compiled by the World Jewish
Congress after the war. Malka Baran’s birth name, Mela Klin, appears in row 1187. Credit: Czestochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group, via Yad
A 1940 list from the Czestochowa Council of Elders showing Isaac (Icyk) Klin, Malka Baran’s father, on a list of Jews registered for forced labor. Malka’s
father and younger brother were both put to work building a railroad; they were shot under unknown circumstances during forced labor. Credit: Czestochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group, via United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Malka and Moshe Baran dancing at Moshe’s 80th birthday celebration, Pittsburgh, December 2000. Credit: Courtesy of Boaz Munro.
Malka and Moshe Baran at Malka’s 80th birthday party, January 2007. Malka had terminal cancer by then, and the family decided to host a big celebration in the knowledge that she didn’t have much time left. Malka received her diagnosis with grace and acceptance and died peacefully on May 7, 2007. Credit: Courtesy of Boaz Munro.
By Dr. Samuel Kassow
What stands out in Malka Baran’s testimony is her determination to emerge from the Holocaust with her faith in humanity restored by the decent actions of a few. As Malka’s daughter Avi Baran Munro remarked after her mother’s death, “She came out of the camps with no hatred. She blacked out a lot of her experiences, but she always remembered the few times people were kind.”
Most survivors were justifiably full of bitterness and anger. These were feelings that they often worked hard to conceal because they learned through painful experience that people, especially Americans, preferred to hear stories with a happy ending, reassuring tales of human triumph over evil. Even close relatives who welcomed survivors after the war did not want to hear the truth—the ceaseless aching pain underneath a cheery and feisty exterior, the never-ending thoughts of murdered children who would always be four or seven, the sudden flashbacks and fear. Malka’s testimony, therefore, is as valuable as it is atypical.
Malka Baran, whose birth name was Mela Klin, was born in Warsaw on January 30, 1927. When she was one year old, her parents, Isaac (Icyk) and Bela Klin, settled in the southern Polish city of Czestochowa on the Warta River. Besides her parents, Malka also had a brother, Henek, who was four years her junior. Only Malka survived the war.
In 1931, Czestochowa, the site of the most revered Catholic shrine in Poland, was a city of 117,170 inhabitants, including 25,558 Jews. (Because of a large influx of refugees and expellees after the beginning of the war, this number had swelled to 40,000 by the time the Czestochowa Ghetto was established in April 1941.) Jewish political parties—including the orthodox Aguda, the Zionists, and the Bund—were very active in the city. There were several Jewish organizations devoted to culture, public health, and economic self-help.
Relations between Poles and Jews were fraught, and there were major anti-Jewish riots in 1918 and 1937. However, Malka, who lived in a Jewish neighborhood and had only Jewish friends, did not recall any overt antisemitism. Malka’s father was a printer, whose shop was directly below the family’s modest apartment. Malka described her family as “normal lower middle class.” Her childhood memories were happy. She attended an excellent Jewish school, where the language of instruction was Polish but Hebrew was taught as well. Families of modest means usually could not afford to enroll their children in such a school, but Malka’s parents received a discount because one of her aunts worked there. Malka also had fond memories of going to the movies (her father printed tickets for local theaters) and of summer visits with her mother’s sister in Warsaw. (This aunt, an opera lover, once took young Malka to see a production of Faust that she never forgot.)
Malka’s parents were not religious. Like many Polish Jews of his generation, Isaac had had a strict religious upbringing, but he had rebelled when he became a teenager. He went to the synagogue once a year, on Yom Kippur, and his wife, Bela, lit candles on Friday night. But on Passover, when Jews were strictly forbidden to eat leavened bread, the Seder table was adorned with matzah—and bread. Yet, despite their lack of interest in religion, Malka’s parents imbued their daughter with a deep sense of Jewish pride and belonging. Indeed, entirely on her own, she developed the habit of “speaking to God” before she went to sleep at night.
Malka’s happy childhood was brutally cut short when the Germans invaded Poland on Friday, September 1, 1939. By Sunday, the German army had captured Czestochowa. They lost no time in terrorizing the Jewish and Polish population: on Monday, September 4, on the pretext that someone had shot at German soldiers, the Germans carried out a massive roundup of Jews near Malka’s home and shot 96 men and women.
The usual persecutions and humiliations soon befell the Jews of Czestochowa: roundups for forced labor; the mandatory wearing of an armband; frozen bank accounts; the burning of synagogues. All Jewish businesses were taken over by Germans. Malka’s father lost his print shop and had to perform backbreaking manual labor. Malka and her brother also had to work menial jobs. Malka’s school was closed, though for a time the children met illegally at their teachers’ homes and continued their lessons.
As in all Polish towns, the Germans appointed a Jewish council (Judenrat) to transmit orders and keep the Jewish population in line. The Czestochowa Judenrat, led by Leon Kopinski, did what it could: it helped organize relief, started soup kitchens, and collected money to pay the repeated German “fines” that were impoverishing the Jewish population. But the Judenrat found itself in a hopeless situation—humiliated by the Germans and, like the Jewish police, eyed with suspicion and dislike by many Jews.
In April 1941, the Germans forced the city’s Jews into the newly established Czestochowa Ghetto. Since the ghetto encompassed the neighborhood where Malka and her family lived, they did not have to move.
Life in the ghetto was marked by a desperate battle against hunger and disease. Yet, Jewish doctors and nurses did their best to combat epidemics, teachers set up day-care centers, and political parties held secret meetings. There were many cultural activities; the Jews did their best not to give in to depression and despair. In 1942 Zionist youth organizations, as well as Bundists and Communists, began to plan an underground resistance movement and started raising money to buy weapons.
Malka had few memories of daily life in the ghetto, but she vividly recalled Yom Kippur 1942. That’s when the Germans suddenly descended on the ghetto and began the mass deportations to Treblinka. Between September 22 and October 7 the Germans sent 30,000 Jews to the death camp in trains that were crammed with more than 100 people in each car. The first day of the deportations, Malka and her family were subjected to a German “selection.” Malka’s mother was sent to one side—she later died in Treblinka—Malka, her father, and her brother, Henek, to another. Isaac and Henek were forced to work on the railroad. One day, they failed to return from their labor assignment; they had been shot along the railroad tracks. Malka was now alone. The only keepsakes of her parents she held onto were a heart-shaped pendant and a gold chain.
Malka and the other remaining Jews were now herded into the so-called Small Ghetto. In January 1943, she recalled, two Jewish members of the resistance organization opened fire on a German officer. Her memory was correct. On January 4, 1943, Mendel Fiszlewicz, a member of the resistance, pulled out his pistol and shot SS officer Felix Rohn. He then stabbed a policeman with his knife. In retaliation, the Germans immediately shot 25 Jewish men and sent 350 Jews to Treblinka. Miraculously, Malka again survived.
In 1943 Malka and most of the other surviving Jews in the Small Ghetto were sent to HASAG-Pelcery, a labor camp on the outskirts of Czestochowa, to work at one of the city’s several HASAG plants. HASAG (Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft Metallwarenfabrik) had become a major producer of ammunition for the German war machine, and had taken over many Polish munitions plants after the Germans occupied Poland. HASAG’s ruthless director, Paul Budin, an avid Nazi, had been able to convince the SS to let him use thousands of Jewish slave laborers in HASAG plants all over occupied Poland, including Skarzysko, Kielce, and Czestochowa.
Conditions in HASAG were appalling. Malka became seriously ill with boils and typhus. She suffered from malnutrition. But she lived. She stated in her testimony that she did not adopt any particular strategy to survive; rather, what helped her carry on were some unexpected moments of human warmth and bonding. She and other women at the camp helped conceal a Jewish toddler whose mother had smuggled him into HASAG. Malka held the boy and sang to him—it was a precious human connection. Amazingly, the boy survived; when a German foreman discovered the toddler, he decided to let him live.
Malka also owed her survival to the bonds of solidarity that developed among the women in the camp. She made close, lifelong friends there. There were also some decent Germans who now and then gave the prisoners some extra food.
Despite the horrendous conditions in the camp, HASAG-Pelcery was not the worst of the German labor camps. Jews who landed in HASAG-Pelcery from the Lodz Ghetto and from HASAG-Skarzysko considered themselves fortunate. Perhaps the biggest stroke of luck was that when the Russians launched their major offensive in January 1945, the Germans did not have the time to evacuate the prisoners. The Red Army liberated 5,000 Jews at the HASAG camps in Czestochowa, including 1,500 from the city itself.
Now that Malka was free, where would she go? She and her friend Shoshanka encountered a kindly Jewish man from Leningrad who was a supply officer in the Red Army and who wanted Malka to join his family in the Soviet Union (a plan that ultimately fell through). As Malka and Shoshanka traveled with a Red Army unit to meet up with the supply officer, they found themselves all alone on a dark night with dozens of soldiers. They expected the worst. But to Malka’s surprise, an officer watched over them, covered them with a blanket, and protected them. This evidence of human kindness touched her deeply and helped her begin her emotional recovery.
The road back to life was not easy. Malka returned to Czestochowa for a while, then made her way to a displaced persons camp in the American zone of Austria. In the DP camp she met her future husband—Moshe Baran from Horodok (in present-day Belarus), who was a partisan during the war. Malka and Moshe went to Israel, arriving in the middle of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. While Malka wanted to stay in Israel and make a life there, Moshe’s mother, who had survived and immigrated to the United States, wanted the couple to join her there. After some hesitation, they did. Malka and Moshe settled first in Brooklyn, New York, and then moved to the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, where Malka worked as a preschool teacher. She later earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and went on to become the director of the preschool where she taught. After Malka and Moshe retired, they moved to Pittsburgh to be near their daughter Avi and four of their grandchildren.
Malka Baran died in Pittsburgh on May 7, 2007, at the age of 80. She was survived by her husband, two daughters, and six grandchildren.
Additional readings and information
Malka’s unedited testimony at the Fortunoff Video Archive (available at access sites worldwide): https://fortunoff.aviaryplatform.com/collections/5/collection_resources/1641.
Karay, Felicja. Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 1996.
Willenberg, Samuel. Surviving Treblinka. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1989.
Malka Baran: My name is Malka Baran, now. I was Mela Klin in Czestochowa, in a city of Poland where I lived with my parents from the age of one year. My father was a printer, had a printer shop and worked there with a helper. My mother was a housewife. We were two children. I was actually born in Warsaw. And my entire mother’s family lived in Warsaw, and that’s where they perished.
Eleanor Reissa: You’re listening to “Those Who Were There: Voices from the Holocaust,” a podcast that draws on recorded interviews from Yale University’s Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies. I’m Eleanor Reissa.
Malka Baran was born on January 30, 1927, and grew up with her younger brother in a middle-class household. Malka attended a private Jewish school thanks to a discount secured by her aunt who worked there as a secretary. But Malka’s formal education ended with the German invasion of Poland when she was 12 years old.
It is now May 21, 1990, and Malka is sharing her recollections with interviewers Judit Jung and Sandra Rosenstock at a community center in Forest Hills, Queens, in New York City. She’s wearing a wine-colored dress, with a pearl necklace and matching earrings. As she speaks, Malka gestures gently with her hands. She remembers the day the Nazis invaded.
MB: I remember hiding in a cellar, and we were very, very quiet as the German troops were entering the city. And a baby started crying, and there was a candle on the windowsill. The windows were closed. In order for the Germans not to hear the baby cry, the mother was stifling the baby. And then a candle burnt, went out, and people were beginning to say that there was no air. Obviously, we could not stay anymore, and we ran somewhere.
And the next thing I remember, that things calmed down when the Germans took over because they always did it very slowly and slyly and, uh, gradually. And slowly the other signs were beginning to appear. My father’s printer’s shop was closed. The Germans took over the machinery. Uh, my school was closed after a while, so we could not go to school anymore. So our teachers decided to continue education in their homes. So I remember we walked in small groups to their homes for further instructions.
Then, slowly, one teacher disappeared. We didn’t know where. Our doctors disappeared. We didn’t know where. It was all hushed, maybe because I was a child then. But maybe it was that people really didn’t know. It was very gradually done. Intelligentsia, as we call it, intelligentsia were slowly disappearing from the city.
The next thing I remember was their first, um, selekcja, which is, uh, selection—I don’t know what the term is, really. It happened very early in the morning. Very early my parents woke us up and with hushed voices told us quickly to dress ourselves with whatever layers we could take, because we are leaving home. And when I went to the window, I saw German, uh, SS men standing all along the street across the windows and not a, another soul outside. And there was a very harsh knock on the door. The door bursts open. SS men came in with rifles. “Out, out, out, out,” in German. And we were forced out. We—I never saw my home anymore after that.
We were taken out into the street very fast, very loud. Another girl, a young girl who lived with us who helped my mother, uh, also was taken. And they arranged us quickly with rifles in fives—in five, in five, in five. And all my neighbors were coming out of their houses and, uh, apartments, and fives, and fives, and fives—were arranged that way and marched forward. And we came to a certain spot where the Germans separated people. My mother and the girl who worked with her were to one side, my father and my brother and I to the other side. At that point, my father wanted to run to my mother to go with her. Well, they hit him with a gun and not killed him, just hit him, pushed him away, and he went back to us.
My father and I and my brother remained together for a while. The Germans sent my brother and my father to work on a railroad track. They sent us to work somewhere else. Every day we returned to the same place where they stationed us. And one day, my father and brother did not return.
Um, the next thing I remember is being taken to concentration camp with all the other Jews. We were marching, marching, marching, and were brought to a certain place. It was the labor camp in Czestochowa somewhere on the outskirts of the city. And what we did was we—they were bringing shells from anti-aircraft guns, or ammunition. And the shells that were destroyed or partially destroyed or bent were restored in that factory. So, actually, what we were doing is restoring the anti-aircraft shells to fill them with ammunition again to, to bomb—to bombard, to, to shell against the aircraft that is coming. I was 15, and I was one of the youngest in camp.
Soon after we came to camp, at night we heard a baby crying. And I thought that we’re probably losing our mind because all children were killed. And now indeed we heard a child crying. And one of us went after the sound, and she found a bundle out of the window of the barrack on, on the roof. And they, we took the baby in. And some short time after that, a woman was brought to our barrack, and she looked to us very distressed, very not all together. But when the baby saw that woman, he stretched his arm to her, so we knew that this was the mother, although she did not acknowledge that. She was probably afraid that we’ll betray her. But after a while, things calmed down. The baby was maybe two years old, two and a half at that time, and was a little boy, David.
What we trained him to do, which was very, very interesting—the mother stayed to take care of the barracks, to sweep, to clean. We all were taken to work. Every morning there was count outside. Every night when we came back, they counted us again. Sometimes we worked on the daytime, uh, shift, sometimes at night. David was trained that when we go out to count, to be counted, he’s under those boards in the barrack, and quietly, so that in case a German would come to peek, nobody should notice him.
And that way—and, and then, when we came from work and everything was fine, he was coming out and playing with us. And I played with him, and I think he—I survived by my sanity because of this child. I told him stories. I sang to him. I played with him. It was a little bit of sunshine in my life then.
Uh, eventually, um, there were two young girls, myself and another young girl. The other girl and I both contracted a terrible disease of furunculosis, it’s called. Those were wounds on the body because of blood infection. So you got pus everywhere, and it was itching terribly. It was very, very uncomfortable and contagious. I remember I would—I wanted to die. I didn’t have any, any reason or need or will to continue living. My, my wounds were burning and itching, and I was pus—pus was on my breasts, pus was on my ankles, pus was on my, uh, heels and hands, everywhere. The other girl had it even worse, if it can be worse.
One morning, the Germans took her out and shot her. Then, I don’t know, next morning or the same day, I don’t remember the time… I was really very, very much not there—just superficially I was doing everything, inside not. Uh, somebody whisked me away from the barrack when the girl was shot. He took me out from that hall where I worked and put me into a special barrack. And all around me, there were people with typhoid, prisoners who were dying, prisoners already dead.
They bandaged me, from head to toe. They started to inject or take out blood from one—my spot where the blood was maybe more not affected and inject again. Somehow they saved my life. That’s another miracle. I was sick, I was starved, I was emotionally passive. When people ask me, “What did you do to survive, what did you do to…?” I, I can only say, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” It was just as though someone was leading me, and by, either by will of God or just coincidence, I survived.
Um, those wounds became better, but I got typhoid on top of everything. And so I, I remember that they shaved my head. I survived that, too. I returned to work, and on one morning very shortly before ’45, um, when we were counted outside one morning, the Gestapo, who was, uh, a very mean, lame, uh, German, counted us and told us to stay and entered the room. And that was at an unusual time, and we knew that little David did not hide.
That was like a counting that did not, uh, occur in the morning or at night, but very unusual time. And we knew that somebody—either he found out, or somebody told him, or—because he went straight into the barrack. We were frozen, standing there, not moving. And we—I just knew that he will take him out and shoot him. And here comes out that man, lame, on his bicycle, and takes the child to the bicycle, puts the child on the bicycle, and moves away on the bicycle. He didn’t dismiss us, but we wouldn’t move anyway. We’re all waiting for the shot.
And there comes another miracle. He comes back with the child, tells him to go into the barrack, and tells us to be dismissed and goes away. Maybe he knew already that the Russians are coming, that the Germans are leaving. I don’t remember the span of time between that and the end, but I know it was toward the end. Anyway, the child was returned, and the child survived. And he stayed in Poland with his mother, became a doctor, and then we lost track. I don’t know what happened to him, but he survived.
Shortly after that, in the hall where we worked, something unusual occurred. All the Germans who were watching us all of a sudden left the hall all together. And we were remaining, we remained all by ourselves. And they didn’t come back. And all of a sudden, a young Jewish man ran into the hall, opened the doors, and told us, “Come out, come out! We are free. The Russians are here. The Germans are running away.”
And we stood there, and we could not move. It—we were so conditioned and so, um, completely without our own will or determination or, or energy or taking steps towards… We stood there. That was the first time that I cried, the very first time. I didn’t cry in camp. I didn’t cry—I don’t remember ever crying during all this time.
We walked out of that camp. My friends—there were four girls and a mother and myself that lived on the same, slept on the same board in the camp—uh, we ran out into the city, and we heard some shooting still, and we saw Russians on tanks rolling in on the streets of the city.
So the girls again decided—I was always passive during that time—“Let’s run into the basement to our hou—to one of the buildings, because it may not be safe. They’re still shooting, and let’s wait.” That was toward the evening. “Let’s wait overnight.” And so we did. We ran into one of the buildings, a tall building, into the basement. We stayed there overnight. When everything calmed down and was quiet, we ventured out. And as we walked out, we saw our own city, unbelievably strange and abnormal to us. And we found an empty apartment in the same building where we were hiding, and we occupied that apartment.
During that time, the Russian army occupied certain buildings around that building. And somehow—I don’t remember how—we met a soldier who was not really a soldier. He was older than most people. He was a watch man, and he was repairing watches for the soldiers and officers. So that man met some of us, because he heard we are Jewish, and he was Jewish, very obviously Jewish. And as we learned to know him, he brought us some food. He brought us some shirts to change. He began to show signs that he wants to help.
The man tried to make us understand that he wants to take one of us back home to Leningrad where he had, where he had a daughter our age and a wife, and he wants to save a Jewish person. Well, he picked me. And, again, I could not make any decisions yet, I was very passive, but my friends, who took care of me always, decided that it’s a wonderful, brilliant idea, that I’ll gain a family again. And he was really a very kind, very simple man, not really sophisticated, did not understand the workings of the war rules and army, he only knew that he wants to save a Jewish person.
Meantime, he was moved with the army to another city, and we remained. And then one day he sends a lieutenant with a note to me that they are stationed now not far from us and he would like me to be transferred to him so he can take care of me. The girls have a council. They decide it’s a wonderful idea, but I shouldn’t go alone. So one of the girls decides, “I’ll go with you.” I was 18. Uh, and my friend was maybe 19, one year older. So we decide to go with that lieutenant. If the man says, “Trust him,” then we trust him.
We go with him, and he puts us on a truck, open truck, you know. And there are soldiers sitting all around the truck, and we go there. And there was another truck behind us, maybe 16, 18 soldiers, Russian soldiers, too. And we go. That was in the morning.
So we travel. The soldiers sing. We travel. We sit together. They are polite. They are nice. Nobody hurts us in any way. And it’s beginning to darken, and it’s toward the evening, and they’re still going.
Um, it’s already dark, and they stop at a forsaken place. There was no—like a village. Bombarded, broken down, no houses, no people, just—they stopped there for the night. And then we realized—both Shoshanka, who’s my friend, and I—that we are here at night, two young girls, with 32, 34 Russian soldiers in the wilderness, nothing nowhere. And the lieutenant very nicely comes to us and says, “We are stopping here for the night. There is a barn. All my people will sleep in the barn. We’ll make a space for you. Please do not be afraid.”
It begins to rain. They are making supper outside. They are playing harmoshkas. They are singing, the soldiers. And we tell the lieutenant, “We’ll stay on the truck. Please leave us on the truck.” He said, “Please come down. Have some soup. Warm up near the fire.” “No, we’ll stay here.”
So he brings us the food to the truck, and he brings us some blankets to cover. It begins to drizzle, and we stay there. And Shoshanka, who is a very strong, tough person, and I, very meek and quiet and passive—she says to me, “Don’t you dare to come down. We are staying here for the night.” I said, “Of course.”
Um, by and by, the soldiers go into the barn. They all lie down all around. The truck is stationed nearby. The s—the, the lieutenant comes again. “Please look near the door. The door is open. There is a place for you. Please come and lie down.” “No.”
Finally, we were so drenched, and the, the trucks were open. There was nothing to protect us. And cold and tired, Shoshanka says, “You know what, we’ll go down. We’ll lie down, but don’t you dare to fall asleep.”
We came into the barn. Next to the door, there was a place for us. And the soldiers all lied down, and they are behaving properly, and some snore already, and some turn. And we are very watchful and very, very alert. And before we know, we fell asleep. In the middle of the night, we both jump up. Something fell on us. So we froze. And it was quiet. And we fell asleep again.
In the morning, we wake up. We are covered with a blanket of down. Down? Down blanket. I never, never forget the feeling that I had when I woke up and I realized what happened. It was like, like hundred balloons burst into the air. I think that moment restored my faith in human being after what I went through.
Well, after that, life was a little bit easier. We traveled with the Russian army. We came to that man, whose name was Isidore, just like my father. And he was a little bit resembling my father, too. He had a yell—yellow hair and a small face. And we trusted him. And at that time, I still planned to go with him. What happened was, when the war ended, we were in Austria already, in Mayerling, one of those little towns. And suddenly everybody shouted, “The war is over, the war is over!” I came out. I look at all those Russian boys and girls dancing and singing, and this was the second time that we felt, maybe we really will be free and return to life.
Then another episode happened. The friend who was supposed to take us was sent back home to Leningrad, and they did not allow him to take me along. They had an excuse that… Pardon?
MB: Right. He was sent, and he wanted to take me with him. They said, “No, you cannot. We don’t know whether they are spies. They are from Poland. We cannot send them to, to Leningrad now.”
What they had in mind probably to send us to Siberia. But my friend Shoshanka realized what is happening. She also heard from other people that we met in Mayerling, Jewish people, that, um, there is nearby a h—Rothschild Hospital, where they collect people, Jewish people from all the surroundings.
So Shoshanka said, “Let’s go. I’ll ask the major, who is a Russian Jew, to give us permission to go to Vienna to go to a consulate.” I said, “Fine.” So she obtained papers that we are allowed to leave and go to Vienna to register in the consulate, and we left them. And instead of going to Vienna, we went to that Rothschild Hospital, where they had, uh, uh, immediate, uh, uh, arrangements for Jews who come from anywhere to send them either to Israel or wherever, to the DP camps first.
Interviewer: From HIAS?
MB: From HIAS. Rothschild Hospital was a, a place, a central place from which they were sending Jews first to DP camps—displaced person camps—and from there, through HIAS, they sent to… So we came to Rothschild Hospital, and we told them that we just escaped from Russia—from the Russian Zone—and we would like them to send us immediately, because we are afraid that they’ll follow us or come for us, somewhere. So we even didn’t sleep there. Usually, people stay there for a long time. They put us on a train, and the train brought us to Veksheit, which is in Austria.
And I remember sitting on that train, and the train stops, and a young man comes on the train and says, “Do you have a place to sleep?” Strange question. No. “No,” we said. “Come with me.” So we went with him. Obviously, he was a Jewish young man. He takes us to the DP camp, to the displaced person camp, to a barrack.
We stayed in that barrack. They gave us a room. Uh, and I met my husband in that camp. And I went to Israel first; he remained in, in camp. I went to Israel in ’48. I arrived in Israel through papers from my relatives, sort of a proxy papers that—as though I’m going to marry my cousin. He sent papers for me, and I came to Israel on a illegal Aliyah. And, uh, Moshe joined me in Israel later and we married there. And then I followed him to America. And this is my story.
What I wanted to say to future generations is that whenever things look terribly, terribly, terribly, um, desperate to you, don’t ever lose hope, because life continues. And if you survive, you can turn around, and things will be better. And you might not even be destroyed by very, uh, terrible situations that you go through. And that life is a precious gift and we have to treasure it.
ER: Malka Baran and her husband Moshe arrived in the United States in 1952. They settled in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where their two children were born. A few years later they moved to Queens. Malka taught pre-school at the Young Israel of Forest Hills. At night she studied for her BA and then for her master’s degree in early childhood education. She later became the director of the preschool where she taught.
After Malka and Moshe retired, they moved to Pittsburgh to be near their daughter Avi and her four children. Avi followed in her mother’s footsteps and runs a Jewish day school. She recalls that her mother didn’t keep her past a secret. “When we were children,” she said, “my mother answered our questions at our level, whatever we asked. But she and my father embraced life and believed that their best shot was to be as happy as they could be. My mother functioned with courage, self-discipline, joy in life, and did not obsess about the bad things that happened.”
Malka’s grandson Boaz remembers a time when his grandmother referenced her wartime experiences. “She was walking me home from school,” he recalled, “and I said that I was starving. I was nine years old. And she stopped and said, ‘You’re not starving. I was starving during the war.’ She didn’t say it in an angry way, just in a matter-of-fact way.”
Malka Baran died on May 7, 2007. She was 80 years old. Her husband Moshe recently celebrated his 100th birthday.
To learn more about Malka Baran, please visit our companion website at thosewhowerethere.org. It includes episode notes, a full transcript, and archival photographs. That’s where you can also find our previous episodes, as well as background information about the Fortunoff Video Archive and the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
“Those Who Were There” is a production of the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, which is housed at the Yale University Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Department in New Haven, Connecticut. This second season is a co-production with the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York’s contribution to the global responsibility to never forget. The museum is committed to the crucial mission of educating diverse visitors about Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust.
This podcast is produced by Nahanni Rous; Eric Marcus; the Fortunoff Archive’s director, Stephen Naron; and Treva Walsh, collections project manager at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Thank you to audio engineer Jon Gordon. Thanks, as well, to Christy Bailey-Tomecek, Joana Arruda, Noa Gutow-Ellis, and Inge De Taeye for their assistance. And thank you to Sam Kassow for historical oversight, and to photo editor Michael Green, genealogist Michael Leclerc, and our social media producers, including Cristiana Peña, Nick Porter, and Sara Barber. Ljova Zhurbin composed our theme music. Thank you, as well, to Avi Baran Munro and Boaz Munro for providing archival photographs and background information.
Special thanks to the Fortunoff family and other donors to the archive for their financial support.
I’m Eleanor Reissa. Thank you for listening.