“I am what they call a third or debatably second generation of Holocaust survivor.
My father was born to two holocaust and Auschwitz survivors in 1946. My family endured horrific torture, lost countless family members including young children and still suffers from trauma.
I read Malleh’s heroic story and couldn’t believe this brave & courageous woman never had a dedication. Malleh was a music teacher who when captured by the Nazi’s led a revolution in Aushwitz concentration camp.
Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is not just Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), we have Tisha B’av (the collective day of morning for tragedy) for that. This is Yom ‘Hashoah v’Ligvurah’, ‘Holocaust Remembrance Day for Might’, chosen to be commemorated on the day marking the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Celebrating our strength and resistance as a people not only to survive but to thrive and to stand up for what we believe in.
To release another sad violin holocaust song would add no nuance to the world. It would simply be another holocaust documentary. This is your Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds holocaust song.
As quoted in the full story below, the assembled crowd shouted Malleh’s name twice, “Malleh Malleh” upon her arrival back to Auschwitz after being turned in to the Nazi’s by Poland where Malleh was hiding. The double call of Malleh’s name reverberated in my head which eventually became the chorus of the song. I heard a rebellious Michael Jackson attitude like beat in my head but when I brought the tune to Boaz Van De Beatz, a Bachata, almost Reggaeton track was born. With the help of Bachata dancer Stav Machbush who would later star in the music video, a proper Bachata arrangement was put in place and hence Malleh was reborn.”
– Mayer Malik
She’s all alone in the basement
She’s got a candle and it’s burning alright
She’s got a pearl and it’s aching
Taken on a truck in the middle a night
She knows all the rules
She can find the love
She can find the love
She can find prayer
She got the bad behavior
She fought for water on the human train
She never loved the thought of all the pain
She dialed in for a favor
Smuggled out explosives in the middle of night
Snuck out of the camp left a paper
Gotta the world what they’re doing to us
She broke all the rules
Bring her in alive
Bring her in alive
She took a razor
She used the bad behavior
She smacked the kapo in the face
To stop the cruelty of the human race
When the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1942 her father had ordered her to dress up like a gentile girl to save her life. He had difficulty asking her to do such a thing. She was so proud of being Jewish and of her two brothers in the yeshivah. Malleh was a talented girl. She had given up medical school only because she wasn’t sure she could keep the Sabbath there.
Now she pleaded with her father, “I must stay with you! Let us all die together like Jews.” But her father was stubborn. In the end Malleh became a music teacher in a Christian household in the suburbs of Antwerp. Her real identity became known when somebody eavesdropped on her when she was singing the Kol Nidrei in her room at the beginning of Yom Kippur. She was sent to join a transport of women to Auschwitz.
On the train courageous Malleh fought to persuade the guards to give the women water. Then, at the bathhouse in Auschwitz, she dared to slap the Jewish kapo’s face because this woman was “treating her fellow Jewesses cruelly.”
The Nazi doctor in charge of the women’s block. Dr. Klein, witnessed this scene and actually intervened to save Malleh’s life. After she had sweated out an hour, waiting for the death sentence, Dr. Klein told her, “Your behavior has put you into my good book. You have character.” He appointed her chief translator for the Central Camp Administration.
The diplomaed translator who sat in Commandant Hassler’s office turned out to be a heroine. Never was that made clearer than when, to everyone’s astonishment, she escaped from Auschwitz.
Malleh, the young interpreter from Antwerp, was an orderly person. She even left a note stuck to her bed: “It’s too hard for me to live with murderers. I must leave and tell the world what these vile people have done to us. I want the whole world to know how an ancient people is being destroyed.”
The women prisoners had known for some time that Malleh was in contact with the underground resistance. She had even smuggled bombs out to them from Birkenau’s weapon factories.
The Germans scurried around the camp like mice whose nest has been dug up. Two days after the escape the notice went out: “Bring her in alive or dead. She knows too much and could harm the Third Reich.”
The siren’s screech stirred the air of the women’s block. The Germans were preparing a surprise event. When they came to the assembly yard, the same name burst from every prisoner’s lips: “Malleh! Malleh!”
She drew herself up and announced, “I wish to ask the pardon of Auschwltz’s officers. The accursed Poles are the ones who turned me in…. I wanted to tell the whole world how my people are being butchered here…. All of the prisoners must rise up against their oppressors….”
Malleh turned her bold gaze to Dr. Klein, the Nazi doctor, who was trying to silence her. “I will not permit you to harass me. It is better to die than to abase ourselves before a murderer,” she continued forcefully. While the executioners were preparing the gallows, she quickly pulled out a razor and slit her veins. “HaKadosh Baruch Hu (the holy one is blessing i.e the creator) will forgive me. And you, too, forgive me!” she called out calmly before she sank to the ground.
The Germans attempted to save her life for the moment, because they thought “she must be hanged properly.” But they were unsuccessful, and she was taken, dying, to crematorium 2. The young men who worked there were ordered to burn her alive, and her only request of the Sonderkommando (the ones who were forced to burn humans) was “I wish to be buried.’ So that night they brought her ashes to burial, in a grave they had dug specially for her. Afterward they said Kaddish and swore to avenge her blood.
There, over Malleh’s grave, the plans for the prisoners’ uprising were laid, and the signal for the revolt was chosen: the name Malleh.
The armed guards at the crematoria were being attacked by Jews who had risen in revolt. They turned to assault the kapo who was in charge, all the while shouting the signal word: “Malleh!” Before a detachment of soldiers could arrive, the steel doors of the crematorium were opened and a few of the condemned escaped through them, leaving signs of their desperate batde all over the floor.
The wounded rolled around among the dead, shrieking in pain. One injured young man heard someone behind him singing the praises of Malleh, the heroine through whose efforts the revolt had broken out. As he listened to what was known of her life, it dawned on him.
“Oh no!” he shouted in a frenzy. “That was my fiancee!”
He had thought her still safely hidden in Antwerp. Now that he discovered what her fate had been, he fell back, dead of heart failure….
The night after the uprising, the Sonderkommando visited Malleh’s grave once again, the grave of the heroic girl who had mocked the Germans. This time they brought her the ashes of her fiance, which they laid to rest in a grave at her side.
The eulogy was brief. “Malleh! In your life you sanctified God’s Name. In your death you washed away our taint, by showing us the way to remove our shame.”
They did not forget to honor Malleh’s parents, either, who were still hiding in Antwerp. They sent a message of condolence to them — condolences from Auschwitz.
⁃ Pessa Sheroshewsky, Karnei Ohr