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Friday, April 22, 2022


You can’t fail to be amazed, moved and impressed by the author’s faith and determination to survive. (Review by Christine E Hann)

Mala Kacenberg’s Mala’s Cat begins in the village of Tarnogród, where Mala was born and spent her childhood. She was part of a large happy extended family. Her childhood was cut short by the outbreak of World War 2 when she was 12. Mala was Jewish, she was also the only member of her family with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion. She also spoke excellent Polish. As such, she was able to pass as a Christian child.

Mala’s looks and bold nature enabled her to sneak out of the Ghetto to work and beg for food for her family in the nearby villages and farms. She returned one day in 1942 to discover that her entire family, bar her feeble grandfather, was gone. A note from her sister warned her to stay away. Mala never saw the rest of her family again. She survived with the help of her cat Malach (Hebrew for Angel) in the woods and neighbouring villages, despite several dangerous and frightening encounters. Later, she assumed a Polish identity and joined a convoy of workers sent to Germany, where she worked as a hotel maid and witnessed the fall of the Third Reich.

The book is written in an unsentimental, straightforward manner, which is unsettling in its own way - at times you find yourself thinking, this can’t be real. She was so young, and all alone. Yet Mala’s youth may well have played a part in her survival, being too young to take in much of the horror she witnessed. To quote the author: “For what normal person could absorb what was happening then?”

Mala later made a new life in England, and at the time of her marriage, her cat Malach vanished. Who is to know, was there actually a cat, or was there a guardian presence looking over Mala? You can’t fail to be amazed, moved and impressed by the author’s faith and determination to survive. In her words, “Anyone who survived the Holocaust survived with miracles.” Read on and consider for yourself.

Mala Szorer (nee Kacenberg) was born in Tarnogród, a village in Poland in 1927. She survived the holocaust and immigrated to London after the war, raising her family and running a Bed & Breakfast in Stoke Newington. She always spoke to her five children about her experiences, which they encouraged her to write and have published. The author passed away aged 90. Other books by the same author: Alone in the Forest – a memoir, now republished as Mala’s Cat.

Mala’s Cat by Mala Kacenberg is published by Penguin Random House UK – 2022. ISBN: 978-0-241-50365-2 - Christine E Hann