Mala Kacenberg

Författare till Alone in the Forest

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Inkluderar namnen: MALA KARENBERG, Mala Katzenberg

Verk av Mala Kacenberg


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Trigger Warnings: Holocaust, war, genocide

Growing up in the Polish village of Tarnogród, Mala Szorer’s and her large family was poor - but they had each other and that was enough. But, at the age of twelve, the German invasion began and her village became a ghetto and her family and their neighbors were reduced to starvation. Mala wouldn’t let her family go hungry, so she would take her yellow star off and sneak into the surrounding villages to barter for food.

On her way back home one day, she sees her family rounded up for deportation and receives a smuggled letter from her sister, warning her to stay away. Even though she wants nothing more than to be with her family, Mala retreats back into the forest, not only hiding from the Nazi, but also hostile villagers. A stray cat joins her side, who ends up saving her time and time again - Mala names her Malach, Hebrew for ‘angel’.

Malach becomes Mala’s family and closest friend as she fights against the loneliness of being completely on her own as she fights to survive through the Hitler Regime.

This is my first audio book I listened to mostly all the way through (except the last 50 pages, I read in my library book because I wanted to finish it but it was bedtime and I would fall asleep if I only listened). I would listen to it while doing some work and there were a few times I couldn’t help but comment out loud - especially when Malach would warn Mala of danger (again) and she would be surprised.

Since this was told through the eyes of the author as a teenager, it reads a little simpler than some memoirs. It also allowed the reader to watch as Mala ages and grows and begins to understand more and more about the war around her. Malach isn’t always mentioned, as sometimes she’s not always there - but this story is about the author’s survival, with the help of her guardian angel cat.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone that wants to read about the survival of a young girl in the forest during the Holocaust.
… (mer)
oldandnewbooksmell | 4 andra recensioner | Sep 25, 2023 |
“We owe it to the dead to keep their memory alive by reminding the world of its responsibility never to forget. For to face the future one has to understand the past.”

In 1939, we meet twelve and a half-year-old Mala Szorer in the Polish village of Tarnogrod where she lives with her family – parents, grandfather and siblings. She is happy and hopeful, attending school and dreaming of finishing her education and joining her eldest sister Balla in Warsaw. WW2, anti-Semitic sentiments and the takeover of their village by the German Army lead to her education being halted, Jews being segregated from the Christian population, and her whole family plunged into poverty. The Nazi occupation of their village brings with it the desecration of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, forced labor, curfews and mass murders. A series of events results in her having to live in the forests with her cat Malach (Hebrew for Angel). On account of her golden hair and blue eyes, she can move around freely pretending to be a Polish Christian (without the Star of David sewn on her clothes identifying her as a Jew, which was mandatory). After her brother is shot dead by SS soldiers, it becomes her responsibility to find food for her family to keep them alive, forced to depend on the kindness of the people in the villages nearby.

“It soon became apparent to me that there were more bad people in the world than good ones, and I changed from a happy-go-lucky child to a serious one as I began to see things I could never have imagined.”

After her parents are rounded up, deported and ultimately killed, a fate she narrowly escapes, she is left to fend for herself with only Malach by her side. Malach’s instincts and intervention save her from imminent danger on more than one occasion. In the course of her time in the forests and nearby villages, while evading being identified and captured, she meets partisans who are determined to kill as many Nazis as they can before being caught and killed, kind families who take her in and Nazi sympathizers who would not hesitate to turn her in for a kilogram of sugar (the reward offered by the Nazis). Unsure of whom to trust, she has to rely on her own intelligence, instincts and sheer determination to survive. While she feels for and shows compassion for fellow Jews she meets on her way , she also does not fail to realize that she must fend for herself which would often call for more practical behavior and thereby the need to harden her heart.

“Hunted like a young animal separated from its flock, I felt desolate and in need of sharing my sufferings with another human being. Desperate, I began to confide in Malach more and more. I hoped that she would continue to be at my side at all times. But I needn’t have worried, for she did not look as if she was about to abandon me just yet.”

Eventually, she travels to the Labour Exchange in Biłgoraj where she assumes the identity of a Polish Christian Girl Stefania Iwkiewicz and leaves for Germany (per orders by Germans for Polish workers to report and be assigned to work in Germany). In 1942, Mala reaches Germany and is employed by the Pearlmutters who own and operate a hotel and restaurant. In Nazi Germany, she works hard, keeps her head down and lives in constant fear of being discovered. Malach is her only true companion, who she believes is truly an angel. Her story continues through the end of the War and her migration to England in 1945 and the events leading up to her marriage –the people she meets, the places she travels, the obstacles in her path and how she overcomes them. The author shares how she survived the last few years of the war, picking up the pieces to start a new life after so much hurt and loss.

'Mala's Cat: A Memoir of Survival in World War II' by Mala Kacenberg is a moving story of strength, resilience and of course, survival. Mala’s bond with Malach will touch your heart and make you believe that true to her name Malach was an Angel looking out for Mala through the most difficult phase in her life. Stories revolving around the Holocaust are never easy to read. Mala’s story gives us a glimpse of the struggles faced by Jews who spent years evading capture and deportation to the Nazi concentration camps. The author’s tone is matter-of-fact and direct, at times almost detached which makes it even more compelling. While it may seem that the narrative lacks emotion, it should be remembered that this is a first-hand account of events in the author’s life and not a work of fiction and this is the way the author has chosen to share it. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the brave young girl who survived all she went through and chose to tell us her story. This is an important book - one that should be read, appreciated and remembered.

“Why was I made fearless? Why was I given such a lot of courage and the strength to withstand all the suffering? Why had I survived? But others had survived and experienced miracles. Anyone who survived the Holocaust survived with miracles. Perhaps one day I would read about them and find an answer.”
… (mer)
srms.reads | 4 andra recensioner | Sep 4, 2023 |
Mala Kacenberg writes of her personal experience during the Holocaust. Growing up in a large, loving Orthodox Jewish family in Poland's Tarnogrod, as a child she slowly comes to understand the meaning of the changes to her world by nazi occupation. At age 12 she is forced to grasp the many incomprehensible dangers Jews now face. Fortunately, being blond, Mala doesn't look Jewish. She is practical, a quick study and decides to take responsibility for finding food for her hungry family. This helps her learn how to travel through forests, find shelter, and who and how to ask for food from strangers. Sadly, returning to Tarnogrod with provisions one day, she witnesses nazis rounding up Jews including her family members!
No more parents to protect and nurture her; no longer any siblings with whom to play, cuddle and confide. She is both distraught and angry. Now it is just Mala and her exceptionally smart and protective cat who acts as guide and guard, warning her of approaching soldiers.

Determined to survive she prays to G-d to protect her so she can tell the world what the nazis have done. Mala continues to hide in the forest, walking to farms in different towns only when she needs food or shelter. Many farmers are kind and helpful but when others ask demanding questions she fabricates sad stories of a cruel step-mother, and/or a fire that burned all her belongings. She ‘personalizes’ her stories based on what her gut senses the farmer or stranger would most likely believe.

Always hyperalert, she pays attention to what people are saying to help decide her next moves. Her resourcefulness, independence, sociability and living by her wits direct her actions, like knowing she couldn’t survive much longer living outdoors so it was time to register for a job in Germany.

There she found herself working at a hotel owned by kind Germans. She and other Polish laborers had many restrictions on their movements but were fed and clothed. Mala avoided going to church on Sundays so no one would notice she wasn’t knowledgeable of the prayer service. She also had to pretend she didn’t know German. She didn’t eat unkosher meats until she dreamt of her mother warning her that her fellow Polish laborers were suspicious of her unusual behavior.
While working hard Mala is always thinking about and planning the next steps she needs to take during the war, as well as when the war approaches its end, and after the war.

Mala’s Cat is a very engaging read.

But while Mala is smart and intuitive, I found her continuous luck in nearly everything, from finding food, shelter, clothing, good information, advice, friendship and support hard to believe and accept. Everyone good or bad was made to feel suspicious of strangers. The fact that Mala was never chased away, detained, arrested or didn’t go without food or shelter for long, or become ill is amazing and unfeasible. And while under constant stress, anxiety, and the loss of her large and close family she was able to think straight and make many wise choices is extraordinary at the least. And her cat, NOT a dog, was always there to assist when needed is more magical thinking than realistic.

I’ve read many books about the Holocaust and learned that the reality was that most citizens in occupied countries were going hungry, and cold because nazis had taken and continued to take their land, food, supplies, livestock, homes, and killed those who sheltered or aided Jews. And folks would receive rewards like food from the nazis for reporting Jews looking for help. Desperately hungry people did this.

The only explanation for me that makes sense is that the book was written for young readers, not adults. Kacenberg scales down the horrific realities by writing that it was just the nazis who were ‘bad’, and made her angry. Others were mostly kind and helpful. She also reduces the discomfort of hunger and cold by showing that she simply asked people for help and she received provisions, shelter and clothing. She avoids describing the Concentration Camps, and the inhumane and soulless evil that occurred there.
… (mer)
Bookish59 | 4 andra recensioner | Jun 3, 2022 |
This is a really good book about Jewish life in Poland and Germany during the time of the Holocaust. The target audience for this book is middle-school children.

While there are no graphic details of their horrendous life, you still understand how difficult it was for Mala to survive on her own after all the Jews in her Polish town had been killed. I could feel her fear, her grief, her loneliness.

Being a cat lover, I enjoyed having Malach, Mala’s cat, serve as the embodiment of her guardian angel.

I recommend this book for children in 6-9th grades.
… (mer)
BettyTaylor56 | 4 andra recensioner | May 18, 2022 |



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