Holocaust survivor tells his story at Chabad of SCV

Holocaust servivor Leon Malmed speaks to guests of Chabad of SCV in Newhall on Sunday. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Author Leon Malmed returned to Santa Clarita to share his story about life during World War II and the Holocaust at Chabad of SCV on Sunday.

This visit is one of many across the state, with Malmed selling copies of his memoir, “We Survived… At Last I Speak.” Visitors came to listen to Malmed and asked him questions about his life, his faith and anti-Semitism in the world today. When he finished speaking, Rabbi Choni Marozov played “The Promise,” an animated retelling of Malmed’s life made by College of the Canyons students. He then signed copies of his book for guests.

His parents were Polish Jews who escaped to France before he was born. By the time he was 4 years old, they had been taken away by French police during the Nazi occupation and were taken to Auschwitz, a “symbol of evil and crimes against humanity,” Malmed said.

“It took a long time that (my sister and I) realized we’d never see them again,” he said.

Years later, Malmed visited the concentration camp, where he learned his mother was killed shortly after arriving to Auschwitz, while his father died a few months before the Soviet army liberated the camp in 1945.

Malmed and his sister were watched by a Catholic couple – “Papa Henri and Maman Suzanne” Ribouleau – who kept them safe for three years. Life during the occupation was filled with dread, gripped by fear. That changed when American troops liberated his town.

“(Adolf) Hitler and his demented army had diabolical intentions,” he said. “Good had triumphed over evil.”

After the war’s end, he and his sister were separated, both of them living with family members. He was drafted into the French army to fight in the Algerian Revolution. By 1964, she was married and asked her brother to emigrate to the United States.

Malmed also addressed denial of the Holocaust. He said he was “a living witness of that tragedy.”

Marozov said Malmed will visit several more Chabad houses in California to educate people about the Holocaust and ensure it’s not repeated.

“Over the last few years, we’ve tried to bring as many Holocaust survivors as possible,” Marozov said. “They’re harder to find today. The war was over in 1945, so even those who are alive – it’s very hard to travel.”

To watch “The Promise,” go to vimeo.com/263111604.  

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About the author

Ryan Mancini

Ryan Mancini

Ryan Mancini covers local news for The Signal. He joined in 2018 and previously worked as a reporter and editor for The Sundial, Scene Magazine and El Nuevo Sol while enrolled as a student at California State University, Northridge, where he studied journalism and political science. He's lived in Santa Clarita since 2002.