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The attempted escape from the Auschwitz Death Camp!

Malka & Edek Galinski

Escape attempt from Auschwitz–Birkenau




Malka Zimetbaum

Malka Zimetbaum was the youngest of five children born to Pinkas Zimetbaum and his wife Chaya, in Brzesko, Poland on the 26 January 1918.


The family moved to Belgium and Malka was registered as living in the city of Antwerp on the 21 March 1928. Malka was a model pupil and she excelled in mathematics and languages. She had a command of Flemish, French, German, Polish and English.


As an adolescent Malka joined Hanoar Hatzioni, a Jewish youth organisation in Antwerp and from this time she now preferred to be called Mala. To support her father who had become blind, Mala took a job as a seamstress for Maison Lilian, a major Antwerp fashion house.


Subsequently she worked as a linguist-secretary in a small company in the diamond trade based in Antwerp. Two years after the German occupation of Belgium Mala was arrested on the 22 July 1942, at Antwerp Central Station, on her way back from Brussels, where she had been looking for a hiding place for her family and herself.


The Germans took Mala first to the notorious Fort Breendonk, then five days later she was transferred to Mechelen, where German authorities had turned the Dossin Barracks into a collection and deportation point for Jews. Mala worked in the registry.


On the 15 September 1942, the tenth deportation train left the Dossin Barracks destined for the East, on board were 1048 deportees, including Malka.

After a nightmare journey lasting two days Mala was subjected to the normal selection at the Juden Rampe outside Birkenau. Mala was one of the 101 females considered fit for labour, whilst 717 were gassed immediately.


She was placed in the women’s camp at Birkenau and after undergoing the normal humiliations for new arrivals at Auschwitz-Birkenau, was tattooed on her forearm with the number 19880.


Housed in a wooden barrack, originally designed as a horse stable and because of her skill with languages, she was employed in the camp administration as a Lauferin, whose duties were as a messenger and interpreter.


According to a fellow prisoner, “These girls had to stand next to the guardhouse waiting for orders. Whenever Camp supervisor Mandel or overseer Margot Drechsler needed them they yelled “Lauferin, and the girl had to do as ordered on the double.”      


A prisoner called Raya Kagan who knew Mala in Birkenau, described her as such:


“I had known Malka since the summer of 1942. At that time she became a Lauferin – a messenger between blocks and a liaison between the Blockfuerherstube, the Kapo and the prisoners.


Mala in 1941 Belgium

She was a young girl, of Polish origin, but she had been living in Belgium and arrived with the Belgian transport. She was very decent, she was known throughout the camp, since she helped everybody.


And her opportunities and the power, as it were, that she possessed were never wrongfully exploited by her, as was often done by the Kapo’s. She suffered like everybody else. However, she had better conditions – she was able to take a shower in Birkenau.”


Another Birkenau survivor Anna Palarczyk recalled after the war that:

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The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team


Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009

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