Episode 91 S3-10
WWII Lessons to Remember
The Walls of Freedom Ch 10
In this chapter of The Walls of Freedom, Erika and her family leave on Vlad's boat and share feelings about their survival story. Here to discuss his real life survival story during WWII is Leon Malmed a WWII survivor and author of We Survived...At Last I Speak.
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Before I begin to try to summarize Leon Malmed's story let me tell you that this is an interview you need to listen to. I will do my best to describe the story he shared with me but there is no equal to hearing it from the man himself. Please share this story with your loved ones. The voices of the past need to be heard.
Leon shared his concern for the resurgence of the interest in hate in our world. You can't take the hatred out of the world but you must be vigilant to curtail its presence.
Leon's story begins
Leon was silent for sixty years. He tried to forget his past and bury it down deep. Leon was born in France in 1937. After enduring many hardships of poverty, his parents decided to immigrate from Poland to France in the 1930s. They lived peacefully there for ten years before trouble began. His mother was a seamstress and his father was a tailor. They were married in 1931, had his sister in 1932 and him in 1937.
In 1939 trouble started and there was war in 1940. Leon's father enlisted in the French forces. Leon's town of Compiegne was bombed by Hitler because this is the place where the armistice from WWI was signed. Hitler actually came there himself at one point just to add salt to the wound. The whole town was ordered to be burned. Captured French troops were taken to prison camps. Somehow his father had gotten a hold of civilian clothing and escaped back home.
Then the persecution began. Jews, disabled people and Italians were hunted. The Jews had all of their rights stripped away. They could no longer own businesses or obtain employment, depriving them of income and social access. Businesses were taken and given to Nazi collaborators.
July 19th of 1942 five police men came and arrested his parents. Caught off guard his parents had no idea what to do with their children. The neighbors, hearing the commotion, ran up the stairs and offered to take Leon and his sister until his parents returned home. They never did. Sixty years later when the Nazi records were opened, they found out his mother was never tattooed. Indicating she must have died in transport or was immediately killed upon arrival. There are records of his father up until September 19, 1944 when Russians liberated the camp. His father's fate is still unknown.
Leon was four and a half and his sister was nine and a half when their parents were taken away. The memory of that day is the only one Leon has of his parents. The couple that took them in were in their forties at the time and they had two boys of their own, one 19 year old and one 17 year old. The family only possessed four ration cards because Leon and his sister were not supposed to exist. During the growing season, they would plant gardens, grow and preserve as much food as possible. They raised chickens and rabbits but it was hard to find food to sustain the animals. Leon's main diet consisted of bread and milk or water.
During these years, Leon lived in constant fear. He and his sister were constantly being hunted by the German soldiers. Anyone who harbored Jews were shot on site and citizens that turned in Jews got extra ration cards. In November of 1943, Leon's mother flew through the door. Having out run the black German truck turning the corner at the start of the street, she screamed at Leon and his sister, "escape, escape!" Leon and his sister ran out the back door, through the field and over a wall. They ran to his aunt's home where they were safe for the moment. She shooed them out the door before curfew. Leon was sure they were returning home to the hands of the waiting soldiers but they weren't there. He and his sister slept in their clothes after that, ready to leave at a moments notice.
The war finally ended and the hatred subsided but Leon's experience can never be forgotten. He wants us all to learn from it. Learn about our history and the history of our world. War has deep roots that go back over 13 thousand years. The good news is evil has threatened humans many times but good has always triumphed. We must be constantly vigilant. Currently, hate and division are on the rise. We need a strong America that stands firm on good morals because America is the torch of the world.
Extremes can not be allowed to take over. The Germans were good, smart people. They preached liberty and freedom but they were still overwhelmed when Hitler came into power. Hitler targeted the Jews so that no one would point the finger at him, a symbol of hatred for all to embrace. The truth is Hitler slaughtered Jews but he also slaughtered anyone else who stood in his way. He would not have stopped with the Jews. His hatred would have been redirected and then where does it stop. Leon warns that we have to be very careful about what we do because people are hungry for power in one form or another.
Leon feels that it is a good idea to know how to garden, preserve and store food but feels that a war now-a-days would be a very fast war. He indicates his feeling that it would be total inhalation through atomic war and doesn't like the prospect of living a life after that. Being aware and vigilant now will save us from this type of future.
People seem to be reverting to a very immature mindset where they do not understand that it is okay to disagree, debate solutions and still remain friends. This type of attitude leads to war. Seventy million people died as a result of WWII and millions more were directly or indirectly affected as a result of those seventy million people lost.
War has also been used as a way to energize economies and create jobs. We must be careful that in times of economic downturn we do not allow war to become an answer.
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"My parents were born in Poland. They immigrated to France in 1931 to get away from the programs, the anti-Semitism, the hatred of the general population and from a bleak life with no future. They married shortly after their arrival in France. For 11 years they lived a happy in Compiègne, a town of about 20,000 people, 45 miles north of Paris. My father was a tailor and my mother a seamstress. My sister Rachel was born in 1932 and myself in 1937.
WWII was declared on September 3rd of 1939. Though, our father was still a Polish citizen, he immediately enlisted in the French army and was sent to the front. France surrendered three weeks after the beginning of the hostilities. All soldiers caught in uniform were taken prisoner. They spent the next 5 years in German prison camps. Our father who was able to change in civilian clothes escaped and rejoined us.
July 19, 1942 at 5AM, two French policemen knocked at the door of our apartment and asked our parents to follow them to the Police station. No reason is given. “What about our children?” our parents ask hysterically. Our parents were still Polish citizen. My sister and I were French citizens having been borne if France. The commotion wakes up our neighbors, the Ribouleau family, from the floor below. They quickly come up the flight of stairs to see what the noise is all about. Monsieur Ribouleau, our 2nd floor neighbor, we hardly knew, said: “Mr. and Mrs. Malmed, do not worry, we will take care of your children until you return”.
These few words saved our lives.
Years later we found our parents were sent to Drancy and then to Auschwitz. Our mother either died in transport and or was gassed on arrival. His father was alive in 1944 but no other clue as to what happened to him. For two years we lived with the Ribouleau family. This couple put their lives and the lives of their two sons, René, 20 and Marcel, 17, in mortal danger. We escaped roundups and endured many hardships. When the war was over I was almost 8 years old." -Leon Malmed
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