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A Tribute to Mala Sonnabend

This weekend we commemorate the UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the Liberation of Auschwitz. To remember Holocaust survivor Mala Sonnabend, who was liberated from Auschwitz II-Birkenau and recently passed away, we are sharing this card, inscribed with Herzlichen Glucknrinsch – Hearty Congratulations, which Mala received from the Russian soldier who liberated her on 3 May 1945. This treasured object in the collection was on display in the Museum for many years, and currently lives in our archive.

Mala was born in 1918 in Ostrolenka, Poland. Germany invaded Poland when she was 21 years old, in 1939. Mala was subsequently incarcerated in the Bialystok ghetto and Stutthof, Auschwitz, Ravensbruck, Malchow and Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camps.

After escaping a Death March, Mala hid in a barn with two other girls until, three days later, they were brought to the safety of a local house by a Russian soldier. This soldier found this greeting card in the home and inscribed it to Mala: “In memory of the Liberation from the German slavery to a girl from Poland, Mala Rekant, from the liberator Sergei Kislakov.”

On her experience of liberation, Mala once recalled: “Elated! After coming out of hiding and seeing a Russian soldier, who said ‘You are free’, I fell to my knees. I had to be picked up. I couldn’t stand – I’d starved for several days.”