The incredible true story of a young girl who navigated dangerous forests, outwitted Nazi soldiers, and survived against all odds with the companionship of a stray cat.
Growing up in the Polish village of Tarnogrod on the fringes of a deep pine forest, Mala Szorer had the happiest childhood she could have hoped for. But at the age of twelve, as the German invasion begins, her beloved village becomes a ghetto and her family and friends reduced to starvation. She takes matters into her own hands and bravely removes her yellow star, risking sneaking out to the surrounding villages to barter for food.
It is on her way back that she sees her loved ones rounded up for deportation, and receives a smuggled letter from her sister warning her to stay away. In order to survive, she walks away from everything she holds dear to live by herself in the forest, hiding not just from the Nazis but hostile villagers. She is followed by a stray cat who stays with her—and seems to come to her rescue time and time again.
"Malach" the cat becomes her family and her only respite from painful loneliness, a guide, and areminder to stay hopeful even when faced with unfathomable darkness.
Filled with remarkable spiritual strength that allows readers to see the war through the innocence of a child's eyes, Mala's Cat is a powerful and unique addition to the Holocaust canon.
Mala Kacenberg (nee Szorer) was born in Tarnogrod, Poland in 1927. As World War II broke out, Mala found herself having to fend for herself at the tender age of 12. Surviving by her wits, courage and the help of a guardian angel (her cat Malach), she was the sole survivor of her family. Mala immigrated to London with other Jewish refugees after the war, where she raised a large beautiful family, living long enough to be blessed with many grandchildren.
“Despite the difficulties that inhere in Holocaust memoir — we believe we know this history, and its subject matter defies language — Mala’s Cat is fresh, unsentimental and utterly unpredictable. The memoir is a chronicle of Kacenberg’s astonishing creativity, intelligence, courage, and plain old chutzpah. She is wise beyond her years, knowing when she needs to eat and sleep and grieve, and even when she needs to do what is not wise. The stories of the 25,000 Jews who survived the war in the woods of Eastern Europe are just beginning to come to light. This memoir, rescued from obscurity by the efforts of Mala Kacenberg’s five children, should be read and cherished as a new, vital document of a history that must never be allowed to vanish."
— Julie Orringer
“In this gorgeous debut, Kacenberg shares her harrowing and courageous story of surviving the Holocaust. This moving account is a welcome addition to the canon of WWII memoirs.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred)
"A haunting saga with classic potential."
— Daisy Styles
"A remarkable tale of survival, in which Jewish life in pre-war Poland and the atrocities of the Holocaust appear through an almost dreamlike lens of childhood memory."
— Jeremy Dronfield, bestselling author of The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz
"An unforgettable memoir, "Mala's Cat: A Memoir of Survival in World War II" by Mala Kacenberg is a compelling true life story of remarkable spiritual strength that allows her readers to see the war through the innocence of a child's eyes. "Mala's Cat: A Memoir of Survival in World War II" is a powerfully written, extraordinarily, compelling, invaluable and unique addition to the World War II Holocaust canon."
— Midwest Book Review