cover image Mala’s Cat: A Memoir of Survival in World War II

Mala’s Cat: A Memoir of Survival in World War II

Mala Kacenberg. Pegasus, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-64313-903-6

In this gorgeous debut, Kacenberg shares her harrowing and courageous story of surviving the Holocaust. In 1942, after returning from a trip to find food outside her Polish hometown of Tarnogrod, 15-year-old Kacenberg was told by a neighbor that her family had been rounded up for deportation by the Nazis. “If I were to survive,” she realized, “I would have to behave like a grown-up and fend for myself.” Accompanied by a stray cat she named Malach (the Hebrew word for angel), Kacenberg went into hiding, and, as she writes, Malach lived up to her name, emanating “a shield of protection” around her, even once clawing the face of a German man who threatened them. Blonde, blue-eyed, and resourceful, Kacenberg eventually took the alias of Stefania Iwkiewicz and managed to evade capture by convincing the Nazis she was a Christian and escaping to Germany, where she lived until the war ended. As she devastatingly describes, she wasn’t spared from the war’s unimaginable atrocities, including the killing of her entire family. Still, against all odds, Kacenberg lived to serve as a witness for those who were less fortunate, eventually marrying a fellow war survivor in 1949 and raising five children in the United Kingdom. This moving account is a welcome addition to the canon of WWII memoirs. (Jan.)