Leon Malmed,79, clearly remembers the morning of July 19, 1942. That morning he woke to pounding at his front door. Two French policemen, working with the Germans in Nazi-occupied France, took his Jewish parents who had immigrated from Poland away for questioning.
“This is the only memory I have of my parents,” Malmed said pausing momentarily to wipe a tear. “This is actually the first memory I have as a child.”
As Malmed’s parents were being taken away, his downstairs neighbors, Henri and Suzanne Ribouleau, came up as a result of the commotion. They made a promise to Malmed’s mother and father that they would keep their children safe until they came home.
The Ribouleau’s kept this promise throughout World War II as Malmed’s parents were taken to the Drancy internment camp and later the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau.
They never returned home.
“This couple put their lives in mortal danger for the next three years,” Malmed said. “These beautiful people always said, ‘We promised we would take care of Mr. and Mrs. Malmed’s children until they return’ and they did.”
On Wednesday Feb. 15 Leon came to College of the Canyons to recount the true story of family’s trials and tribulations in Nazi-occupied France as well as pay tribute to the bravery and love shown by his foster parents during a presentation of his memoir “We Survived… At Last I Speak”
Along with discussing his life with the Ribouleau’s, Leon shared tales of how he and his sister escaped from raids and kidnappings, living in constant fear of the Nazis and the American liberation of occupied France.
Although Leon was eager to speak on the 15th, this presentation took 60 years of preparation.
“I was silent because I had bottled this tragedy in a bottle and sealed it with a tight cork and resealed it,” he said.
“I tried to never think about it or talk about it.”
Malmed hopes that this story will help the past from repeating itself and encourages people to stand up to injustices they see in their day to day lives.