My parents were born in Poland. They immigrated to France in 1931 to get away from the pogroms, 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 and spent the next 5 years in German prison camps. Our father 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 citizens. 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, 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 during the transport and or was gassed on arrival. Our father was alive in September of1944 but we do not know what happened to him. For three 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.
In 1964, I immigrated to the United States and lived 18 years in New York. I resided in the San Francisco Bay area from 1982 to 2013 before moving to South Lake Tahoe.
I worked in the High Tech industry in Silicon Valley where I held executive positions with leading companies. I have served on Hi-Tech companies' Board of Directors and I am currently on the Board of the Lake Community College Foundation.
I graduated in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Paris, the AEA/UCLA Senior Executive Program at the University of California at Los Angeles and the AEA/Stanford Executive Institute program for Management of High Technology Companies at Stanford Business School.
I published my memoir in French in 2010, rewrote it in English for publication in 2013 and now it is available in Spanish as well. The books are available in paperback and digital download at Amazon.com, Lulu.com, Kindle.com, Audible.com.
I have invited to speak about the Holocaust in Schools, Colleges, Synagogues, Churches, and miscellaneous organizations in the US, in Europe and in South America. Besides writing books, I love to bike, ski, sail and golf, which leaves me very little time for anything else.
Interviews, Media Appearances
and Press Releases
“The rapid conquest of France in the early days of World War II did not prepare that country's Jewish population for what was to come. Who among them could imagine a Drancy (the primary transit camp in France for Jews being deported to Nazi death camps in the East), the evil intent of SS Captain Klaus Barbie (" the Butcher of Lyon") or the mind-wrenching collaboration of some members of the French police?
"The letter from the author's parents, Srul and Chana Malmed, to their Christian neighbors asking them to send some clothes and household items to them in Drancy reveals the ability of humans to deny a worse possible scenario-that Drancy could lead to a worse place, namely Auschwitz and death. Reading Malmed's parents' note, one can imagine their optimistic thinking that a yellow measuring tape would allow them to better survive the harsh conditions of the transit camp, with Srul, a tailor by trade, bartering his sewing skills for food or favors from the guards. And, as in many letters sent from Jews to their family members and friends back home, there is the misplaced hope that they will return. Here we read Chana's promise to the neighbors, "I'll pay you back one day."
"For most of this emotionally charged memoir, the all-too-familiar tragedy that was to befall the authors' parents is countered by the loving kindness of the family's neighbors, Suzanne and Henri Ribouleau, who did what only a small percentage of those under the Nazi grip did-risked everything to save a life.
"In this case, it was two lives-that of Leon Malmed (then five years old) and his sister Rachel (nine), who stayed with the Ribouleaus ever since the French police knocked on their parent's door on the sunny morning of July 19, 1942 and arrested them.
"Malmed grippingly brings the reader into the maelstrom of World War II Vichy France and the chaotic life of the Rubouleau parents, their two own children and their adopted charges. Most importantly, this beautifully written account captures what it was like to be a young child whose parents had disappeared and who was forced to hide his Jewish identity.
"We survived...At last I speak reveals the apathy of the majority in France who acquiesced to the Nazi barbarity, the acts of defiance of a few, and the remarkable courage of the Ribouleaus who swore to Monsieur and Madame Malmed that they would take care of their children until they returned. As both Papa Henri and Maman Suzanne, as Leon called them, would always respond: "These children are not hurting anyone. They need us. We will protect them."
Riva Gambert / Director, Holocaust Remembrance / Jewish Federation of East Bay
"We survived...At last I speak, the story of Leon and his sister Rachel is an inspiration to everyone. It demonstrates that even within the horrors of the Holocaust there were people whose hearts were filled with kindness and courage, "Righteous Gentiles" who hid Jews risked their own lives to save others, and their acts of goodness should never be forgotten.
"In these days as Holocaust Survivors are getting older and dying it is important that their stories be preserved for future generations. Leon Malmed has done a service to us all by writing his memoir.
"Please share this amazing story with your children and grand-children. We leave them with the responsibility to ensure that we never forget these atrocities and that they never again happen to Jews or any other people."
Joanne Caras/ Creator of The Holocaust Survivor Cookbook and Miracles & Meals / Star of the JLTV series Miracles & Meals with Joanne Caras
"Leon Malmed was born in France. He didn't come easily to writing his memoir. He was in his late 60s when he wrote it in French, and now in his 70s when he wrote the English version. It was a story he wanted to forget; the story of a 5-year old child and his 9-year old sister, whose Jewish parents were taken away by the French police under orders of the Nazis in 1942. His mother and father, desperate, were told by their neighbors "Do not worry; we will take care of your children until you come back." In a way it was a story he didn't' want to remember, but finally, one he needed to tell, for both himself and the world.
"To these children, who were effectively adopted by the neighbors, the truth didn't come easily, and until now the story hasn't really been told. The Ribouleaus became their parents and risked their own lives and the lives of their two sons. It is an inspiring story of turmoil and bravery by the Ribouleau family and the townspeople. It is about children who had to recognize finally that they would never see their parents again. And it is also the story about the lives of the French under the Nazi regime in France.
"Leon ultimately became a successful businessman, starting his career in France and then coming to the United States. In the end it is a story of personal success, but its roots could not remain silent. It is an emotional story that brings tears both of sorrow and of heartfelt gratitude for some of the people who helped their lives. It is a story that needs to be told today as the world becomes more tribal and hate becomes more apparent. This is a book I would recommend that we all read, and then think deeply about what happened."
Bob Cliff, Ph.D./ Formerly Professor at University of California, Berkeley /
Founder of Cliff Consulting
"I'm shocked, happy and embarrassed. Shocked to be reminded that such events as described could and did take place, and shocked that it took 60 plus years to get the courage to "tell the story." Happy that a friend can finally come to terms with his own feelings and share them for family, friends, and the world, and happy to know that there are persons capable of reaching out to help in spite of personal risks and sacrifices, as demonstrated by the thousands of "righteous" and the uncounted others. Embarrassed to have a friend open himself to such and extent, to bare such personal feelings, such personal anguish, to bare his very soul, and I'm embarrassed to be part of a human race that could inflict such pain and suffering, one human on another.
"I watched World War II as a teenager from the safety of the United States. I've read the stories and accounts, seen the pictures, and visited the museums. But reading about the Holocaust from the perspective of journalists and historians is one thing. Hearing from one who actually experienced it is quite another think entirely. Especially from one who opens himself up so totally and without reservation. The world MUST know and NOT forget. Leon Malmed's We Survived...At Last I Speak is a must read."
James W. Duke, Ed.D./ President Emeritus, Lake Tahoe Community College
"As observers of history, we try to comprehend World War II and its surrounding events through reading chronological accounts, watching documentaries and fictional movies and visiting Holocaust museums and concentration camps. But we are looking though a veil of distance, which keeps personal involvement safely in an intellectual place. It is personal accounts from Holocaust survivors, rather than others' interpretations, that close the distance and allow us emotional understanding, not only of the unspeakable atrocities, but of the bravery and resilience of its victims and heroes.
"Leon Malmed's memoir does all this and more. A must read. Why you ask? The answer is because we must not become so far removed that the Holocaust is forgotten or perceived as untrue and therefore subject to repetition."
Ellaraine Lockie / nonfiction author / poet / essayist / educator
"I am the granddaughter my grandparents, who perished in Auschwitz, never got to meet.
"For the Jewish people then, the Nazi nightmare was incomprehensible. For all people now, the torturing and murdering of 12 million people-six million of them Jewish-seems hard to believe.
"My mother, Rachel Malmed Epstein, and uncle, Leon Malmed, are witnesses to what we've been reading about for the last 70 years. They are two of the lucky few who escaped death at the hands of the Nazis thanks to the courage and decency of those few who dared to be defiant.
"The focus and message of this amazing story is that of true heroism and goodness. What goodness could possible come from such a horrific era in history?
"As bleak a period as the Holocaust was, it provided the stage for many heroes an heroines-non-Jewish-people who did what they did because they were decent and made split-second decisions without giving thought to their own fate.
"Henri and Suzanne Ribouleau, a French Catholic couple, took in two young Jewish children at a time when Jews were considered the plague. They risked not only their lives, but the lives of their two teen-aged sons as well. The Ribouleaus never seemed to grasp the heroism and magnitude of their actions during the war.
"Truly righteous people in every sense of the word.
"Rachel's and her brother Leon's survival is one big miracle.
"The story of survival continues way beyond the end of the war and the paths each sibling's life took-both ending in the United States of America.
"Thank you, Uncle Leon, for writing this book. It is a true treasure."
Anita Epstein Leibowitz / Assistant Professor, Communications /
Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, New York
Jack gave me yesterday your book that you signed on November 5 and that I just read without a break today. Thank you for taking the decision to write it. Among all the things that struck and moved me, there are all these questions that you asked yourself during these terrible events, which you always ask yourself, and which have no answer. The most moving thing for me, I believe, is your testimony about fidelity: that of Ribouleau to the promise made to your deported parents, that of your sister to you and the Ribouleau, yours to many people, that of other members of your family. Thanks again and maybe see you soon if you have the opportunity to be in the area.