‘Being Jewish meant being dead’: Holocaust survivor explains why she kept her true identity secret for 70 years

Originally posted on National Post | News:

There is a list of horrors rattling around inside Mary Gale’s head.

The 86-year-old tells me the story of her life, starting from the happy beginning as a girl growing up in a middle-class Jewish family in Lodz, Poland, a family that, like so many other Jewish families would be torn apart by the horrors of the Holocaust.

But Mary Gale has spent the past 70 years living with a burdensome secret, a lie she no longer wishes to conceal. She can pinpoint exactly when the lie began because it had to begin somewhere in order for her to survive. Her father, Menachem, obtained false identity papers for the family and, in 1939, at the stroke of a forger’s pen Miriam Zimmerman — a blond-haired, blue-eyed Polish Jew — became Mary Plochocka, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Polish Gentile.

It was a sleight of hand that ultimately saved Miriam Zimmerman’s life and…

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