Last Passover Holocaust survivor Malka Springer celebrated her 82nd birthday. Since World War II ended, Malka has rebuilt her life, with her very own family, and yet has remained attached to her childhood doll – one she says, helped her survive the war.
Springer was born in Poland in 1930 as Malka Chesher. Growing up in a non Jewish neighborhood, Malka was not allowed to go to kindergarden or play with the other kids. Her only sister was 10 years older, and Malka was the only child in the house. “The only friends I had were my dolls.” One particular doll turned out to be especially important.
“It was a very small doll,” Malka remembered, “it had real hair and eyes that opened and shut.” She named it ‘Heidi’. When the war broke, Malka was 9 years old. Her family fled to the east, and Malka took one doll with her – Heidi. For months the family walked east until reaching a labor camp in Russia.
“One day I was lost in the forest,” recounted Malka, “I was scared and crying, I took Heidi out of my pocket and asked her what to do, and then I saw she was pointing with her hand. I decided to follow that direction, and that is how I found my way back. She saved me.”
Malka and her parents survived the war, thanks to her older sister who married an officer in the Red Army. The rest of the family perished. Malka met Yosef Springer after they returned to Poland. They fell in love and decided to get married and Come to Israel in an illegal immigrants’ ship. In Israel they built a dairy farm that supported them for 40 years.
“After we came to Israel Yosef kept telling me to throw the doll away, but I couldn’t. It was a remnant from my home in Poland, and I insisted on keeping it. I didn’t even let my daughter to play with it. I told her the doll saved my so we must keep it safe.” To this day, the doll remained in excellent condition.
When Malka’s daughter saw Yad Vashem’s call to contribute objects and documents form the Holocaust for preservation, she convinced her mother that Heidi would be better kept there.
Malka said that at first she hesitated, but then she realized that it would be the best way to keep and honor the doll. “The first night without it I felt bad, but I don’t regret it. I know it’s in good hands now.”