Lodz Holocaust Survivor Explains Why She Kept Her True Identity Secret For 70 Years


mary-galeThere 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 a life-giving lie she continued to live with even after the war. Even after marrying Arthur Gale and moving to Canada and becoming a mother who never really talked to her children about those terrible years because what could she possibly say?

That she was a Jew? That most of her family had been wiped out? That her real name was Miriam Zimmerman and not Mary Gale?

“It is hard for to me to explain why I kept my Jewish identity secret for so long but the thing is, I became paranoid, and it got to the point during the war where I couldn’t even think of being Jewish because being Jewish meant being dead – they were the same thing to me,” says Mary Gale, now living in a seniors home in Toronto’s west end.

“It got to the point that, even today, when I had six teeth pulled out at the dentist I refused the anesthetic because to take a needle was to never come back. And that was what being Jewish meant to me – it meant never coming back.

“I saw so many horrible things. I saw so many dead people. It is amazing what seeing these things can do to a mind. I knew I was safe here in Canada. But I just couldn’t say I was Jewish.”

Read more at NATIONAL POST.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Sad…
    I can understand..but what a shame for her children not knowing anything about their heritage..well…there’s always today…

  2. Very proud of you. It took 70 years for you to reveal your true identity and heritage.
    Why reveal it now at all??

  3. Only if I can find out what happened to my uncle! These are the real holocaust stories, when the unknown & untold are revealed.

  4. There where. Many raised by non Jews but they in many cases returned after the war. On their own or thru family or organizations searching them out. So instead she raised good Christians That are really Jewish. I guess as her life nears its end she is trying now to re invent hee self. Sorry no sympathy here

  5. This woman deserves our gratitude for becoming the soul she thinks she needed to in life. It seems she came full circle back to her roots as a jew. This should show how powerful Hashem is and that the lie of a challenged life is not exactly the final say on a Torah soul. And perhaps her neshama is finally cleared of its guilt of the time. No one above should be ridiculing this woman’s choice to reveal her jewish history.

  6. I can’t believe some of the comments here. She and any daughters and granddaughters she has are as Jewish as you and me!! She oculd have kept her secret forever. The least we can do is show her respect and support her in coming back to us…!!

  7. You have to read the rest of the story!!

    “…her son, Tom, who, after a terrible car accident near Ottawa during his university years went looking for the big answers in life and found religion, converted to Judaism, changed his name to Gershon and moved to Israel where, to this day, he leads an orthodox life. (And where, until recently, his mother had never told him he was Jewish to begin with.)”

    Her daughters Anita Stern and Christine, are as Jewish as you or me!!

  8. You didn’t post the part of the article that says her son “converted” to Judiasm on his own and now lives in Israel as an Orthodox Jew named Gershon