Mala Tribich still teaches tolerance, even after Belsen

Barnet United Synagogue dubbed it Shabbat Mala - the moment at which Mala Tribich was named Heroine of the Community to mark her 80th birthday.

Mrs Tribich, born in Poland in 1930, is the sister of Olympic medallist Ben Helfgott - the only members of their immediate family to survive. During the occupation, her parents moved her and a cousin to a Catholic family. But they were so homesick they asked to return to the ghetto.

One day they were taken to a row of lorries at an unknown destination. But Mrs Tribich, then 12, showed incredible chutzpah: she asked an SS officer if she and her cousin Hania, who was five, could return to the ghetto. Amazingly, the officer said yes.

She survived two death camps and was reunited with her brother several years after the war.

In Britain, she met and married Maurice Tribich, completed a degree in sociology and raised two children.

Barnet Rabbi Barry Lerer said in his sermon: "You have devoted so many years since the Holocaust to humanitarian endeavours, educating children about the Shoah and inculcating values of care, respect and tolerance."

Mrs Tribich says: "I want to thank the community for what they did for me. It was fantastic and I will remember it for a long time."

Last updated: 10:33am, October 7 2010