Ed Milliband new leader of the Labour Party... what do we know of his mother?
Marion Milliband was born Dobra Jenta Kozak in 1934 in the town of Czestochowa in Poland an important Roman Catholic Pilgrimage town renowned for the Black Madonna.
Her story is about how she survived in occupied Poland with help from a German factory boss, nuns in a convent and other Jews and non-Jews alike. How has this shaped her two sons’lives.
Her parents Dawid, after whom David Miliband is named, and Bronislawa Kozak owned a steel factory in the town, employing about 300 people, and for the first six years of her life Marion – or Dobra as she was then – along with her sister Hadassa, were secure and comfortable. The 35,000-strong Jewish community was thriving. The community was served by a number of synagogues and six daily Jewish newspapers.
On September 3, 1939 the Germans took control of the town. The Jewish schools were closed, synagogues torched and the Kozaks’ factory was commandeered and transformed into a munitions plant.
Marion’s grandparents, Adela and Mosiek Kozak, moved into the family home for safety, while displaced Jews from surrounding villages and towns flooded into Czestochowa to take refuge in the ghetto.
On Yom Kippur, the worst nightmares were realised with the liquidation of the Czestochowa ghetto. An estimated 2,000 Jews were murdered on the spot and another 40,000 transported to the gas chambers at the Treblinka concentration camp.
Marion, her sister and her mother went into hiding, from that point on their lives in constant danger. Her father stayed behind to look after his parents who were too frail to flee.
In July 1943, her grandmother Adela was murdered by the Germans –probably shot – while her grandfather Mosiek was probably killed at the same time.
Marion’s survival is remarkable. Sigmund Rolat, now a wealthy New York philanthropist who heads the World Society of Czestochowa Jews, has told The Sunday Telegraph that he is convinced Marion Kozak was in a party with him that had a miraculous escape in June 1943.
A smaller ghetto had been established following the mass deportations the year before. That, too, was cleared in 1943. The children were taken by truck to the local cemetery where they were shot on the spot.
“I was the last one of some 30 children, standing in a line waiting to board the truck that would take us to the cemetery for execution,” recalled Mr Rolat.
“At that point, Dr Litt, a German who ran a munitions factory, walked over and said, 'I will take the children.’ The SS captain in charge was angry and challenged him, demanding to know what good children would be in a munitions factory. Litt said something about children being able to do jobs that machines couldn’t. One of those children who was saved that day was the mother of Ed and David Miliband.”
Nuns in a convent took the Kozaks in and hid them from the Nazis. Local records suggest at the end of the war her name was registered as Maria –It is thought the Polish names would have been used during the war years to disguise their Jewish identities.
By the end of the war about 8,000 Jews had survived the Holocaust in Czestochowa. Today just 30 are registered with the town’s Jewish club.
In 1947, Marion, aged 12, was sent to Britain arriving here unable to speak English and with almost no formal education. But she was extremely bright and gained entrance to university at the normal age, later meeting Ralph Miliband, whose classes she took while a student at the London School of Economics.
They married in 1961and Marion became the mother of David born in 1965 and Ed in 1969.