Mathilde Middleberg, 78, of Cherry Hill, who lectured to children about the Holocaust at the Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center, died Monday of breast cancer at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.
She had resided in Cherry Hill since 1988. Prior to that, her family lived in Philadelphia's Mayfair section.
Mrs. Middleberg was born Mathilde Talvy and was raised in Paris as a so-called "hidden child." Her parents and the French underground transported her to a farm in the south of France to evade the Nazis during World War II.
She was forced to leave school in the third grade, but after the war she re-enrolled at the age of 15 and studied fashion at the American ORT organization for reconstruction work.
While pursuing her studies in the late 1940s, she fell in love with another hidden child, Charles Middleberg, who also had lost relatives in the concentration camps. They married in 1952, shortly after coming to the United States.
"They loved and supported each other in everything," said Lynne Warszawski, one of four children the Middlebergs raised in Mayfair. "They gave such a good example to us children to look for in a relationship. . . . They were fabulous dancers. They demonstrated the blending of their two souls when they hit the dance floor."
David Middleberg, one of the couple's sons, remembers coming home one night and finding the screen door locked. Inside, his parents had pushed back the furniture and were dancing across the floor.
For a time, Mrs. Middleberg worked with her husband in a linen business on Milnor Street in the Tacony section of Philadelphia. It was an import-export business that had several names, the last of which was National Linen, her son said.
In the mid-1990s, the Middlebergs began to lecture at the Goodwin Holocaust Museum on Springdale Road in Cherry Hill. Mrs. Middleberg was often overcome by tears as she recalled the horror and pain of the war years.
"They lectured to hundreds, if not thousands, of middle-school children," their daughter said. "They had a gift for it. . . . They received boxes of letters from children thanking them."
Mrs. Middleberg related to her audience by describing the Holocaust through her experiences as a child.
"She told the children to be tolerant and respectful. She told them hatred had ruined her life and . . . she never wanted it to happen again to anyone else," Warszawski said.
Mrs. Middleberg battled cancer and got the "all clear" in 2000, but the disease returned in 2007.
In addition to her husband and two children, she is survived by another son, Maurice; another daughter, Brenda Pollack; a sister; two brothers; and 12 grandchildren.
Funeral services were held this week with burial at Mount Jacob Cemetery in Glenolden.
Donations may be made to Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center, 1301 Springdale Rd., Cherry Hill, N.J. 08003.