Experience: Child Survivors

Benjamin Alalouf
Fryda Allweiss
Acher Ben Moche
Helen Bennett
Miriam Biegun
Sam Biegun
Miriam Brysk
Sara Byer
Barbara Cohen
Lisa Colton
Hilde Dreifus
Ernie Eick
Anna Fein
Giselle Feldman
Fred Ferber
Miriam Ferber
Fred Findling
Iosif Fischer
Gershon Flam
Yankel Fonarev
Teddy Freund
George Gelberman
Hadasa Goldberg
Erna Gorman
Jack Gun
Eva Haase
Otto Herczeg
Barry Kaplan
Ernest Kappel
Viola Kappy
Gabriella Karp
Ruth Kent
Magda Kessler
Zelda Klaiman
Bernard Klein
Sophie Klisman
Martin Koby
Robert Koby
Zalman (Zoli) Kohen
Chava Kopelman
Raoul Kopelman
Gerry Kraus
Alexander Kuhn
Stefa Kupfer
Naum Layer
Fred Lessing
Ruth Levi
Rene Lichtman
Anna Lindeman
Gershon Lipenholtz
Agnes Lugosi
Thomas Lugosi
Esfir Lupyan
Edward Malinowski
Eva Mames
Helen Mechlowitz
Lidia Meltzer
Moniek Milberger
Irene Miller
Bessie Mittelman
Paul Molnar
Jenny Mosseri
Regina Muskovitz
Sidney Neuman
Jeannette Olson
Thomas Pallos
Jack Pludwinski
Rabbi Moshe Polter
Esther Posner
Alexander Raab
Irene Raab
Samuel Raab
Eve Rider
Eva Rival
Jan Rival
Alice Rosen
Erika Rovinsky
Agata (Agi) Rubin
Albert Russell
Bob Salomon
Aviva Sandler
Sandra (Sunny) Segal
Ina Silbergleit
Elizabeth Silver
Irene Snitchler
William Sperber
Alfred Spiegel
Vivian Stollman
Jacques Szafman
Naomi Trager
Arnold Troostwijk
Mirjam Troostwijk
Ruth Webber
Zita Weber
Sima Yarsike Weberman
Harry Weinstein
Leslie Weiss
Lilly Weiss
Shari Weiss
Lillian Wohl
Henry Wormser
Rachela Yager
George Zeff
Alfred Zydower
“The systematic exploitation and murder of children in the Holocaust is one of the most egregious of Nazi crimes and also one of the least documented. Many children died with their families in the mass shootings perpetrated by the Nazi Einsatzgruppen or perished from privation in the ghettos of Eastern Europe. Hundreds of thousands more children, deemed too young or otherwise unsuitable for forced labor, were exterminated upon their arrival in the death camps. These deaths, like the others, went undocumented since the children were never formally registered as camp prisoners. Those teenagers who survived selection in the camps were often worked to death. Through all these myriad ways to die, historians estimate that the Holocaust took the lives of over one million children, with some estimates as high as one and a half million.

“In this dark history, some flickers of hope and humanity can be seen in the lives of those few children who were rescued from the clutches of the Nazi regime. For example, the Kindertransports provided safe passage out of continental Europe for approximately ten thousand children. Other prewar emigration programs for children saved a few thousand more.

“At war’s end many of the children who survived the ghettos and camps found themselves as orphans with deep physical and emotional scars. Many of these child survivors managed to overcome their wounds enough to share their stories of survival, and much of what has come down to us about children in the Holocaust has come from these testimonies. These men and women have told their stories in published memoirs, interviews and oral history projects, and these accounts now stand alongside the writings, diaries, letters, and drawings of child victims—in addition to school records, medical reports, and other bits of surviving documentation—to form a partial picture of the experiences of children in the Holocaust.”

“The death toll exacted by the Nazi regime on the Jewish children of Europe is one of the most appalling chapters in the history of the Holocaust. The Nazis targeted all Jews for death, but the mortality rate for children was especially high. Only 6 to 11% of Europe’s prewar Jewish population of children survived as compared with 33% of the adults. Among the small number of European Jewish children still alive at the end of the Holocaust, thousands had survived because they were hidden. With identities disguised, and often physically concealed from the outside world, these youngsters faced constant fear, dilemmas, and danger.

“These hidden children faced a variety of difficult circumstances. Many parents sent their children into hiding with Christian families or religious institutions where they hoped the child could pass as “Aryan,” others hid in attics or cellars with the constant threat of discovery by the authorities, and some were lucky enough to have false papers that eased their way into Gentile society. In hiding, these children faced obstacles such as being forced to hide physical characteristics, learning new languages and customs, or adopting a new name or identity. Even then, some children were moved from hiding place to hiding place, sometimes living for months or years in cramped spaces such as closets, attics, cellars, or even sewers. Others, left abandoned, were forced to rely on their own resourcefulness in order to survive.

“For many of those lucky enough to be sheltered by religious institutions or adopted by Gentile families, survival often came at the cost of their true identity. At the end of the war, many children were never told of their previous lives and prior identities, hindering attempts to reunite them with adult members of their birth families. Many adult survivors after fruitless searching were never able to relocate their children. Even those children reunited with their families often bore psychological scars imparted from traumatic wartime experiences and perceived abandonment by their parents.”

Dutch rescuer Marion Pritchard poses with the Jewish infant, Erica Pollak, whom she was hiding.

USHMM #89822/Courtesy of Marion Pritchar
Accessed on July 19, 2011

Sisters Eva and Liane Münzer. In October, Eva and Liane were placed in hiding with a devout Catholic couple. In 1944, Eva and Liane were reported to the police as a result of a fight between their rescuers. The husband denounced his wife and the two Jewish girls. The three were immediately arrested and sent to the Westerbork camp. On February 8, 1944, eight- and six-year-old Eva and Liane were deported to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Photograph taken in The Hague, the Netherlands, 1940.

— USHMM #94477/courtesy of Alfred Munzer