Organized rescue groups frequently moved youngsters from one family or institution to another to ensure the safety of both the child and the foster parent. In the German-occupied Netherlands, Jewish children stayed in an average of more than four different places; some changed hiding places more than a dozen times. Separation from Family. Among the most painful memories for hidden children was their separation from parents, grandparents, and siblings. For a variety of reasons—the lack of space, the inability or unwillingness of a rescuer to take in an entire family, or the decision of the parents not to abandon other family members in the ghetto—many Jewish children went into hiding alone.
Separation tormented both parents and children. Youngster and parent often had to bear their grief in silence so as not to jeopardize the safety of the other. For many hidden children, the wartime separation became permanent. Foster families created elaborate explanations for the presence of a new face in their home, identifying the child as a distant relative, friend, or surviving member of a bombed-out household.
In some rescue networks, parents were not permitted to contact their children or know their whereabouts. The children themselves well understood the need for security. Jewish children who lived in hiding generally were treated well by their rescuers. But not all youngsters had such experiences. Related Links Hiding places and hardships Personal Histories about the experiences of both children and young adults False identities Personal Histories about the experiences of both children and young adults.
Children and Play in the Holocaust | University of Massachusetts Press
The ruthlessness of Nazi rule and the barbarities of war forced some children to mature beyond their years. The daily experiences of hidden children varied, depending upon whether they could live openly and perhaps attend school and socialize with others their age, or had to be physically concealed. For those who were not permitted to journey outside, life in hiding was often filled with pain, torment, and boredom.
Toys and Play. Even in the ghettos and concentration camps, Jewish children sought solace in games. For hidden children who often had few personal belongings, toys took on special meaning. They could help forge a bond between the children and rescuers or reaffirm a tie to their missing parents or family. Just as importantly, playthings and games helped to restore some semblance of normal childhood to youngsters living under abnormal circumstances. Since ancient times, education has been an important element of Jewish culture.
As Germany took control of Europe, however, opportunities for Jews to attend schools and universities were initially limited severely and eventually eliminated entirely. Children who were physically concealed had few opportunities for formal study, but when possible, they too tried to educate themselves through reading and writing. In rural areas, they often tended animals and helped with planting and harvesting crops. In urban settings, Jewish children worked in factories or sold foodstuffs or other items on the open and black markets.
In some cases, older youths fled to the forests to eke out an existence or to join the partisans in combating the Nazis. As Jews were forced to move into ghettos or were deported to concentration camps, the Nazis deprived them of most of their possessions by drastically limiting the amount of moveable property that they could take. Once the Jews were moved, the Nazis then restricted the flow of goods to them. Children who went into hiding had to move quickly and inconspicuously and as a consequence, were forced to leave behind even the few possessions they owned.
Most took little more than the clothes on their backs. Throughout the Holocaust, Jewish artists and writers poignantly documented their experiences in camps, ghettos, forests, and hiding places. While the opportunities and materials to express their joys, pain, longings, anger, and sorrows in literary and artistic creations were severely limited, an impressive body of work, done by adults as well as children, has survived, even if the creators did not. Though it will never be known how many Jewish children recorded their thoughts in writing, art, or music, dozens of diaries, hundreds of drawings, and some poems and songs have been preserved to provide a tiny glimpse into their personal worlds, leaving a lasting legacy of both their oppression and resilience.
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Jews of all ages across Europe produced thousands of paintings, drawings, and collages during the Holocaust. Works were made at the behest of Nazi overlords or initiated by relief agencies in internment camps or by Jewish functionaries in the ghettos. Many were secretly done in concentration camps. The drawings displayed here are a study in contrasts. One set of images was created by a boy living as a non-Jew in France, where he was able to sketch nature and town in situ.
For the second, a girl hidden in a Lvov apartment drew from her memories or from the glimpses of life she witnessed through her window. Diaries, among the most intimate forms of writing, record innermost thoughts, hopes, fears, and aspirations. They generally are not meant for the public or prying eyes. While not all hidden children were able or allowed to keep diaries, those that exist offer a fascinating glance into the mind and experiences of these youths.
Life in hiding was always hazardous. Throughout German-occupied Europe, the Nazis made a concerted effort to locate Jews in hiding. German officials and their collaborators harshly penalized those who aided Jews and offered rewards to individuals willing to turn in Jews. Beginning in March , the Gestapo the German secret state police granted some Jews in Germany reprieve from deportation in exchange for tracking down their co-religionists who had gone underground.
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By spring , when the Nazi regime lay in ruins, these informers had turned in as many as 2, Jews. In other countries, neighbors betrayed others for money or out of support for the regime. In German-occupied Poland, blackmailers squeezed money or property from Jews by threatening to turn them in to the authorities. A slip of the tongue, improperly prepared false documents, or gossip could lead to arrest and deportation. Parents sought out the children they had placed in convents, orphanages, or with foster families. Local Jewish committees in Europe tried to register the living and account for the dead.
Tracing services set up by the International Red Cross and Jewish relief organizations aided the searches, but often the quests were protracted because the Nazis, the war, and the mass relocations of populations in central and eastern Europe had displaced millions of people. The quest for family was much more than a search for relatives. It often involved some traumatic soul searching for children to rediscover their true identity. Those who had been infants when they were placed into hiding had no recollection of their biological parents or knowledge of their Jewish origins. The only family that most had known was that of their rescuers.
Consequently, when relatives or Jewish organizations discovered them, they were typically apprehensive and sometimes resistant to yet another change. Search for Family. As areas were liberated from German rule, Jewish organizations rushed in to locate survivors and reunite families. In place after place, they faced the devastation wrought by the Holocaust. Following the war, Jewish parents often spent months and years searching for the children they had sent into hiding. In fortunate instances, they found their offspring with the original rescuer.
Many, however, resorted to tracing services, newspaper notices, and survivor registries in the hope of finding their children. Time and again, the search for family ended in tragedy. For parents, it was the discovery that their child had been killed or disappeared. For hidden children, it was the revelation that there were no surviving family members to reclaim them. Custody Battles and Orphans. In hundreds of cases, rescuers refused to release hidden children to their families or Jewish organizations. Others had grown attached to their charges and did not want to give them up.
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In the more difficult cases, courts had to decide to whom to award custody of the child. Some rescuers defied court decisions and hid the children for a second time. The future of the thousands of orphaned Jewish children became a pressing matter.
Children and play in the Holocaust games among the shadows
The vast majority were returned to a surviving family member or a Jewish organization, but more than were given to non-Jewish families. Torn Identity. Parents, relatives, or representatives of Jewish organizations who came to reclaim the children often encountered ambivalence, antagonism, and sometimes resistance. Thus portraying play as frolic, levity, or frivolous is a misrepresentation of its true nature. Play is serious business in which one learns to adapt - even to death and suffering - by enacting them in a play setting.
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Play is not divorced from reality rather reflects it and helps develop survival skills. Play not only helped to create a world of refuge for the children but it also helped them practice essential survival skills. Of course, and ability to play was no guarantee of survival. Nevertheless, few children committed suicide in the ghettos and camps. I have been studying the Holocaust for over twenty years now and have been lecturing on the subject for over a decade.
My own field of specialization is the science of genocide which includes a careful study of the gruesome and sadistic Nazi medical experiments. My own studies are by no means light reading. Yet, I must say that I admire Eisen's courage and strength. It is not an easy task to study the fate of children under the Nazi regime. At the same time, the children's story has the power to strengthen us in a way that few other stories of heroism can possibly accomplish. The readers of this journal are no doubt familiar with numerous accounts of heroism in the face of Nazi oppression, but the collected accounts in this small study are among the most powerful I have ever read.
Juvenile picture books about the Holocaust: Extending the definitions of children’s literature
The children's 'vitality, ingenuity, and fight for life surprised even their executioners' p. There are probably no acts of courage so moving as that of little Ettie, a five year old orphan from the Lodz ghetto comforting her rag doll:. Don't cry, my little doll. When the German's come to grab you, I won't leave you.
I'll go with you, like Rosie's mother Or, the story of Gabriele Silten who entrusted her favorite teddy bear to a gentile friend. Her grandparents had committed suicide and Gabriele did not want to subject her beloved teddy to the unknown terrors ahead. Or, the story of the dying child who told her sister she would like to see a leaf, to hold something green. Her sister, risking her life, went to the Aryan side of the city, to pick a leaf and bring it back.
The 'little girl lay there, sucking her thumb, smiling. And then she died' p. My one major criticism of the book is that Eisen has failed to use any comparative historical analysis in this work. One of the questions that came to my mind as I read Eisen's extremely provocative musings on the meaning of play in the Holocaust was the extent to which his study might not be universal at all, but rather, represent a uniquely Jewish response to extreme conditions.
Isaiah Trunk has shown how the response of the Judenrat to the Nazis was based on traditional Jewish methods of dealing with oppressors. Could it be that Jewish children too were calling upon traditional Jewish responses to oppression?