The forgotten children of the Holocaust. Part I. Before the war

Hebrew school class of Gustav Schonfeld (the little boy seated in front of the rabbi), Munkacs, Hungary, 1939. In this photo, little Gustav was the only survivor.

Christian antisemitism (especially Protestant antisemitism –Von den Juden und ihren Lügen seems to bless the atrocities of WWII), together with a redemptive and eliminationist antisemitism (see Hilberg and Goldhagen) made the massacring, extermination and gassing of 1,500,000 children possible, from 1939 to 1945. From these children, the vast majority were Jewish.

The victims of genocide were only Jewish and Roma and Sinti. 6,000,000 Jewish men, women and children and c. 220.000 Roma and Sinti men, women and children were victims of the atrocity of the Germans and their allies. C. 1,500,000 Jewish children and thousands of Roma and Sinti children died: killed in the ghettos and the Lager, or perished because of starvation, exhaustion, typhus, dysentery and tuberculosis in the ghettos and concentration camps, in death marches, massacred by the German (and Austrian) Einsatzgruppen, Orpo and Wehrmacht, or in the gas chambers of the six extermination camps: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Chelmno, Sobibor, Belzec, and Majdanek.

Yehuda Bauer argues in Rethinking the Holocaust that in 1940–1941 the vast majority of Germans sympathised with the humiliation, exclusion and massacres of Jewish men, women and children: “Browning believes that the percentage of policemen examined who were opposed to murder was 10 to 20%. Goldhagen says 10% of all Germans were opposed. In either case, the statement that the vast majority of the German population were willing to be recruited for the murder of Jews stands” (p. 103).

The gigantic and super-structured extermination machine that made the Holocaust possible had the willing and effective collaboration of millions of common Germans. Not only 800,000 sadistic SS killed and massacred Jewish men, women and children. No. The young German soldiers of the Wehrmacht (the vast majority lovers of the Nazi party) burnt synagogues with Jewish men, women and children inside, and committed big atrocities against the Jewish people and also against non-Jews: “Wehrmacht units …committed horrors against Serbs, Poles, Greeks, and Russians as well as Jews … ordinary Germans (and ordinary others) committed mass murders of the worst kind” (Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, p. 108). After the war, Germany (and the world) forgot its German murderers so fast!

In 1920, the Nazi Party had only 60 members. In 1945 it had 8,500,000 members. But it’s important to have in mind that millions of common Germans collaborated without being necessarily members of the Party (90% of the population, according to Bauer and Goldhagen). And the vast majority did it for real conviction (a combination of ferocious antisemitism and sick ultra-nationalism). Only in very very very few cases did they do it for fear, according to Hannah Arendt. These kind Germans were bureaucrats, professors, teachers, intellectuals, doctors, pseudo-anthropologists, pastors, lawyers, businessmen, train drivers, architects, secretaries, housewives… The killing machine needed every German, and, oh, boy, it really succeed it!

And now, about the children. Only in Auschwitz were deported c. 220,000 children (boys, girls, and babies): c. 200,000 were Jewish and c. 11,000 were Roma and Sinti. They were also deported c. 1,650 children who were Poles and c. 1,000 Soviet children (non-Jewish). From these 220,000 children only 20,000 were registered. This means that the rest (c. 200.000) were gassed upon arrival.

Auschwitz was liberated on January 27, 1945. In the camp there were 435 children alive (survivors of the macabre “medical” experiments). c. 60% of these children suffered starvation and malnutrition, and c. 40% had tuberculosis. The younger children didn’t even know their own names or from where they were. The vast majority of these children never saw their families again (their parents perished in the Holocaust) and suffered physical disabilities and mental trauma all their lives.

And what about non-Jewish children? 5,000–7,000 non-Jewish German and Austrian children with disabilities died through the macabre Euthanasia Plan (Aktion T4). And thousands of Poles and Soviet children were deported to concentration and extermination camps (mainly to Auschwitz).

10,000 Jewish children were saved thanks to the Kindertransport, and some other were saved thanks to some heroes who risked their lives and hid Jewish children during the war. But almost all of these children lost their families in the Shoah.

This is a visual journey to remember the million and a half children who perished in the Holocaust under the most horrific atrocities (perpetrated by one of the most cultivated countries in the world, and not so long ago). It also serves to commemorate the few children who managed to escape the horror.

I. Photos from before the war

Henye Rosenbaum age 2, Drohiczyn Nad Bugiem, Poland, 1938. USHMM
Henye Rosembaum was massacred with her family  in October 1941; she was 5 years old. Her 8-year-old brother Yosef and their parents Menachem and Sarah Rosenbaum were massacred too. Her relatives Zlate Riva Rosenbaum Grynblatt, Avraham Yaakov Grynblatt and Aron (2 years old), Yankel Rosenbaum, Chana Malka Perkovitzky Rosenbaum, Chaieh Guta Laye Rosenbaum Taumtschen, Rabbi Chaim Taumtschenan and Yankel (8 years old) were also murdered next to her.  

Gyorgy Freedman (born on December 7, 1936) and his little sister (both Jewish Hungarian) died in the Holocaust. USHMM
Henio Zytomirski (Polish Jewish boy) aged 6 in Lublin, 1939. Henio was gassed in Majdanek on November 9, 1942. He was 9 years old. 
Stella Knobel with her cousin Elisabeta (Polish Jewish) before antes de la guerra. Elisabeta (white shirt) and her mother were murdered in the Holocaust. Stella and her parents emigrated in time to Israel. Yad Vashem
Genia Judzki and her son Michal, Jewish, were deported to Auschwitz in 1944. They both died in Auschwitz. Michal was 7 years old. He used to say to his mother Solía "Mommy, we're going to die together". Genia's husband was murdered in the liquidation of the Sosnowiec ghetto in 1943. Yad Vashem
Selma Meerbaum (Ukrainian Jewish girl) loved to write poetry. In October 1941 she and her parents were trapped in the ghetto. In June 1942 they were deported to Transnistria and, after a long march, to the Michailowka labor camp, where she died of typhus on December 16, 1942, aged 18. Her parents also perished in the Holocaust. Yad Vashem

Janus Korczak with his orphans in the Orphanage Nasz Dom. Pruszkow, c. 1920–28. 
Florida Center for Instructional Technology

Janus Korczak (July 22, 1878 or 1879 – August 7, 1942) (the famous Polish Jewish doctor) and his 192 orphans suffered the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto (starvation, sickness, brutality, fear). On August 5, 1942, they were all deported to Treblinka and gassed upon arrival. When Korczak was marching with his orphans to the train station, an SS recognised him as the author of his favorite children books and offered him to escape, but Korczak refused to abandon the children. He heroically decided to accompany his orphans until the end and died with them in the gas chambers.

 Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, January 14, 2021


Yad Vashem


St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum

Warsaw Ghetto Museum

The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute

About Antonia Tejeda Barros

Madre de tres, doctoranda en Filosofía, flautista y violinista, profesora, alumna y súper fan de Woody Allen / Mother of three, daughter, sister, wife, PhD candidate (Philosophy), musician (recorder & baroque violin), teacher, student, and Woody Allen fan
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