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The holocaust s effect on child development

When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, more than 1 million and perhaps as many as 1. But the Hitlerian beast is quite different.

It would devour the dearest of us, those who arouse the greatest compassion—our innocent children. Many would face the future without parents, grandparents, or siblings. Persecution The Nazi persecution of Jews began in Germany in 1933. German conquests in Europe after 1939 led to the implementation of antisemitic policies in the occupied territories. Though the pace and severity of persecution differed in each country, Jews were marked, vilified, and segregated from their neighbors. Death Hitler made the decision in 1941 to carry out the systematic mass murder of Jews.

Mobile killing squads followed the German army into the Soviet Union in June 1941, and by the end of the year, murdered almost 1 million Jewish men, women, and children. All Jews were targeted for death, but the mortality rate for children was especially high.

In the camps, children, the elderly, and pregnant women routinely were sent to the gas chambers immediately after arrival.

Liberation Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, the world learned of the staggering human toll of the Holocaust. Few Jewish children survived. Of the estimated 216,000 Jewish youngsters deported to Auschwitz, only 6,700 teenagers were selected for forced labor; nearly all the others were sent directly to the gas chambers.

When the camp was liberated on January 27, 1945, Soviet troops found just 451 Jewish children among the 9,000 surviving prisoners.

Soon after liberation, Jewish agencies throughout Europe began tracing survivors and measuring communal losses. In the Low Countries, perhaps some 9,000 Jewish children survived.

Of the almost 1 million Jewish children in 1939 Poland, only about 5,000 survived. Most of these youngsters survived in hiding. Hiding meant leaving behind relatives, risking immediate and severe punishment, and finding an individual or family willing to provide refuge. Many Jews, no doubt, held out the hope that the threat of death would pass or that they could survive until the Allied victory. Even in countries where hatred for the German occupiers ran deep, anti-Nazism did not necessarily generate aid for Jews.

The Nazis further discouraged rescue by threatening severe penalties for those caught helping Jews.

Risks Personal Histories testimony Choices Personal Histories testimony Parents, children, and rescuers faced daunting challenges once the decision was made to go into hiding. Some children could pass as non-Jews and live openly. Those who could not had to live clandestinely, often in attics or cellars. Children posing as Christians had to carefully conceal their Jewish identity from inquisitive neighbors, classmates, informers, blackmailers, and the police.

Even a momentary lapse in language or behavior could expose the child, and the rescuer, to danger. Living as a non-Jew required false identity papers, which were difficult to obtain in German-occupied Europe and were subject to frequent review by the authorities. Over the course of the war, children often had to move from one refuge to another.

For the children who had to leave their parents behind, the emotional pangs of separation were constant and the worries many. Using forged or acquired papers, such as a birth or baptismal certificate, Jews sometimes could obtain legitimate documents under an assumed name from the authorities.

These ruses posed great risks to the bearer since the Germans and collaborating police forces closely examined identity documents in their frequent searches for Jews, resistance members, and individuals evading conscript labor.

Children were kept in cellars and attics, where they had to keep quiet, even motionless, for hours on end. In rural areas, hidden children lived in barns, chicken coops, and forest huts. During bombings, Jewish children had to remain hidden, unable to flee to the safety of shelters. Under these conditions, the children often suffered from a lack of human interaction and endured boredom and fear.

Even during the bleakest days of Nazi persecution, Jews tried to observe this practice. Because non-Jews in continental Europe generally were not circumcised, German and collaborationist police commonly checked males apprehended in raids. For boys attempting to hide their Jewish identity, using a public restroom or participating in sports could lead to their discovery. More rarely, they underwent painful procedures to disguise the mark of circumcision or even dressed as girls.

Hiding under a Different Religion Thousands of Jewish children survived the Holocaust because they were protected by people and institutions of other faiths. Dozens of Catholic convents in German-occupied Poland independently took in Jewish youngsters.

Belgian Catholics hid hundreds of children in their homes, schools, and orphanages, and French Protestant townspeople in and around Le Chambon-sur-Lignon sheltered several thousand Jews. In Albania and Yugoslavia, some Muslim families concealed youngsters. Many Jewish youngsters were baptized into Christianity, with or without the consent of their parents. Multiple Rescuers Finding a rescuer was quite difficult, particularly one who would take care of his or her charges for a period of years.

More commonly, stress, anguish, and fear drove benefactors to turn out the Jewish children from their homes. 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 the holocaust s effect on child development 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.

Abuse Jewish children who lived in hiding generally were treated well by their rescuers. But not all youngsters had such experiences.

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 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. 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 the holocaust s effect on child development 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. Education 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. Clothing 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.

  • Lack of funds and strict visa and immigration controls prevented many Jewish families leaving Germany;
  • Children posing as Christians had to carefully conceal their Jewish identity from inquisitive neighbors, classmates, informers, blackmailers, and the police;
  • Belgian Catholics hid hundreds of children in their homes, schools, and orphanages, and French Protestant townspeople in and around Le Chambon-sur-Lignon sheltered several thousand Jews;
  • Teenagers had a better chance of surviving selection, particularly if they claimed to have a skill;
  • Hundreds of former hidden children recounted the especially difficult pain of their survival.

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.

Artwork 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 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 the holocaust s effect on child development exist offer a fascinating glance into the mind and experiences of these youths.

Anne Frank the writer: 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 1943, 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.

By spring 1945, when the Nazi regime lay in ruins, these informers had turned in as many as 2,000 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.