Figure 1.--A remarkable photograph is on the jacket cover. It shows a group of catholic altar boys with their priest. There appears to be nothing remarkable in the picture except the boy to the left of the priest is a Jewish boy in hiding. This scene viewed by an outsider would not have raised any suspicion. The boy might not have liked the subterfuge because he had to hide who he was in order to survive. Given the danger he may have been grateful for any opportunity to survive.
Escape was the desire of many who lived in Nazi Germany and NAZI occupied Europe. once World War II had started and the Germans rapidly occupied most of Europe. Before the War, European Jews had difficulty finding countries to accept them. Once the War began, itvwas too late for those that Nazism deemed inferior and unfit to be part of their ‘Master Race’ ideology. These groups knew that they where the persecuted outsiders which Nazism wanted to eradicate from Hitler’s New Order. The only option for millions was to try to hide. In 1939 there were some 1.7 million European Jewish children under the age of 16. By 1945 it was estimated that only 0.2 million of those children or pnly about 10 percent of these children were alive. Most of those who survived were children that went into hiding.
One not fully appreaciate aspect is the degree to whic children were targeted by the NAZIS and vulerable to them. Jewish children were the most vulnerable of all and died in the greatest proportion. They were the most vulnerable and had no economic value which the NAZIs could exploit. Even more importantly, they also were the seed for the future of the Jewish people. The NAZIs also saw them as a force for future retribution if they were not killed. The NAZIs are estimated to have murdered over a million Jewish children. One can not forget the images of the starving Jewish children on the Warsaw Ghetto whose parents had been killed. A great body of literature exists on the Holocaust including the experiences of the children. some of the children were killed by SS Einsatzgruppen in mass executions with their parents in Poland and on a larger scale in the Soviet Union. Most were forced into gettoes where those without parents often starved. Then they were deported and died in the various NAZI transit, labor, or death camps. Some Jewish children managed to survive the Holocaust by hiding, emmigrating (often without their family), or concealing the fact that they were Jewish.
Many families tried to hide but this was a difficult thing to do. It was easier for families to hide their children, especially younger children. Lots of families used an unofficial net working system that allowed children to be hidden.
Indeed this is the situation in the film ‘Au revoir, les enfants.’ Louis Malle directed the film. It is based on his experiences at a French boarding school during the War. The story is about a Jewish boy who comes to a Catholic boarding school to be hidden by the friars from the Nazis. The events depicted in the movie tell about a specific event that might have occasionally occurred or was it an illustration of something far more prevalent. Howard Greenfeld’s book The Hidden Children addresses this question. His research reveals that hiding persecuted children was a wide spread activity. It involved ordinary people in net working cells that very quietly went about hiding Nazism’s targets. Jewish families were helped to hide by these underground cells. It was a very dangerous activity to engage in. To be caught resulted in harsh punishment and not infrequently execution to those hiding inferior races. Those that dared wre not only putting themselves at risk, but possibly ther entre family. These were brave and courageous people who did what they did out of compassion and caring for humanity. Greenfield’s book tells the personal survival stories of the hidden ones.
Greenfield discovered that hiding was on two levels.
The first way to hide was to become a visible hider by living in Christian run institutions and living as a Christian. Visible hiders faced constant fear. They had to be careful all the time that they did not accidentally talk about their real selves. They had to remember their new identity. Often this was a change of family name. The children were allowed to keep their first name and real age. They had to hide their Jewishness and assume another. This was often Christianity and many children found this a very emotional uncomfortable aspect of their hiding. It was a traumatic time for the hidden ones because of the constant fear, as was the fear of those sheltering, that they would be found out. Greenfield found that Poland and Belgium were the countries that were good at hiding people. Greenfield believes that the Belgium’s were very hospitable to Jewish people and willingly took the risk to hide them.
The second way was to become an invisible hider by disappearing completely. This involved hiding in a private home or in remote area in some cases living secretly in woods and mountain caves. Some with planning and assistance could hide in cities. The Franks in Amsterdam were an example here.
A remarkable photograph is on the jacket cover (figure 1). It shows a group of catholic altar boys with their priest. There appears to be nothing remarkable in the picture except the boy to the left of the priest is a Jewish boy in hiding. This scene viewed by an outsider would not have raised any suspicion. The boy might not have liked the subterfuge because he had to hide who he was in order to survive. Given the danger he may have been grateful for any opportunity to survive. Of course a child's age affected the extent to which they appreciated the danger. For these children their childhood was filled with fear that was real and remained for a considerable time. It was not the fear normal children experience in peaceful times. Their fear is a manufactured one and experienced during the watching of a scary movie or listening to a fearful story. It goes away once the story ends. The hidden children lived with fear on a daily basis. They also experienced the discomforts their non-Jewish peers had as well.
The young child hiders could not practice their faith, they were separated from their families and had to live with a false identity. These were traumatic, emotional burdens to handle. Not for them the luxury of trauma counselling. They had to learn to handle it themselves. For many this was a painful experience because they had formally lived comfortable, happy middle class lives pursuing education and enjoying childhood.
Greenfield writes that now that these children had become hiders they had to learn the skills of street children. He says they learned to lie, to hide their true identity, to conceal their emotions and to remain silent when they faced danger from those that hunted them. They knew they must not be captured for this could mean death.
Greenfield's book, The Hidden Children gives voice to many of Occupied Europe’s hidden ones of World War II. We do not yet hve any detailed informastion on the author.
The Goldstein story is typical of the 25 accounts of hidden children assembeled by Greenfield. Jack and Bobby’s family had to trust strangers to take care of their sons and hide them so that they might survive the NAZI Holocaust. The righteous strangers made it possible for two boys to be delivered from out of the evil that was Hitler’s New Order. The Goldstein's were Austrian Jews leading a normal, comfortable life in Vienna. After the Anchsluss managed to get to Belgium. The boys were almost picked up in a raid. After this Father Bruno arranged to hide them in a convent.
Greenfeld, Howard. Hidden Children (Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston 1993)
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