Children were also forced to endure many cruel hardships in an attempt to hide from the Nazis and Gestapo. Children were forced to hide in small, enclosed spaces and to remain in abnormal and painful positions for long periods of time. Some even hid in sewers. Because quietness was necessary in order that they not be discovered, children were also forced to remain silent for days, weeks, and months at a time. Other children were able to survive through disguising themselves as non-Jews—thereby denying their culture, ethnicity and very identity.
Others had to assume a nomadic lifestyle, in which they traveled from place to place doing odd jobs and then moving on to another town before they could be discovered. Some children were discovered and sent to concentration camps, where they had dangerous and often lethal experiments performed upon them. Arnold Blum recalls the mortification he felt when his home was invaded by the Gestapo and his name was called for identification. The Nazi’s were looking specifically for him, even though he was a child, and he was arrested (Blum, 20).
Children like Blum were subjected to slave labor and literally worked to death in those camps. Children who suffered from any types of physical or other noticeable handicap were often killed or recruited for the terrible experiments. One noted experimenter of the Nazi regime, Josef Mengele, focused his lethal arts on Jewish children (and adults) who were disabled, or who were the product of multiple births—twins or triplets (FCIT). Because of the inability of very small children to perform significant amounts of labor, such children were immediately put to death in gas chambers after arriving at concentration camps.
Children who were slightly older than infants were treated as slaves. Within those camps children uniformly suffered from malnutrition, as they were rarely given substantial food for sustenance under the laboring conditions. Some children received a bittersweet relief from suffering via the Kindertransport system, through which some Jewish children were taken to Britain as a means of offering aid. The children still faced some amount of rejection and disappointment through this program, since although several countries were asked to house these children, only the British responded.
Many children were therefore disappointed as they were taken Britain and saved, while their friends were taken to concentration camps. In order to facilitated the Kindertransport, the British had to pay ? 50 per child. However, even though some of the Jewish children were saved through this program, it was with the knowledge that their parents and perhaps other siblings were suffering still in Germany or in the other countries that came under the Nazi rule.
Furthermore, these children rarely saw their families again, as those who were reunited with parents at the end of the war amounted to only about 20 percent (FCIT). The cruelties of the Holocaust extended also to non-Jewish children, who were (without their consent) indoctrinated at an impressionable age to hate their fellow men. Yet, even more concrete cruelties were perpetrated upon these persons. Programs like Lebensborn were implemented, in which pure Aryan looking women were encouraged to procreate through sexual union with S. S. officers (FCIT).
This gave rise to many children who, after the war, became stigmatized as being living prototypes of those who desired total domination after the Jews had been exterminated. In the mean time, many other children who fit the profile of the pure Aryan race were kidnapped in order to train them to be Nazis. This had a devastating psychological effect on the children, as they were forcibly separated from their home and families. Furthermore, many of these children, upon medical examination, were found not to be as pure as expected after all.
These children were killed.
Blum, Arnold. “An Action against the Jews. ” Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust. Anita Brostoff & Sheila Chamovitz. (Eds). New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Florida Center for Instructional Technology (FCIT). “Children. ” A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust. Tampa: University of South Florida, 2005. http://www. fcit. usf. edu/HOLOCAUST/people/children. htm Spiegel, Fred. Once the Acacias Bloomed. Comteq Publishing, 2004.