United States Holocaust Memorial Museum



The Plight of Children
Difficult Choices
Stories of the Hidden
Quest for Family
Artifact Gallery




Quest for Family

At the end of World War II, psychologist David Boder conducted interviews in a variety of languages at displaced persons camps. The three excerpts heard in the movie above were taken from his recordings.

Liberation from Nazi tyranny brought no end to the sufferings of the few Jewish children who survived the Holocaust, most of whom survived in hiding. Of the almost 1 million Jewish children in 1939 Poland, only about 5,000 survived. Across Europe, many Jewish children would face the future without parents, grandparents, or siblings.


Searching for Family
Time and again, the search for family ended in tragedy. For parents, it was the discovery that their child had been killed or had 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. Some demanded that the child be “redeemed” through financial remuneration. Others had grown attached to their charges and did not want to give them up. Some rescuers defied court decisions and hid the children for a second time. The future of the thousands of orphaned Jewish children also became an urgent matter.

Torn Identity
The quest for family was much more than a search for relatives. It often involved 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.

Preserving Memory
Hundreds of former hidden children recounted the especially difficult pain of their survival. Many sought to recover a past that the Nazis had stolen from them—families they had never known or were only distant memories, even their own given names.

PHOTOGRAPHS

After the war, thousands of Jewish children ended up in orphanages all over Europe as a result of the Holocaust. The toddlers in this children's home in Etterbeek, Belgium, survived in hiding, but their parents had been deported to Auschwitz.
USHMM #71585 / Margit Meier

A young girl in a home for Jewish infants waiting for their families to claim them or be adopted. Etterbeek, Belgium, after 1945.
USHMM #71594 / Margit Meier

Tsewie Herschel while in hiding. Tsewie never knew his parents. Born in December 1942, he was hidden with the de Jong family in April 1943. That July, his parents were deported from the Netherlands to the Sobibór killing center. The de Jongs renamed Tsewie "Henkie," raised him as a Christian, and treated him as their son. Tsewie learned about his origins from his paternal grandmother, who reclaimed him after the war, and from documents that had belonged to his parents.
USHMM #58189 / Tswi Herschel

In 1942, Henrietta and Herman Goslinski went into hiding to avoid deportation from the Netherlands. Their rescuer could not, however, also take their infant daughter Berty. The Dutch resistance moved Berty frequently; she was eventually moved more than 30 times. During the two-and-a-half years apart, the parents saw Berty only once and received this one photograph of her taken while she was in hiding.
USHMM #56548 / Bertie Levkowitz

Some 5,000 Berlin Jews went underground to avoid deportation to Auschwitz. Reha Abraham and her parents evaded capture in and around Berlin for more than two years. For parents in hiding with an infant, common childcare supplies were hard to come by. Ruth Abraham scrounged up a baby carriage from the Berlin rubble and used this scarf from her recently deported mother to cover Reha's head. Berlin, Germany, 1943-44.
USHMM #56552 / Reha Sokolow

During a roundup for deportation in eastern Poland in 1942, Gitta Rosenzweig—then three or four years old—was sent into hiding. She ended up in a Catholic orphanage. In 1946, Ida Rosenshtein, a family friend and a survivor, learned of the child's whereabouts and sought to claim her. After denying that it held a Jewish child, the orphanage relinquished custody after Ida recognized Gitta and a local Jewish committee paid a "redemption" fee. Gitta is pictured here on the day she left the orphanage.
USHMM #15303 / Gitta Rosenzweig


MUSIC
Title: Dos elnte kind (The Lonely Child)
Lyricist: Shmerke Kaczerginski
Composer: Yankl Krimski
Performer: Adrienne Cooper (1991)


WHO'S CHASING ME - WHO? AND LEAVES ME NO PEACE? OH MOTHER, MY MOTHER DEAR, WHERE ARE YOU, WHERE? YOUR SORELE SEEKS YOU, YOUR CHILD'S CRYING OUT! HOWLING AND WAILING LIKE WIND IN THE GRASS.

YOUR SORELE SEEKS YOU, YOUR CHILD'S CRYING OUT! HOWLING AND WAILING LIKE WIND IN THE GRASS.


In the Vilna ghetto, educator Rakhele Pupko-Krinski and poet Shmerke Kaczerginski were members of the "Paper Brigade"—a group of intellectuals who risked their lives to conceal Vilna's Judaic treasures from Nazi vandals. After learning that Pupko-Krinski had hidden her child, Sarah, outside of the ghetto, Kaczerginski wrote The Lonely Child as a tribute to Sarah and all Jewish children who had been forced into hiding by the war. The poem was set to music by composer Yankl Krimski, a theater artist who is believed to have been murdered in an Estonian labor camp toward the end of the war.



Read the exhibition script.