September 11, 2003
HIDDEN CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST FOCUS OF NEW EXHIBIT AT UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In honor of its 10th anniversary, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will open a new exhibition, Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust. This special exhibition, on display from September 19, 2003, through May 12, 2004, tells the remarkable stories of Nazism’s most vulnerable victims—Jewish children. Before the outbreak of World War II, approximately 1.6 million Jewish children lived in the countries eventually occupied by Germany and its allies. By war’s end, between one and 1.5 million of those children were dead.
Thousands of Jewish children survived the Holocaust by disguising their Jewish identities or physically concealing themselves in attics, cellars, barns, and sewers. For these children, the decision to go into hiding often meant leaving their families and identities behind. Those who could not pass as non-Jews endured extreme loneliness, physical pain and constant fear, living silently in cramped, dark quarters. Life in hiding was never safe and was always fraught with danger, where a careless remark, a denunciation, or the murmurings of inquisitive neighbors could lead to discovery and death.
“Children in hiding faced extraordinarily difficult circumstances during and after the war,” says exhibition curator Steve Luckert. “Fear, isolation and frequent relocations were all part of daily life. Allied victory in 1945 brought no end to the pain felt by many hidden children who had lost their entire families. Some children were too young to have ever known their real parents and only learned about their true identities later in life. Others never came out of hiding.”
After the war, a new saga in the story of hidden children began. Surviving parents sought out 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. In many cases the quest for family involved traumatic soul-searching for children to rediscover who they truly were.
The lives of the brave people who rescued the children are also highlighted in the exhibition, reminding us of the remarkable individuals who tried to save lives while risking their own. In German-occupied Europe, the penalties for hiding a Jew were often severe, including imprisonment in a concentration camp or death.
“We are proud to present the powerful and deeply moving stories of the hidden children,” said Museum Director Sara Bloomfield. “This exhibit not only provides a window into the little-known experiences of children during the Holocaust, but also explores the lifelong ramifications of having lived as a hidden child.”
After closing in Washington, DC, the exhibition will become part of the Museum’s traveling exhibition program, where it will be displayed by institutions around the country. It will be the Museum’s first traveling exhibition to display original artifacts outside Washington, DC. An online version of the exhibition is available on the Museum’s Web site, www.ushmm.org.
Life in Shadows: Hidden Children in the Holocaust, on display in the Museum’s Gonda Education Center, has been made possible in part by support from Mrs. Mildred Hofberg, Sandy and Stanley Bobb, and The Lupin Foundation. No passes are required to visit the exhibition. It is open from 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. every day except for Yom Kippur (October 6, 2003) and Christmas Day.
A public-private partnership, the Museum is a federal institution whose educational activities and outreach are made possible through private donations. More than 250,000 individuals, foundations, and corporations helped build the institution and currently support its programs and operations. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.