Children of the Camps During the Holocaust, millions of Jews, gypsies, and members of other groups were persecuted and murdered by Nazi occupied Europe. However, many forget to acknowledge that among these were children. It may never be known exactly how many children were murdered but it is said that as many as some 1. 5 million children may have fell victim to the Nazi party. Although children were not a main target of the Nazi’s violence, they did fall subject to persecution along with their parents. Jewish children were first exposed to persecution in school.
Many of their friends who were not Jewish began not socializing with them and even began to treat them in prejudice ways. This was soon followed with the announcement that, “German Jewish children were prohibited from attending German schools” (web).
The life of children had quickly become as torn apart as their parents. However, there were more efforts to help the children escape the grips of the Nazi rule. Before 1939, several thousand children were able to escape in “Kinder transports” to the Netherlands, Great Britain, Palestine, and the United States” (web).
Those who were not able to escape were placed in ghettos and transit camps.
These ghettos and transit camps served as the foreground to the death and slave labor camps that would soon follow. It was written in a Jewish diary,” A Jewish ghetto in the traditional sense is impossible; certainly a closed ghetto is unconceivable” (Dwork, p. 155).
Eichmann was born on March 19, 1906 near Cologne, Germany, into a middle class Protestant family. In 1932 he joined the Austrian Nazi Party, became a member of the SS and in 1934 an SS corporal at Dachau concentration camp. He studied Jewish culture and became the acknowledged 'Jewish specialist'. In 1938, Eichmann established a Central Office for Jewish Emigration. This office issued permits to ...
Infact many of these ghettos were “closed” meaning that the Jews that occupied the ghettos were forbidden to leave the area. Within the ghettos, there was belittlement of life.
The segregated streets often had no working stores and closed places of worship. This left the isolated inhabitants subject to starvation, disease, and early death. Next came the death and slave labor camps. These were most often the last stop before they were killed. Upon entering a camp, the Jews were separated.
They were separated into women, children, working age, men, and the old. Furthermore, the children were separated into three age groups: ” (1) infants and toddlers up to age 6; (2) young children ages 7 to 12; and (3) adolescents from 13 to 18 years old” (web).
Women, children who fall in the first age group, and the elderly were usually immediately sent to the gas chambers upon arrival to the camps. Children in the second age group were assessed. If they were able to do work, they were sent into the camp and if they were unable to work they were sent in line for the gas chamber. Those children who fell in the third age group were often kept alive to do work in the camps.
Those who refused or were unable to work were also sent to the gas chambers or just shot in the head right on the spot. Life for children in the camps was extremely difficult. Often children were separated from their families and were forced to live in cells, tents, and fenced in cages with 50 other Jews witch they may not know. Once again, living conditions in the camps were those of the ghettos with an added stench of dead bodies and the disease that came from them. Children were usually sent to get the daily food for their cell.
They had to walk down the narrow dirt paths and look at the ground. If they looked at a guard, they could be beaten or denied of their food. Perhaps one of the greatest hardships children had to pay was the emotional and physiological toll it took on them. Even before their arrival at the camps, they were forced to witness their parents being arrested beaten and taken from their homes. Many of the children did not understand what was happening or why it was happening. Then once they did arrive at the camps, they were separated and place with people they did not know.
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Many of them became orphans within hours of their arrival. There were also those who knew their parents were alive but were living on the other side of the camp. This created great emotional hardships for many children to overcome. Day to day life in the camps was also very hard.
Children were forced to adapt to living in harsh conditions while living there with new people. Children were submitted to violence everyday. Sometimes it was in form of verbal harassment or even murder by the guards. Living in the tight quarters with little food, often made it difficult to work hard laborious jobs. Many of the workers were beaten by guards for working too slow or even for talking. Despite the “unrecognizable world” that many of the children were forced to live in, the Nazi’s managed to take it one step further (Dwork, p.
As if the camps were not bad enough, 20 Jewish children were taken from Auschwitz to a camp called Neungamme. The 20 children ranged in age from just 5 years old to 12. They came from all over Europe and were the poster children of a concentration camp.
They were “plucked from their homes” and had to “witness the murder of parents, siblings, and relatives” and then “faced starvation, illness, and brutal labor” in Auschwitz (web).
These chosen 20 were now going to be used for a series of medical experiments conducted by SS doctor Kurt Heissmeyer. ” Heissmeyer removed the children’s lymph glands for analysis, and he injected living tuberculosis bacteria in their veins and directly into their lungs to determine if they had any natural immunities to tuberculosis” (web).
The children were examined and observed very closely but as expected, the children all became very ill within days. With the war looking like it would soon be over, the doctor decided to kill the children so that there would be no evidence of the experiments. The children were taken to the Bullenhuser School on April 2 oth 1945.
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They were taken straight to the basement of the school and ordered to disrobe. A SS officer reported, “They sat down on the benches all around and were cheerful and happy that they had been for once allowed out of Neuen gamme. The children were completely unsuspecting” (web).
The children were told that they would be receiving a vaccination. In reality, they were injected with morphine and then hung on hooks on the wall to die. However, the children were so light from malnutrition and disease that their own weight would not strangle them.
Instead, they hung the children two at a time so that there was enough weight to kill them. It was later noted, ” none of the children cried” (web).
As one can imagine, all children who lived thru the Holocaust, were subject to inhuman conditions. Life was stripped from them and in return handed a small piece of hell that they could call their own.
Though there were those who were fortunate enough to witness better days, some were left with that small piece of hell as their final destiny. Whether it was the children of the ghettos and camps or the tortured souls of the Bullenhuser School children, it may be the cries of the children that are most often unheard in the story of the Holocaust.