The Pain of Lost Childhood
A new friend, Robert Heller (author of The Unlikely Governor), sent us a link to an essay written by Ina Schulz entitlted The Lost Children of Europe. Published by the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University, the piece begins with these thoughts:
As Germany commemorates the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the Holocaust, we have an opportunity to reflect on life in the immediate postwar period for the youngest victims: Jewish displaced children. This essay is one example of a growing contingent of young German historians and social scientists who focus on Germany’s Nazi past and its consequences.
By the end of the Second World War, approximately one and a half million Jewish children and adolescents had fallen victim to the National Socialist race and extinction measures. Only about 180,000 children and adolescents survived, for example in concentration camps (very limited), in hiding with non-Jewish families, in monasteries, in partisan units, or in the Soviet Union. After the war, many of these child survivors found themselves without accompaniment of a parent or a near relative and outside of their home countries, often on German territory. The necessity of giving these orphaned and unaccompanied children shelter and food was obvious.
We have written other blogs about the work Julie’s father did in post-war Germany with displaced person and her mother’s thoughts about the plight of the refugees who by then had been homeless for more than three years.
Schulz says “international humanitarian organizations, adult DPs, as well as various Zionist organizations were eager to help unaccompanied Jewish minors. Their approaches were different, which often led to conflicts. Nevertheless, they were often the first ones who gave the children a place where they were welcome after years of terror and persecution. The overwhelming majority of the often severely traumatized children and adolescents succeeded in paving a way back to life. Many of them managed to start a career, have a family, and to earn a living—but not without the pain of a lost childhood, and in particular over the loss of the family. No one could help them to take this pain away. A major challenge for relief workers and adult DPs was the psychological effects the war experiences had on the children, often overlapping the physical symptoms they presented
A mechanism for the social rehabilitation of the minors was the opportunity to talk about their wartime and persecution experiences, a method which recent scientific studies have confirmed as salutary but one that was little-known or disputed after the Second World War. ..when members of the Jewish aid organization American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) observed DP teachers discussing with children and adolescents their wartime experiences, the JDC members objected, believing that repression of memories was necessary for rehabilitation.”
Read the whole essay
Read an earlier blog about the orphans pictured