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Who are the Children of the Holocaust?

When Germany came under Nazi rule, the country adopted as official policy a racist ideology aimed at the destruction of the Jews. To bring about the complete eradication of this entire population, the Nazi strategy demanded that not only adults be marked for destruction but that children be targeted as well. In fact, in each European country conquered by the Germans, the survival rate of children was much lower than that of the overall Jewish population. It is estimated that one and a half million Jewish children, from infants to older teens, were gassed or shot to death in Nazi-occupied Europe. This means that nine out of ten Jewish children were murdered, not as a result of some tragic accident or some wild scheme gone wrong, but simply because they were Jewish.

Such deliberate and systematic killing of children was unprecedented in human history. Very few escaped the Nazi plan of Jewish annihilation. Those who were sent to concentration camps were killed upon arrival. Only an occasional, healthy-looking teen-ager managed to slip through the system.

For the most part, the children who eluded the Nazis survived because they were hidden from their persecutors. Sometimes for years, they lived out of their captors' sight, in convents, orphanages, haylofts, woods, basements or sewers. Some lived openly, concealing their names, pretending to be Christian.

Often, families were torn apart. In a desperate attempt to save their children, parents made the agonizing decision to leave their little ones with strangers. And, frequently, children were left to fend for themselves, wandering through forests and villages in search of food and shelter.

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