Hidden Children – Child Survivors of the Holocaust – Gather in Washington
Posted: August 27, 2003
In the last week of August 2003, more than 500 child survivors of the Holocaust from across the United States, Israel, Latin America and Europe gathered to hear from peers, experts and writers for the third Hidden Child Foundation/ADL International Conference of Child Survivors and Their Families in Washington, D.C.
The Hidden Child survivors are the last generation of eyewitnesses to the horror of Hitler's "Final Solution" who survived certain death at the hands of the Nazis because they were hidden by Christians and often received new identities as Christians.
During the conference, August 27 - 29 in Washington, the survivors heard from noted speakers on the Holocaust, Righteous Gentiles, the role of memory in preserving history, and the legacy of Hidden Children.
Noted speakers and panelists included Daniel Ayalon, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, who survived World War II as a child and was baptized and hidden by his Polish Catholic nanny, and Dr. Robert Krell, a noted psychiatrist and author.
Paul Zenon Wos, a Polish national and Righteous Gentile whose family aided and rescued Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, was honored by the Hidden Child Foundation/ADL for his heroic actions during the Holocaust, including smuggling food, clothing and human beings in and out of the ghetto. Yaffa Eliach, a noted Holocaust scholar and professor at Brooklyn College in New York City, presented the honor to Mr. Wos.
Conference participants engaged in 25 workshops and seminars addressing their unique issues and experiences, including Growing up Orphaned After the Holocaust, Presenting our Personal Stories in the Classroom and Community, and Who Am I, and Who Were my Parents? The 60-Year Search for the Lost Identity of Child Survivors of the Holocaust.
Hidden Children are among the least known of the groups to survive the Holocaust. From 1939 to 1945, this unique group of survivors was protected from the ghettos, the concentration and death camps. Some were hidden "in the open" as Christians in convents or orphanages, while others faced silent and solitary childhoods in haylofts, woods, basements or sewers.
One and a half million children - nine out of every 10 - were murdered in German-occupied Europe.
Many Hidden Children were the sole survivors of large, extended families, though some managed to hide along with a sibling, a parent or other relative. For many decades after the Holocaust, much of the history of the Hidden Children was unknown. It wasn't until 1991, at the first international gathering of Hidden Children, that their stories of survival became known to a wider audience.