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” (www.mtsu.edu/.baustin/children.html). 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 “Kindertransports” to the Netherlands, Great Britain, Palestine, and the United States” (www.mtsu.edu/.baustin/children.html).
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). 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” (www.mtssu.edu/.baustin/children.html). 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...