Now, when my youth is blooming-and this happens only once for each human being-I am to die without having experienced anything good in life? Why? was it a sin to be born to a Jewish mother? Have I ever hurt anybody? Why is a man, who is my peer and whom I see for the first time in my life, my deadly enemy, why can he kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people?

- Elsa Binder [2]

 

Children in the Holocaust are often talked about from a distance because of the nature of the crimes committed against them. Many do not believe they can handle the stories of these children as they are heavily emotional in nature and the children innocent human beings. This article aims to address the perspective of children during the Holocaust in a way that brings justice to their words and to their memory.

Picture this: you are six years old. You have never known an ounce of hate, and you have experienced the breaking down of your family as the impeding fear of the Nazi regime continues to choke the life out of their occupied countries. All of a sudden you and your family are put onto a truck. You're brought to the forest, and you hear screaming and loud cries of agony. One second you are an innocent child, and the next second you are witness to the execution of your parents. Now it is your turn, and you can do nothing as a child to protect yourself. Searing hatred and boastful laughter can be seen on the face of your soon-to-be murderers.

We'll only be rich when we understand that it's not just we who are a race of martyrs. That beside us there are countless others suffering, who will suffer like us until the end of time... if we don't... if we don't fight for a better... Oh no! I'm too old, too tired to believe in this.

- Ruth Maier [3]

This scenario is often the story told by those who survived, but stories of the children being executed first also exist. The Nazis would do what they needed to do to create the greatest agony for the Jewish people with no regard for life. An innocent child was murdered in cold blood in fear of future retribution for the acts the Nazis emblazoned across Europe - or so they say. When children in the Holocaust are brought up, the first name that comes to mind for most is Annelies (Anne) Marie Frank. She was born in Frankfurt, Germany, and she would lose her home to the Nazis and travel to the Netherlands at the age of four. She was just one flicker of light in a sea of 1,500,000 children whose lives were cut short by the Nazi regime. The Holocaust was not a symptom of World War II; the Holocaust was a separate entity that the Nazis fought on an entirely different front.

Mass graves are spread throughout Europe - a land of bloodshed and destruction to a caliber that many in the Western hemisphere have not experienced. Children, some of the most innocent creatures on planet Earth, were not spared the enmity that the Nazis held for Jewish people. The experiments on Jewish twins at Auschwitz II-Birkenau are just one of many examples of the cruel treatment of Jewish people. Children underwent severe physical and psychological damage that would shake the core of the world. Today, we read about their lives as more and more diaries come out every year.

In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.

- Annelies (Anne) Marie Frank [1]

Many names come to mind with the phrase "Children of the Holocaust:"  Éva (Évike) HeymanYitzchak RudashevskiHélène Berr, Elsa BinderRutka LaskierRuth MaierMoshe Flinker, and Annelies (Anne) Frank.  Their stories remind us of the broken world that these children had to endure every day, but they always remained hopeful that tomorrow would be a bit better than today. This innocence surrounded them, and that concept makes it even harder for many readers to digest or even consider reading a Holocaust diary written by a child. However, their voices are so important to our future and beckon all of us to remain vigilant for any suffering of any child across the world. They act as a connector for all of us to recognize that we are all human beings and live life on this planet together.

These children were far more mature than a child should have to be, but this maturity of the children show a time where being a child was not possible. The Nazi regime made sure that children could not be children. The children lost all of the freedoms of life, and their joy was slowly sapped from their lives. Every day was another day they were forced to see a reality that was bleak, but somehow they made an attempt to find the bright side.. Maybe tomorrow would be better? This thought seemingly crosses the minds of so many children from the period based on diaries and testimony.

If only I could say, it's over, you die only once... But I can't, because despite all these atrocities, I want to live, and wait for the following day.

- Rutka Laskier [4]

Children of the Holocaust faced a grim reality, but they tried to survive and remain hopeful. Their words remain a part of this world, and we need to read them and know what they had to say. We need to live every day for them, because many of them were not given that opportunity.

 

1,500,000

A few Holocaust diaries written by children (or about their childhood):

Hiding Edith (Holocaust Remembrance Series) - Kathy Kacer
Rutka's Notebook: A Voice from the Holocaust - Rutka Laskier
Children of Dust and Heaven: A Diary from Nazi Occupation through the Holocaust - Stefania Heilbrunn
Ruth Maier's Diary: A Young Girl's Life Under Nazism - Ruth Maier
The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto - Dawid Sierakowiak
The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank
The Diary of Petr Ginz - Chava Pressburger
The Diary of Dawid Rubinowicz - Dawid Rubinowicz
The Diary of Eva Heyman: Child of the Holocaust - Éva Heyman
Rywka's Diary: The Writings of a Jewish Girl from the Lodz Ghetto - Rywka Lipszyc
The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister - Nonna Bannister
I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up In The Holocaust - Livia Bitton-Jackson
Outcry: Holocaust Memoirs - Manny Steinberg
If Only It Were Fiction - Elsa Thon
From a Name to a Number: A Holocaust Survivor's Autobiography - Alter Wiener
I Am a Star: Child of the Holocaust - Inge Auerbacher
The Journal of Hélène Berr - Hélène Berr
Eva's Story: A Survivor's Tale by the Stepsister of Anne Frank - Eva Schloss
All But My Life: A Memoir - Gerda Weissmann Klein
Dziennik 1939-1942 - Renia Spiegel

[1] Anne Frank, Eleanor Roosevelt (Introduction), B.M. Mooyaart-Doubleday (Translator) - The Diary of a Young Girl - ISBN 9780553296983

[2] Alexandra Zapruder (Editor) - Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust - ISBN 9780300092431

[3] Ruth Maier - Ruth Maier's Diary: A Young Girl's Life Under Nazism - ISBN 978-0099524243

[4] Rutka Laskier - Rutka's Notebook: A Voice from the Holocaust - ISBN 978-1603200196

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