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Holocaust Memorial Education Center

Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center

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When World War II ended in 1945, six million European Jews were dead, killed in the Holocaust. More than one million of the victims were children.

During a roundup for deportation in eastern Poland in 1942, Gitta Rosenzweig—then three or four years old—was sent into hiding. She ended up in a Catholic orphanage. In 1946, Ida Rosenshtein, a family friend and a survivor, learned of the child’s whereabouts and sought to claim her. After denying that it held a Jewish child, the orphanage relinquished custody after Ida recognized Gitta and a local Jewish committee paid a “redemption” fee. Gitta is pictured here on the day she left the orphanage.
— Gift of Gitta Rosenzweig; US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Driven by a racist ideology that viewed Jews as “parasitic vermin” worthy only of eradication, the Nazis implemented genocide on an unprecedented scale. All of Europe’s Jews were slated for destruction: the sick and the healthy, the rich and the poor, the religiously orthodox and converts to Christianity, the aged and the young, even infants.

Thousands of Jewish children survived this brutal carnage, however, many because they were hidden. With identities disguised, and often physically concealed from the outside world, these youngsters faced constant fear, dilemmas, and danger. Theirs was a life in shadows, where a careless remark, a denunciation, or the murmurings of inquisitive neighbors could lead to discovery and death.