Full statistics for the tragic fate of children who died during the Holocaust will never be known. Some estimates range as high as 1.5 million murdered children. This figure includes more than 1.2 million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy children and thousands of institutionalized handicapped children who were murdered under Nazi rule in Germany and occupied Europe.
Although children were seldom the targets of Nazi violence because they were children, they were persecuted along with their families for racial, religious, or political reasons. Children are not a single unified group because of the enormous and complex variations in their situation and ages. It is important to separate the distinct needs of three different 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. Their respective chances for survival and their ability to perform physical labor varied enormously by age.
Chances of survival were somewhat higher for older children, since they could potentially be assigned to forced labor in concentration camps and ghettos.
The Jews were a special target of Nazi ideology and policies, which ultimately resulted in the Holocaust, the systematic, state sponsored murder of almost 6 million European Jews. From the very first, Jews and their children suffered at the hands of the Nazis, and thus the world of Jewish children was rapidly restricted as soon as the Nazis came to power in Germany in January 1933. Before 1939, German Jewish children were trapped in a no man's land between the alternatives of an increasingly hostile German milieu and the insecure and often unreachable world of potential safety through emigration, the latter was linked to the fate of their families. After 1935, close friends suddenly avoided the company of...