Children in the Holocaust

Essay by Big Blue1 October 1996

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The Holocaust is truly an event that is never to be forgotten. It is sad to know that so many innocent people were killed for no reason. One group of people that were killed were the children, their families destroyed and their dreams shatterd. 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: infants and toddlers; young children; and adolescents up 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 the world of Jewish children was rapidly restricted as soon as the Nazis came to power in Germany in January 1933. After 1935, close friends suddenly avoided the company of their Jewish classmates, sometimes becoming hostile, unfriendly, and even spiteful.. There were humiliations confronting...