Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Saturday, October 10, 2015


            On this date, October 10, 1944, 800 children were gassed to death in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Let us remember those children in the holocaust. We will post information about the children from several internet sources.

Ghetto Litzmannstadt: Children rounded up for deportation to the Kulmhof death camp

On this day in 1944, 800 Gypsy children, including more than a hundred boys between 9 and 14 years old are systematically murdered.

Auschwitz was really a group of camps, designated I, II, and III. There were also 40 smaller “satellite” camps. It was at Auschwitz II, at Birkenau, established in October 1941, that the SS created a complex, monstrously orchestrated killing ground: 300 prison barracks; four “bathhouses,” in which prisoners were gassed; corpse cellars; and cremating ovens. Thousands of prisoners were also used as fodder for medical experiments, overseen and performed by the camp doctor, Josef Mengele (“the Angel of Death”).

A mini-revolt took place on October 7, 1944. As several hundred Jewish prisoners were being forced to carry corpses from the gas chambers to the furnace to dispose of the bodies, they blew up one of the gas chambers and set fire to another, using explosives smuggled to them from Jewish women who worked in a nearby armaments factory. Of the roughly 450 prisoners involved in the sabotage, about 250 managed to escape the camp during the ensuing chaos. They were all found and shot. Those co-conspirators who never made it out of the camp were also executed, as were five women from the armaments factory-but not before being tortured for detailed information on the smuggling operation. None of the women talked.

Gypsies, too, had been singled out for brutal treatment by Hitler’s regime early on. Deemed “carriers of disease” and “unreliable elements who cannot be put to useful work,” they were marked for extermination along with the Jews of Europe from the earliest years of the war. Approximately 1.5 million Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis. In 1950, as Gypsies attempted to gain compensation for their suffering, as were other victims of the Holocaust, the German government denied them anything, saying, “Gypsies have been persecuted under the Nazis not for any racial reason but because of an asocial and criminal record.” They were stigmatized even in light of the atrocities committed against them.

Photos of the eventual Bullenhuser Damm victims showing their surgical scars after Heissmeyer injected them with tuberculosis.

Children were especially vulnerable to Nazi murder or death in the era of the Holocaust. It is estimated that 1,500,000 children were murdered during the Holocaust, either directly or as a direct consequence of Nazi actions.

The Nazis advocated killing children of "unwanted" or "dangerous" groups in accordance with their ideological views, either as part of the "racial struggle" or as a measure of preventive security. The Nazis particularly targeted Jewish children, but also targeted Romani (Gypsy) children, and also children with mental or physical defects. The Germans and their collaborators killed children both for these ideological reasons and in retaliation for real or alleged partisan attacks. Early killings were encouraged by the Nazis in action T4, where children with disabilities were gassed using carbon monoxide, starved to death, phenol injections to the heart, or by hanging.

Those killings started officially in 1939 and grew steadily throughout the war. But many warning signs were already present in Germany well before the war started, such as persecution of the Jews, the notorious Nuremberg laws and Kristallnacht in 1937. Jews were forced out of the country, their property stolen and they were increasingly deported to concentration camps.

This article deals with those 1,500,000 children who were killed by the Nazis. A very much smaller number were saved. Some simply survived, often in a ghetto, very very occasionally in a concentration camp. Some were saved in various programs like the Kindertransport and the One Thousand Children in which a child fled his homeland. Other children were saved by becoming Hidden Children in their homeland. And see the important work done by Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE)

Starving children in Warsaw Ghetto during the German occupation of Poland. Agfacolor photo.
Numbers killed

The Germans and their collaborators killed as many as 1.5 million children, including over a million Jewish children and tens of thousands of Romani (Gypsy) children, German children with physical and mental disabilities living in institutions, Polish children, and children residing in the occupied Soviet Union. Children from France, the Netherlands, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and other countries also died as a result of mass deportations. The chances for survival for Jewish and some non-Jewish adolescents (13–18 years old) were greater, as they could be deployed at forced labor. Although, the unfortunate, other children (usually infants or children younger than an adolescent) were disposed of in killing chambers such as gas filled rooms, or merely shot, to fulfill the German's "Final Solution" to exterminate the Jews.

Still photograph from the Soviet Film of the liberation of Auschwitz, taken by the film unit of the First Ukrainian Front, shot over a period of several months beginning on January 27, 1945 by Alexander Voronzow and others in his group. Child survivors of Auschwitz, wearing adult-size prisoner jackets, stand behind a barbed wire fence. Among those pictured are Tomasz Szwarz; Alicja Gruenbaum; Solomon Rozalin; Gita Sztrauss; Wiera Sadler; Marta Wiess; Boro Eksztein; Josef Rozenwaser; Rafael Szlezinger; Gabriel Nejman; Gugiel Appelbaum; Mark Berkowitz (a twin); Pesa Balter; Rut Muszkies (later Webber); Miriam Friedman; and twins Miriam Mozes and Eva Mozes wearing knitted hats.
Causes of death

The fate of Jewish and non-Jewish children can be categorized in the following ways:

1.    children killed when they arrived in killing centers;
2.    children killed immediately after birth or in institutions;
3.    children born in ghettos and camps who survived because prisoners hid them;
4.    children, usually over age 12, who were used as laborers in kitchen camps, cleaning prisoner barracks, or working in the stables with Nazi officer horses and as subjects of medical experiments; and
5.    those children killed during reprisal operations or so-called anti-partisan operations.

In the ghettos, which the Germans established early in the war in many Polish towns and cities such as Warsaw and Łódź, Jewish children died from starvation and exposure as well as lack of adequate clothing and shelter. The German authorities were indifferent to this mass death because they considered most of the younger ghetto children to be unproductive and hence "useless eaters". Indeed, the Germans deliberately restricted the food available to the strictly controlled ghettos under their control. The ghettos were liquidated from 1942 onwards, and their inhabitants murdered at various death camps. Because children were generally too young to be deployed as forced labor, the German authorities generally selected them, along with the elderly, ill, and disabled, for the first deportations to killing centers, or as the first victims led to mass graves to be shot. The children that were healthy enough for the labor were often worked to death doing jobs to benefit the camp, but sometimes children were forced to do unnecessary jobs like digging ditches.

Non-Jewish children from certain targeted groups were not spared. Examples include Romani (Gypsy) children killed in Auschwitz concentration camp; 5,000 to 7,000 children killed as victims of the “euthanasia” program; children murdered in reprisals, including most of the children of Lidice; and children in villages in the occupied Soviet Union who were killed with their parents.

Medical atrocities and kidnapping

The German authorities also incarcerated a number of children in concentration camps and transit camps. SS physicians and medical researchers used a number of children, including twins, in concentration camps for medical experiments that often resulted in the deaths of the children. Concentration camp authorities deployed adolescents, particularly Jewish adolescents, at forced labor in the concentration camps, where many died because of conditions. The German authorities held other children under appalling conditions in transit camps, such as the case of Anne Frank and her sister in Bergen-Belsen, and non-Jewish orphaned children whose parents the German military and police units had killed in so-called anti-partisan operations. Some of these orphans were held temporarily in the Lublin/Majdanek concentration camp and other detention camps.

In their "search to retrieve 'Aryan blood'", SS race experts ordered hundreds of children in occupied Poland and the occupied Soviet Union to be kidnapped and transferred to the Reich to be adopted by racially suitable German families. Although the basis for these decisions was "race-scientific," often blond hair, blue eyes, or fair skin was sufficient to merit the "opportunity" to be "Germanized". On the other hand, female Poles and Soviet civilians who had been deported to Germany for forced labor and who had had sexual relations with a German man—often under duress—resulting in pregnancy were forced to have abortions or to bear their children under conditions that would ensure the infant's death, if the "race experts" determined that the child would have insufficient German blood.

Wall display of prisoner identification photos by the SS in Nazi-occupied Poland of 1943, created through force with both an unwilling subject and an unwilling creator, notably prisoner Wilhelm Brasse of Poland. Image taken by Skyliber in Auschwitz concentration camp in 2004.

Children were exposed to experimentation at other camps, especially at Auschwitz, where Joseph Mengele was active. Mengele's research subjects were better fed and housed than other prisoners and temporarily safe from the gas chambers. He established a kindergarten for children that were the subjects of experiments, along with all Gypsy children under the age of six. The facility provided better food and living conditions than other areas of the camp, and even included a playground. When visiting his child subjects, he introduced himself as "Uncle Mengele" and offered them sweets. But he was also personally responsible for the deaths of an unknown number of victims that he killed via lethal injection, shootings, beatings, and through selections and deadly experiments. Lifton describes Mengele as sadistic, lacking empathy, and extremely antisemitic, believing the Jews should be eliminated entirely as an inferior and dangerous race. Mengele's son Rolf said his father later showed no remorse for his wartime activities.

A former Auschwitz prisoner doctor said:

“He was capable of being so kind to the children, to have them become fond of him, to bring them sugar, to think of small details in their daily lives, and to do things we would genuinely admire ... And then, next to that, ... the crematoria smoke, and these children, tomorrow or in a half-hour, he is going to send them there. Well, that is where the anomaly lay.”

Josef Mengele sometime before 1945
Twins were subjected to weekly examinations and measurements of their physical attributes by Mengele or one of his assistants. Experiments performed by Mengele on twins included unnecessary amputation of limbs, intentionally infecting one twin with typhus or other diseases, and transfusing the blood of one twin into the other. Many of the victims died while undergoing these procedures. After an experiment was over, the twins were sometimes killed and their bodies dissected. Nyiszli recalled one occasion where Mengele personally killed fourteen twins in one night via a chloroform injection to the heart. If one twin died of disease, Mengele killed the other so that comparative post-mortem reports could be prepared.

Mengele's experiments with eyes included attempts to change eye color by injecting chemicals into the eyes of living subjects and killing people with heterochromatic eyes so that the eyes could be removed and sent to Berlin for study. His experiments on dwarfs and people with physical abnormalities included taking physical measurements, drawing blood, extracting healthy teeth, and treatment with unnecessary drugs and X-rays. Many of the victims were sent to the gas chambers after about two weeks, and their skeletons were sent to Berlin for further study. Mengele sought out pregnant women, on whom he would perform experiments before sending them to the gas chambers. Witness Vera Alexander described how he sewed two Gypsy twins together back to back in an attempt to create conjoined twins. The children died of gangrene after several days of suffering.

Means of survival

In spite of their acute vulnerability, many children discovered ways to survive. Children smuggled food and medicines into the ghettos, after smuggling personal possessions to trade for them out of the ghettos. Children in youth movements later participated in underground resistance activities. Many children escaped with parents or other relatives—and sometimes on their own—to family camps run by Jewish partisans.

Between 1938 and 1939, the Kindertransport (Children's Transport) was a rescue effort which brought about 10,000 refugee Jewish children (but importantly, without their parents) to safety in Great Britain from Nazi Germany and German-occupied territories.

Hidden Children: Some non-Jews hid Jewish children and sometimes, as in the case of Anne Frank, hid other family members as well. Sometimes these were actually hidden; in other cases they were "adopted" into the family of the heroic well-doer. And see the work of Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants.

A unique case of hiding: in France, almost the entire Protestant population of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, as well as many Catholic priests, nuns, and lay Catholics, hid Jewish children in the town from 1942 to 1944. In Italy and Belgium, many children survived in hiding.

After the surrender of Nazi Germany, ending World War II, refugees and displaced persons searched throughout Europe for missing children. Thousands of orphaned children were in displaced persons camps. Many surviving Jewish children fled eastern Europe as part of the mass exodus (Brihah) to the western zones of occupied Germany, en route to the Yishuv (the Jewish settlement in Palestine). Through Youth Aliyah (Youth Immigration), thousands migrated to the Yishuv, and then to the state of Israel after its establishment in 1948.


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