The Holocaust. Contents. The Holocaust: Theme Overview

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1 The Holocaust Contents The Holocaust: Theme Overview 1 Artifacts Helena Zaleska 2 Auschwitz-Birkenau, Star of David 4 Metal cup 5 Child s shoe 6 The Holocaust: Theme Overview When Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933, they began to systematically remove Jews from the cultural and commercial life of Germany. Jewish property and businesses were confiscated and Jewish children were denied the right to a public education. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 further isolated Jews by revoking their citizenship. The goal was to make Germany judenrein (free of Jews). On Kristallnacht the Night of Broken Glass November 9, 1938, Jewish synagogues and businesses in Germany and Austria were attacked and hundreds of Jews arrested. This marked a new level of ferocity in the Nazis anti-semitic policies. As European countries came under German occupation during World War II, Nazis applied anti-jewish measures and established ghettos to confine Jewish populations. By the end of 1941, the Final Solution, the Nazi policy of exterminating all Jews, was in place and the mass deportations of Jews to the concentration camps had begun. HIDING Some Jews tried to escape by going into hiding. Few succeeded because only a small number of gentiles were willing to risk hiding Jews. Since hiding even one person was dangerous, children were often separated from their parents and siblings. Many parents had to make the painful decision to give their children over to complete strangers. Some children were sent to live with Christian families or placed in convents and orphanages. To survive, children often had to assume Christian identities, changing their names and histories in order to pass as non-jews. They lived in constant danger of discovery. GHETTOS Ghettos were designated parts of a city where Jews were forced to live. The ghettos were often sealed by barbed wire or walls. Jews were assembled in ghettos prior to their deportation to concentration camps. Life in the ghettos was characterized by overcrowding, starvation, disease and forced labour. For most children the ghettos represented the first removal from their homes and a time of fear and uncertainty. CAMPS Adolf Hitler set up a system of concentration camps shortly after assuming power in The camps imprisoned opponents of the Nazi régime and those considered to be "racially" undesirable, such as Jews and Gypsies. Most were transit camps or slave labour camps, established first in Germany and later in occupied Europe. There were approximately 1800 camps in all. After the occupation of Poland, the Nazis established extermination camps, where gas was used to murder victims. One camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was a complex that included a concentration camp, a labour camp and an extermination camp. At Auschwitz, most children were selected for death immediately upon arrival. Only those who appeared older, stronger and capable of slave labour had any hope of survival. 1

2 Photograph: Helena Zaleska, 1958 Photograph belonging to Celina Lieberman. Poland, Helena Zaleska was a Polish Catholic farmwoman who found me and asked if I wanted to be her child. She hid me, gave me the name Marishka and taught me how to behave in church. She and her brother had good hearts. They were very religious and were good to me. I worked awfully hard, but so did they. I had fresh air and whatever food they had. After the war, I succeeded in having my rescuer, Helena Zaleska, honoured and given the award of Righteous Among Nations for her courage in hiding me during the war. Without my knowing it, Helena had also saved a Jewish mother and her two sons somewhere else on her farm. Celina Lieberman 2

3 Photograph: Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1944 Hungarian Jews upon arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau at the end of May or beginning of June Courtesy of Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority. Jews were deported by train from German-occupied countries across Europe to the death camps in Poland. The camps were built along the rail lines to facilitate the deportations. Closed freight cars were used to transport between 80 and 100 people in overcrowded and inhumane conditions. Many deportees, especially children and the elderly, did not survive the journey. 3

4 Star of David Star of David belonging to Duifje (Delia) Van Haren, Holland, circa Courtesy Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. I lived in the small town of Gorinchem, Holland, where everyone knew me and knew that I was Jewish. I had no choice but to wear the star. I even had to wear the star on my wedding day. Before I went into hiding, the star was hidden in our family photograph album and left for safekeeping with our non-jewish neighbour. Of the twenty-three Jewish families in Gorinchem, my brother, another person and I were the only three people to survive. Duifje (Delia) Van Haren Duifje (Delia) Van Haren was not a member of the War Orphans group but immigrated to Canada in Reinhard Heydrich, Head of the Nazi Security Police, first proposed the use of the Jewish Star of David as a distinctive identification mark for Jews. In 1939, all Polish Jews were required to wear the star. This requirement was later extended to Russia, Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. 4

5 Metal cup Metal cup issued to Irene Fleischer Klein at Ravensbrück concentration camp, Courtesy Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. The Nazis called it soup. I called it a different thing - it was like a dishwashing liquid. Sometimes they filled up the cup, other times it was only half full. I always hooked the cup onto my belt and carried it everywhere with me. Irene Fleischer Klein The aluminium cup belonged to Irene Fleischer Klein, who was deported in 1944 from Budapest, Hungary to Ravensbrück concentration camp at the age of nineteen. Ravensbrück was a concentration camp primarily for women, located 90 km north of Berlin. The majority of the prisoners were non-jewish. The cup is an example of the few meagre necessities allotted to camp inmates. Most prisoners were only permitted a cup or bowl, a spoon, shoes and a uniform. These possessions were vital to survival in the concentration camps. Irene Fleischer Klein was not a member of the War Orphans group but immigrated to Canada in

6 Child's shoe Child s leather shoe recovered from 'Kanada' barracks, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Courtesy Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. This shoe is one of thousands found in the 'Kanada' barracks at Auschwitz at liberation. Its size suggests that it belonged to a child of about 3 or 4 years of age. The child's name, family and country of origin are not known. Young children deported to Auschwitz were among the first to be "selected" for the gas chambers. One and a half million children died in the Holocaust. An estimated two hundred and twenty thousand children died in Auschwitz. Upon arrival at Auschwitz, Jews were stripped of their clothes and personal possessions. The mass deportations of millions of Jews to concentration camps provided the Nazis with warehouses of confiscated property. The 34 barracks in Auschwitz where these belongings were sorted and stored were known as 'Kanada' by camp inmates, who imagined Canada as a land of plenty. 6

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