– “…HAVING TO WEAR THE YELLOW STAR WAS THE MOMENT WHEN DEEP FEAR AND MISERY FINALLY TOOK HOLD.”— Beatrice Muchman, Jewish child from Belgium The Nazi persecution of Jews began in Germany in 1933. By 1939, the country’s Jews had been systematically deprived of their civil rights and property and ostracized from the national community. German conquests in Europe after 1939 led to the implementation of antisemitic policies in the occupied territories. Though the pace and severity of persecution differed in each country, Jews were marked, vilified, and segregated from their neighbors.
When the German invasion of Belgium started on May 10, 1940, most of these 90,000 Jews headed for Southern France. Almost all the child survivors’ testimonies refer to their families attempting to flee to France. Most of them did not reach the border. The German army caught up with them within three weeks. The Germans interned most of the fleeing Jews in “rest camps” in the region of Saint Cyprien, Gurs, 23 Lucien Steinberg, Jews Against Hitler, trans. Gordon and Cremonesi (Glasgow: University Press, 1978), 132. 9 and Vernet or recommended they return home.24 Eventually, about 40,000 found refuge outside Belgium, and on October 1, the German authorities registered 45,652 Jews over the age of 15 in Belgium.25 This number increased to 64,641 Jews during a later counting by the Nazis when the occupation had advanced. Thus, about two-thirds of the Jews did not flee Belgium or returned to Belgium after the occupation of northern France by the Germans.
– 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.
The plight of children in the holocaust
– Approximately 4,000 Jewish children in Belgium outlived the war in hiding. This number is relatively high compared to Belgium’s neighboring country the Netherlands, where only 23.6% of the Jewish population lived to tell their tale.1 Through the testimonies of 72 child survivors and reports by their rescuers, this paper will examine the daily life and trauma of the hidden children in Belgium. It will compare different hiding places and demonstrate how the trauma differed depending on the hiding locations of the child. The study will reveal the network that existed to maintain and hide these children. Finally, it will conclude that no child escaped Holocaust trauma, even though in some cases rescuers made every effort to prevent it. A look at the psychological after-effects will demonstrate that the discussion of hidden child trauma is significant because the survivors would endure the effects of their suffering for the rest of their lives. Their testimonies give a different view of the hiding experience during the Holocaust in Belgium
Transition: notices children wearing the yellow stars
Intro to my specific person
– At the age of 18, she began teaching at a local school. the year the Nazis occupied Brussels, where Andrée Geulen was teaching. One day in the summer of 1942 some of her students arrived at school with the compulsory yellow star sewn on their clothes. Having her students marked and humiliated in this way enraged Geulen, and she instructed the entire class – Jews and non-Jews alike – to wear aprons to school, so as to cover the yellow stars.
– From that moment on, she was committed to help her jewish students and their families.
– She became involved in the Comité de Défence des Juifs
Transition: She works with the CDJ
– The CDJ became vital to the survival of the Jewish population. Their task not only included saving children and adults but also printing false papers and money, finding collaborators, and most importantly propaganda about the activities of the Germans. The CDJ was not alone in the rescue of Jews. The Catholic Church and many Belgians aided in the rescue. Queen Elisabeth, the Queen mother of Belgium, 30 Steinberg., Le CDJ, 36-37. 31 Steinberg., Le CDJ, 39. 13 made major efforts to restrain the Germans from deporting Jews. On 1 August, 1942, she invited the representatives of the AJB to the royal palace in Brussels. They described the horrible circumstance of the Dossin Barracks. She told them she would do everything in her power to save the Belgian Jews. She turned to the man in power himself, Hitler. A telegram from Berlin promised her that Jews with Belgian nationality would not be deported and that nobody would be separated from their family. She also interfered several times on behalf of the Jewish orphans in Mechelen. Thanks to her, several children and adults were saved from deportation to Auschwitz. However, in the end the Germans did not keep their promise. On 3 September, 1943, the Gestapo rounded-up, arrested and deported most of the remaining Belgians Jews. The last deportation from the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen was on July 31, 1944 and contained 249 men, 268 women and 46 children. The CDJ remained active until the entry of British XXX Army Corps into Brussels on September 3, 1944. It recovered the archives of the Dossin Barracks and aided the interned Jews. After the liberation, the CDJ changed its name to l’Assistance aux Israélites Victimes de la Guerre (AIVG).32 By then, many of its members had already fallen into the hands of the enemy. In the end, out of the eight founders, six were arrested and deported and only half survived the war. However, thousands of Jewish children survived, thanks to the CDJ, to tell its story and that of their parents. In spite of the intensive actions by the resistance, many Jews residing in Belgium reported themselves to the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen due to the recommendation by the AJB to cooperate with the Germans. Some did listen to the directions of the CDJ and realized that the Germans did not intend to have anyone return from Mechelen. The 32 Steinberg, Le CDJ, 166-169. 14 rumors of round-ups in particular frightened the Jewish population. With each restriction and order by the Germans they grew more anxious until they recognized they had to go into hiding. For families without children this was already very difficult but when children were involved the risk lay far higher. The parents had to find a safe haven for their children. This is where hiding options came into play for parents.
Hiding places for children
– In general, there existed three main options for parents to hide their children. For instance, with the aid of someone they knew or a resistance contact, they could place their child in a Christian establishment. This was the first option. An underground network of clergy and laymen helped parents in these instances. Parents also contacted Christian establishments themselves and offered money for hiding their child. The other possibility lay in finding a Christian family which could take care of the child. This family could be friends or just a contact through one of the underground networks. Some parents did not want to separate from their children and opted to hide as a family together. Thus, these children all hid in a family situation. Finally, some parents did not find a hiding place for their child and through luck the child ended up in a safe haven. The Jewish orphanages constituted one of those havens for many children. They formed a large network that saved many children. In addition, private families and Christian establishments rescued Jewish children already separated from their parents. Several parents chose one option first and through circumstances the child was moved to a different hiding place. Therefore, many children hid in several of the optional hiding places. For example, Joseph Camee’s family placed him first with a Christian family. The family feared being caught by the Germans and brought Joseph to one of the Jewish orphanages. Finally, due to circumstances the orphanage had to place some 15 children at Christian establishments and Joseph hid at the Christian institution at the Schaltin Castle.33 Every route that a hidden child took in Belgium was different. A review of 72 of their testimonies gives an idea of the differences between these hiding places and the trauma the children went through. Unfortunately, some children ended up in worse homes than others. The extent of the trauma differs for each child. The following discussion of the three major hiding locations, Christian establishments, private families, and Jewish orphanage, demonstrates the pain and suffering of the Jewish hidden children in Belgium.
– Priests and nuns would hide the Jewish children among the Christian children. Often, only Mother Superior and a few priests knew about the situation. This lowered the chance of betrayal by insiders or outsiders. Many of these convents worked together with the underground resistance network to place hundreds of Jewish children in Catholic convents, institutions and families.
Trauma of these hiding places- specifically separation from parents
How she helped combat that trauma and separation
Specific impacts and actions of my person
– She saved many kids, but also helped some of them lessen one of the main traumatic effetcs.
– Pschycological impacts on most kids from being separated with family
Where the children went and were taken
Overall impact of teachers then focus on my person for conclusion