Unknown Story Of American Rescues Of Children Of The Holocaust

January 2014
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American Rescue Of Children Of The Holocaust: A Network Of Resistance And Cooperation

By Iris Posner 2013

Initially children were brought from Germany. By war's end, children had arrived from many countries including England and were of many ethnic backgrounds. Over the years the routes taken changed, the first coming directly by ship from Germany to the US east coast. As transportation routes closed, points of embarkation and disembarkation changed with children coming to the US via Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden and Holland. Some came via Siberia and Japan and landed in San Francisco.

As for the bureaucratic process of rescue -- for children in Germany it was determined by offices in Berlin. After German takeover, similar processes were carried out in Vienna and Prague. Children were chosen by the local Jewish Agencies. In France they were chosen by the AFSC and brought out thru Spain and Portugal. What all these processes shared was a monumental pile of required paperwork that at times brought the rescues to a complete halt.

In 1934 children arrived ready to begin an "adventure." Later children arrived traumatized and ill. After necessary treatment they were transported to their foster families whose members and homes had been investigated by local child welfare agencies. Despite attempts to match children and families, in some cases changes had to be made and this was overseen by social workers assigned to each child. Once settled children began school and studied English. Concerned about their families in Europe, some children successfully prevailed upon foster families to sponsor a family member. A majority of the OTC children lost one or both parents as well as extended family members. Most remained in the US. Many OTC children developed strong ties to their foster families introducing their own children to them as "family."

Most OTC children learned English quickly, succeeded in school, and many moved ahead multiple grades within a short time. A Harvard study of child refugees to the US during the Holocaust, which included over 200 OTC children, showed that the OTC cohort was resilient, and as a group attained educational and career success significantly beyond comparable American and American-born Jewish groups. Among them is a Nobel Prize winner, a rock and roll impresario, an ambassador, an Assistant Secretary for Defense, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, teachers, and writers. Many of the boys and some of the girls joined the armed forces during the war. In short, they became proud and productive citizens of their adopted country.


Kate Rosenheim, at the center of the child rescue network in Europe, foresaw the Nazi plan to annihilate a generation of Jewish children. American counterparts understood this as well. The network of cooperation, begun in 1934 by a handful of private Jewish organizations to rescue children, by 1941 was a full-fledged chain of cooperating and interconnected organizations and individuals which spanned religious as well geographical boundaries, and was in active resistance to the aims of the Nazi regime.

On September 10, 1941, a multi-denominational gathering dined at the Waldorf Astoria. The event was an effort to raise half a million dollars, including $145,000 to care for rescued children already in the US, and $360,000 to rescue 600 more children facing imminent danger in southern France .

On the dais were Eddie Cantor, Marshal Field, Archibald MacLeish, James Paul Warburg, Stanley Isaacs, Eric Biddle, Clarence Pickett (Quakers), Morris Troper (the Joint) and Fiorello LaGuardia. The audience included Stephen Wise, Joseph Revson, David Sulzberger, the Warburg family, Newbold Morris, Lotte Marcuse, Winthrop Aldrich, Fred Hirshhorn, Mrs. Frank Furstenberg, John Wharton, Solomon Lowenstein, and several hundred more cited in "Who's Who in America."

The work and contribution of these attendees and thousands of others involved in the OTC rescues and resettlements are documented in a myriad of connections and communications are contained and documented in at least 11 collections in the archives of YIVO, including the newly added OTC Collection. On behalf of the One Thousand Children, their families and rescuers, I want to thank YIVO for providing a home and committing to the care of the OTC Collection; it's accessibility to the public, scholars, researchers, teachers, students and the OTC family, is in my opinion the most important part of the legacy of the OTC organization.

Lenore and I want to add our personal thanks to all the OTC children and their families who shared and entrusted their life stories with us. Knowing them has enriched our lives and we are deeply grateful for their continued friendship.

A special thanks to Henry Frankel and the Board for continuing to care for and nurture OTC and arranging for its final home at YIVO.

We would also like to thank Professor Judith Baumel-Schwartz, without whose seminal work on this history and personal support, we would not be here today.

Lastly, my most heartfelt thanks to Lenore Moskowitz without whose support in every way, OTC could not have succeeded.

I leave you with the still relevant words of Bishop Shell of Chicago, attendee at a 1941 Network fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria, "There is need of kindness if changes are to be wrought in the world today. The rescue of people in need, especially children, is the kind of work needed."


from the January 2014 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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