The little ones that got away: Incredible stories of Jewish children who survived the Nazi holocaust
Heart-moving stories of 15 of these children are told for the first time
They were the children of the damned – Jews who had no place in the New World Order of Adolf Hitler and his stormtroopers.
Their parents were rounded up and shipped off to die as the Nazi regime which came to power 80 years ago in Germany – set about the systematic ‘cleansing’ of the country.
But there were good people too; people who looked beyond the religion of an innocent child and risked death by guillotine to hide them from the round-up squads.
The survivors include Rahel Renate Mann, 75, who still lives in Berlin where she was hidden all those years ago.
Thrown out of hospital in June 1937 hours after she was born because of her mother’s Jewishness, her mother Edith later had her baptized in the hope that it would save her from the Holocaust to come.
They lived in a tiny apartment with a Jewish star pinned on the door by the local Gestapo thugs.
When her mother was at work little Rahel played with Frau Vater, who acted as the Nazi spy for the building on the other residents, but who nonetheless liked Rahel.
The Nazis came in 1941 and took her mother away but Rahel was saved by the Vater family and fostered to another Jewish family in the building.
Threat: Hitler pictured with a group of SA-soldiers. Many children were hidden away when the Nazi regime rounded up hundreds of thousands of Jews and shipped them off to concentration camps
Then the Nazis came the following year for them. ‘Mr. Vater saved me by saying I was his niece,’ she said.
After this she went underground, passing from family to family, from cellar to secret cellar, staying one step ahead of the death squads shipping all Jews off to be exterminated in the death camps in occupied Poland.
She remembers a pastor called Eitel-Friedrich von Rabenau of Apostle Paul Church. He tells her about Jesus, sings Hebrew songs with her in the darkness of her hiding place in the church crypt. ‘For the first time,’ she says, ‘I felt loved.’
When she was seven, the Gestapo arrested the pastor and Rahel was given back to the Vater family. Frau Vater built a secret compartment in the family cellar.
‘I spent all day on a cold stone floor sitting on a mattress, just a sliver of light coming in through a nailed down, grimy window,’ she said.
‘I could not cry, talk, make any noise at all.’ She taught herself to read using a children’s book and a friend of the Vater family came to stay with her sometimes to pass the boredom.
‘This was 1944 and the air raids were pummelling Berlin now,’ she recalled. ‘I was taken up after a particularly heavy one and breathed fresh air for the first time in a year.
‘There was barely a house standing and there were dead bodies everywhere. The image has always haunted me.’
Then in 1945, after several more months in the cellar, the Russian soldiers arrive and haul her out of her hiding place. She is reunited with her mother shortly afterwards, but she is deathly ill with TB from a concentration camp.
‘I felt so guilty as I grew up and learned about the Holocaust,’ she said. ‘I thought; ‘Why did I live when so many had to die?’ When I was 17 I tried to kill myself by throwing myself underneath a car, but the driver stopped and gave me a clip around the ear. It brought me to my senses.’
She went on to live for a decade in Israel before returning to her native Berlin where she now acts as a helper for the terminally ill in a hospice.
‘My childhood taught me the value of living every second of your life,’ she said. ‘I survived the Nazis and that is the greatest gift of all.’
Eugen Herman-Friede had Jewish parents who separated early. His mother went on to marry a non-Jewish man, Julius Friede, and it is only after Eugen starts school that he learns of his roots.
He went to school but was booted out in 1936, aged 10, because he was branded a ‘Jewish pig.’ Later he was forced to wear the yellow star on his clothes – the Nazi branding of Jews as ‘outsiders.’
In 1942, the Nazis closed all Jewish schools and he was sent to perform forced labour for the Reich. In 1943, weakened from lack of food, he decides to become a ‘U-Boat’ – the Nazi term for Jews, 6,000 in all, who went into hiding in Berlin.
He said goodbye to his girlfriend Helga Weissblut, 16. He would never see her again: she was shipped off to be murdered at the ultimate Nazi death factory of Auschwitz.
He lived in numerous hideouts, coalsheds, cellars until he reached the non-Jewish family Winkler whose son was in the Hitler Youth but who had come to detest the Nazis. ‘They were warm hearted, courageous and unselfish,’ says Eugem today.
FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE CLICK LINKClick here for the Top 12 Moments in Jewish History...LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN! »