Six Stories of Children who Survived the Holocaust
The eyewitness accounts of six real-life 'Children of the Holocaust' are brought to life in these powerful animations. Now elderly, these Holocaust survivors recount their childhood experiences of Nazi atrocities, and the impact it had on their lives.
You can meet the real-life survivors in this collection of short interviews.
These films are suitable for teaching History and PSHE to students aged 11-16 and are hosted on an external, non-BBC platform. The BBC cannot take any responsibility for recommendations or content promoted by third party sites.
WARNING: Contains some scenes which some viewers may find disturbing.
1. Arek’s story - survival in Auschwitz-Birkenau
Arek Hersh recounts his experience as a prisoner, aged 14, in the notorious death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
It was the most horrific thing any human being should ever see. The world should never see that again.Arek Hersh
He explains that when he arrived at the concentration camp, he quickly noticed that men and women were being separated - men on one side and women with children on the other. So, he quickly ran to the line with the men - recognising early that he had a better chance of survival. The women and children were sent straight to the gas chambers and murdered.
He describes how he was tattooed with the number B7608 and had his only photographs of his family ripped away from him. He relates the constant battle against disease and lice experienced by the prisoners. He discusses the cramped and squalid sleeping barracks, where upwards of 1000 men were kept together in virtual starvation. He also talks about how the war and the Holocaust destroyed 81 members of his immediate family, and only his sister survived.
2. Ruth's story - escaping the Nazis as war began
As a child, Ruth Rogoff escaped from Germany and arrived in Britain on the day that war started - 3 September 1939. In this film, she relates her childhood experiences and talks of her mother’s remarkable courage.
Street by street Jews were cleared and, at any moment, it was probably our turn.Ruth Rogoff
She begins by explaining how the German occupation of the Sudetenland led to her family fleeing Germany to the relative safety of Prague, Czechoslovakia. She goes on to explain how Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia and move into Prague in March 1939 led to her family being in danger once again. Her father was a wanted man, and so, escaped over the border, leaving Ruth, her brother and mother to fend for themselves.
Like many of the 56,000 Jews in Prague under Nazi occupation, Ruth recounts how her mother went from embassy to embassy, seeking a way to leave. When she was told she could only leave without her children, she refused. Finally, a ‘miracle’ clerk from the British embassy, breaking the night curfew, brought the family papers to travel to the UK – but they could take nothing with them, and had to make it look as though they were only going on a day trip.
3. Martin's story - childhood experiences of a Holocaust survivor
Martin Kapel is a survivor of the Nazi Polenaktion in October 1938 (the “Poland Action”). He came to the UK via the Kindertransport and lived through the Blitz bombing of Coventry in 1940.
I was very lucky to be one of the few to be rescued from Poland. I would have died with all the rest of my family if I hadn't been.Martin Kapel
In this film, he talks about the expulsion of 17,000 Jews from the German Reich in October 1938, and how they were escorted to the Polish border by brutal SS guards. He explains that when they arrived in Poland they were met with equal disdain. The Polish didn't want them there and tried to force them back into Germany. However, the German authorities were ready for this and their attempts failed. Martin and his family found refuge with relatives in Kraków.
Martin outlines how he was lucky to find himself on a Kindertransport to Great Britain, where he was ‘rescued’ from the abyss of the Holocaust. He was taken into relative safety by a family in Coventry. While living with his new foster-family, he experienced the Blitz of Autumn 1940. He describes the frightening near-misses as bombs hit homes nearby, as he and his foster-family hid under the stairs for safety. He remarks that while the ‘Blitz-Spirit’ enabled many people to maintain a positive frame of mind, the reality of the Blitz was very frightening.
4. Suzanne’s story - hiding from the Nazis in occupied France
Suzanne recounts the terrifying experience of the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940, her sudden separation from her parents, and what life was like for a Jewish child living in hiding during World War II.
I used to sit down and cry sometimes, but it didn't do any good, so I stopped that. Nobody heard.Suzanne Ripton
Suzanne describes how, as Jewish people were rounded-up in Paris, her parents’ door was smashed with an axe, and how their brave neighbour - Madam Colombe - raced in and claimed that Suzanne was her daughter, which more than likely saved her life.
She explains that, for the next few years she was passed from hiding place to hiding place. She was forced to work hard on a farm, live with goats and become self-sufficient to survive. She did not know of the war’s end in 1945 and was still in hiding in 1947. Years later, Suzanne found out that both of her parents were killed at Auschwitz.
5. Trude’s story - escaping from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia
Trude Silman describes her experiences of being a young Jewish girl living in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia, and of escaping to Britain in 1939.
You feel insecure, you don't feel at ease, you can't relax and you know that something is wrong.Trude Silman
Trude describes the changing atmosphere of her home town of Bratislava as it was invaded by the Nazis, and the impact it had on her life, family and community. News of the invasion came through the radio immediately, and her parents decided that she should be sent to England.
She explains how her transition to life in Britain was uncomfortable, especially due to the English language, which made her feel just as isolated as when she was back in Bratislava. Many years later, she continues to build up evidence relating to her parents’ deaths: Her father ended up in Auschwitz, and her mother (more than likely) at the concentration camp of Sered.
6. Heinz’s story - escaping to Britain from Kristallnacht
Holocaust survivor Heinz Skyte recounts his experiences living near Nuremberg just before World War Two. He describes the changes that took place in his city during the Nazi takeover.
As a child, of any age, to be excluded from your peers is a blow. You feel inferior and you question your existence.Heinz Skyte
He outlines how, while at college in Hamburg in November 1938, his parents were arrested during Kristallnacht, when a Pogrom (co-ordinated riot) against Jews and their property occurred across Germany. More than 200 synagogues were destroyed and thousands of homes and businesses were ransacked. He describes how he witnessed Jewish community buildings being set on fire around him in Hamburg, and how he was ordered by his parents not to return home that day.
The experience lead to Heinz seeking a visa to join his brother in Leeds and the miraculous escape of his parents, too, by 1939. He discusses the irony of being an ‘enemy alien’ in Britain, who found himself more motivated to fight the Nazis than the British and yet was unable to do so. Thus his isolation and experience in Hamburg was now met with internment and restriction in Britain through Churchill’s command that all so-called aliens be ‘collared’.