Open daily from 10 am to 1pm except Saturdays and outside these hours by special arrangement. Contact us on +64 4 801 9480

Learn about the 1.5 million buttons collected for the Button Memorial project

Visit the Centre and meet our volunteers

Come Visit the Centre

The displays focus on the Holocaust and New Zealand:

  • Jewish life before and after the Holocaust.

  • Two parallel Timelines, events in Europe and the New Zealand responses.

  • The experience of the Holocaust told through the stories of New Zealand Holocaust survivors.

  • Powerful videos of Holocaust survivors telling their stories.

  • View the new exhibition 'Auschwitz to Aotearoa: Survival in Nazi Concentration Camps' about nine Jewish women, from different countries and backgrounds, who survived Auschwitz and later came to New Zealand.

  • Gain an insight into the experiences of Holocaust survivors based in New Zealand and their war-time lives.

  • Learn about the challenges refugees from Nazi Europe faced in New Zealand.

Paul Seideman Award and 10th Anniversary Competition

Paul Seideman, a survivor of 5 different camps, has established a competition for Year 10 and Year 11-13 students at New Zealand secondary schools that teach the Holocaust. As a Jewish Czech youth, Paul suffered grievously but managed to survive for years in the Nazi German concentration and labour camps during World War II. After liberation he emigrated to Australia and then New Zealand. He now lives in a Wellington retirement home. To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Soviet Army, on 27 January 1945, Paul has funded this annual competition.

The winners of the 2017 Paul Seideman Competition are:

Junior entry: Seb Bartley of Cambridge High School

Senior entry: Anna Sue of Mt Roskill Grammar School

We look forward to welcoming these two students when they visit Wellington in January to present their winning entries at the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations on Friday 26th January 2018.  To all of the students who entered this competition, thank you for the time and effort in presenting such wonderful pieces of written and media presentations. We look forward to more amazing entries next year! 

Plan your research visit

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand has a research library available to the public. Access to video testimonies of survivors is also available at the Centre.

Opening hours

While it is not necessary to book for an individual person to visit the Centre, it is advised that students contact us in advance if planning to use the Centre's resources collections in case there are school group bookings scheduled. Our volunteers will be able to advise you when it's suitable to plan a research visit, and will be available to assist you on-site.


The public footpath on Webb Street provides easy access to the main entrance on the ground floor and is wheelchair accessible.  All of our exhibits in the centre are on the ground floor.


All Library materials are available on-site only, as the Centre does not currently lend its catalogue collections.

Document Processing and Wi-Fi

The Centre has one scanner and photocopier which facilitates A4 size document copying and scanning. Personal laptop computers are welcome and the Centre provides a free Wi-Fi network to support your research needs.

Holocaust Essay Competition

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand is happy to announce that Joanne Pohe from St Joseph’s Maori Girls College is the winner of the 2015 Paul Seideman Holocaust Essay competition.

The winning essay can be read through this link.

The HCNZ would like to thank all of the students for taking part in our annual competition. The following three essay were also shortlisted for the prize:

Emma White from Sacred Heart Girls College, Hamilton

Madeleine Fenn from Woodford House, Havelock North

Sariya McGrath from Samuel Marsden Collegiate School, Wellington

Their essays can be read by clicking on their names above.


Joanne Pohe essay 2015

The Children of the Holocaust by Joanne Pohe

“To Hitler, children were the enemies. Children are the future, and he wanted to erase all that”. –Tova Friedman a child who survived the Holocaust. Tova was only five and a half. (pg. 5 Bk 15)

In WWII the German Nazi Party carried out the mass murder of 6 million people. Among them were over a million Children. The Nazis killed the people they thought should not live in order to create a ‘pure race’. They stole the lives and innocence of children, stripped a race of its humanity and filled their spirits with terror, nightmares and pain. This dark era became known as the Holocaust.

“We did not yet know that our destiny was to be murdered, that our crimes were being Jewish and that our punishment was death”. -Hilde Scheraga was born in Frankfurt Ammain, Germany. Hilde was three years old when Hitler came in to power.  (pg. 7 Bk 15)

In April 1933 the Nazis ordered a boycott of Jewish Businesses in Germany. On September 15 1935, anti-Semitic discrimination in Germany declared in the Numberg laws that Jewish Germans were not citizens.

The Jewish people were humiliated publicly. They were marked, vilified and separated. There rights and qualities of being a human being was stolen from them. No Mercy was shown. Their voices and cries were lost amongst the gunfire and poison that filled the air. They were left with nothing but silence and pain. Humanity was lost because the Nazis did not see the people they killed as men or women, boys or girls, but low vermin. The children were seen as mere bags of bones. They were seen as a waste of space, energy and money.

At the midst of mass corruption it shows that the Nazi Soldiers lost part of their humanity as well. Humanity in the Collins Dictionary means “the quality of being human; kindness or mercy.” Was Mercy or Kindness shown while they tortured and killed innocent children?

Lucie Adelsberge describes the life of the children: “Without muscles or fat, and the thin skin like pergament scrubbed through and through beyond the hard bones of the skeleton and ignited itself to ulcerated wounds.” (No. 17)There small bodies, full of water because of the burning hunger, and again, no mercy was shown. Children suffered mentally, physically and emotionally they stomached the pain inflected upon them. 

The children of the Holocaust were put to labour, silenced, hidden or killed. Survivors tolerated the cold and cruel pressure. Pure luck, determination and resilience are combination of factors that enabled them to be here today. Through their survival, they are able to tell us their stories.

At the age of Seven, Bob Narev and his parents were sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, August 1942. Only he and his mother made it out alive. Bob and his mother immigrated to New Zealand in 1947.

Clare Galambos-Winter (1923-2014) was a young violinist, who was jailed, then sent to Szombathely Ghetto and was later transported to Auchwitz-Birenau. After five weeks Clare and her aunt were enslaved at a munition factory. Clare said “From the horrors of Auschwitz to the hard labour in a munitions factory-my music and I survived. My Family, however, did not.” (No. 15)In 1948 Clare and her aunt both immigrated to New Zealand.

By speaking about their own experience during the Holocaust some survivors felt it as a way of overcoming the horrors of their past. Few still find it impossible to talk about. Survivors like Tova Friedman believe that by speaking about the Holocaust is a way of honouring those who had perished. “By keeping this alive these people have not just disappeared for nothing.” (pg. 57 bk.15) 

For many the reason they had endured the pain was in hope and dream that they would see their loved ones again. Vera Egermayer was four years old when she was sent to Terezin alone. However, she was one of the few fortunate enough to be reunited with her family once the war was over. In 1949 they immigrated to Wellington. Yet many were faced with the grim reality that they will never see their loved ones again. Vera was very lucky.

“In Jewish tradition the command to remember, Zachor is absolute, but this memory must be accompanied by action of moral and ethical intent. These stories provide a human perspective to the experience of victims. They make the unimaginable tangible. It is up to the reader to draw moral conclusions about a historical event that almost defies understanding.” (NO. 1)

In the face of great destruction, it is through resilience and survival, glimpse of humanity was never completely lost. “It takes a special brand of resilience to begin again against such odds”. (No. 16) Children had to grow up at an early age in order to survive. They demonstrated adaptability and miraculous durability.

Through the stories of the children survivors they teach us tolerance, the importance of freedom, and liberty. By their teachings of tolerance and examples of courageousness we learn to fight for our values and beliefs in order to prevent events like the Holocaust from happening in the future. Discrimination, prejudice and racism divide a nation. But by helping humanity in every way we can and working for unity and peace, allows a nation to live in racial harmony.

These are the lessons that the children of the Holocaust teach us today. 

Sariya McGrath essay 2015

Children of the Holocaust by Sariya McGrath

Author of “Keystones of Thought”, Austin O’Malley, once said that, “a child is an uncut diamond”. When purchasing jewelry, most buy the polished and cut diamonds. These are shiner, elegant and mature. The uncut diamonds, on the other hand, are stones that have not been shaped or undergone any polishing, often showing many prominent flaws. Uncut diamonds are usually referred to as, “raw diamonds”. O’Malley is trying to convey that children are new beings, without the skills and expertise of adults. They display weaknesses and make errors, yet this is what that makes them so exceptional. Children haven’t become exposed to the dangers of the world and are innocent, pure and playful creatures, but have the potential to truly become something else, and shine. But this is dependent on the way they are “cut”, in other words, their upbringing and exposure. Keeping this image ingrained within our thoughts, let’s travel back to a time when the world was undergoing one of the most horrific experiences ever known to mankind- the Holocaust. The name itself screams of the deaths of eleven million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, defectives, Communists and Socialists, as well as many other groups. Out of this number included 1.5 million children. There was no mercy given for these “uncut diamonds” of the Holocaust. Having not even had the chance to blossom, these children were killed in brutal ways, gone from the world forever. Their memories are haunting reminders, and it is important that the generation today, and the generation that comes after us, ensure that these children live within the world forever. Within this essay, I will be discussing the Holocaust briefly, children at the beginning of the Holocaust, Hitler Youth, Kindertransport, Lebensborn, children in hiding during the Holocaust, children in ghettos, children in camps, medical atrocities performed on children, the causes of the deaths of children, children at Auschwitz, how children survived, and what happened to these children of the Holocaust at the conclusion of the war.

The Holocaust was one of the most terrible events in human history, occurring during World War Two when Hitler was the leader of Germany. The Nazi Party, lead by Adolf Hitler, rose to power in 1933- marking the start of the Holocaust, and from then worked to isolate Jews and other groups from society. The Holocaust is defined as the mass murder of Jewish people, Romani gypsies, homosexuals, Soviet Prisoners of War, black people, mentally ill, handicapped and other groups. This genocide didn’t occur all at once, and instead was done in stages, leading up to the “Final Solution”. Hitler hated Jewish people and blamed them for Germans losing the First World War. He also believed that the Aryan race was superior and wanted to create a race of “perfect people” and saw the only way to do this was to rid the world of people who were deemed “inferior” by him. The Holocaust came about in 1938, when Hitler released a series of laws known as “The Nuremburg Laws” which prohibited the rights of Jews, attempting to isolate them from the general population. After “Kristallnacht” on November 9 1938, a night in which Jewish shops, synagogues and houses were demolished and burned to the ground, many Jews and other groups were forced into ghettos. Ghettos were located in the poor areas of cities and were overloaded and dirty. At this time, concentration camps were also being built, and people from the ghettos were transferred to concentration camps where they were “worked to death”. Killing squads began to kill entire Jewish communities in ghettos at this time also, however, their methods were seen to be inadequate. Therefore, after the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, the Nazis implemented the “Final Solution”. The Final Solution involved the mass annihilation of Jews and other “undesirable” groups across Europe. Nazis deported Jews across Europe to death camps that they had established in Poland- Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek. Upon arrival prisoners were gassed to death. In July 1944 Majdanek was liberated by the Soviets. After this came many more liberations as the Allies gained power. In 1945 the Allies invaded Germany, marking the end of World War Two and thus the end of the Holocaust.

When the Holocaust began children began to become aware of the divisions in society. In the 1930s Nazi laws were introduced which took away many civil and economic rights of Jews and other groups. All these laws had a huge impact on the children who were part of the groups targeted by the Nazis. The Nazis would target children who were part of “dangerous” or “unwanted” groups in line with their racial ideological perspectives. Children who were targeted were mostly Jewish, but Romani (Gypsy) children and children with mental or physical defects were also perused. One of the first laws that directly had a huge impact upon Jewish children was the “Law against Overcrowding in German schools and universities”, which was passed on the April 25 1933. This law limited the amount of Jewish students within schools to 1.5 percent and no more. At first, Jewish children of retired soldiers and Jewish children with a non-Jewish parent were free from this law. The Nazis then began to pass many other restricting laws, which prohibited Jewish children from public areas, such as the park and swimming pools. German children were taught that the Jews, Gypsies and other minorities were racially inferior, causing them to dislike these groups and look down upon them. In 1935 the effects became more prevalent. German children began to steer clear of their Jewish peers, occasionally becoming aggressive towards them. Many German children wrote letters to the editors of the Nazi magazine “Der Stumer” about how they disliked their Jewish classmates. In German schools, Jewish children were shamed as they were used as examples in lessons of “biology”, where the teacher would identify the characteristics which made him/her Jewish, showing how Jews were racially lower in status. Jewish children were banned from going to German schools on November 15 1938. There were still schools for just Jewish children, however the conditions of these schools were in decline, and faced pressure from the Nazis. The schools for Jewish children were all closed on the July 7 1942. At the start of the Holocaust targeted children grew conscious of their position in society, something that they would become even more accustomed to in the next few years. German children were taught of how they should see Jewish and other “undesirable” children, creating a division amongst these innocents.

Hitler Youth was a group of German children recruited by the Nazi Party. It was representative of Hitler’s belief that the future of Nazi Germany lay in its children, and was as significant as school to the youth of Germany. Children were taught of Hitler’s racial policy and the future of the German nation. Initially, Hitler Youth was small, but when Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, Hitler Youth expanded. At the start, Hitler Youth was comprised of boys who were expected to join the Nazi Party when they turned eighteen. Baldur von Shirach, a Nazi youth leader, changed this in 1933, allowing boys aged six to ten to join with the older boys part of the Jungvolk (ten to fourteen year olds of Hitler Youth) or the Jugend (fourteen to eighteen year olds of Hitler Youth). There were also two girls groups in Hitler Youth. These included Jungmadel for the ten to fourteen year olds, and the Bund Deutcher Madel for the fourteen to eighteen year olds. Girls in Hitler Youth were trained in traditional women’s roles, like raising children and working within the home. Some worked as nurses for injured soldiers. For the boys of Hitler Youth, their training proved to be quite extreme military training, which included marching, bayonet drills, grenade throwing, trench digging, map reading, gas defence and pistol shooting. For sport, the boys’ would play games with fights that were supported by their leaders. In 1936 Hitler made it compulsory for all German children from the ages of ten to eighteen to be part of Hitler Youth. As Germany was invaded, members of Hitler Youth were drafted into the army. During the Battle of Berlin in 1945 they became a big part of the German defences. German children were taught to see the world in a new way through Hitler Youth, and their minds became brainwashed with Hitler’s ideals.

Kindertransport, meaning Children’s Transport, was the name given to rescue efforts that brought thousands of Jewish children from Nazi Germany to Britain between 1938 and 1940. Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) occurred on November 9 1938. It was a night in which violence against Jews occurred across the Reich, triggered by the assassination of a German official in Paris by a Jewish teenager. In two days, 250 synagogues were burned, 7000 Jewish businesses were trashed, dozens of Jewish were killed, and many Jewish homes, schools and hospitals were looted. Following this, the British government agreed to allow Jewish children under seventeen to come to Britain from Nazi Germany under temporary travel visas. Parents or guardians were not allowed to come with their children. The first Kindertransport included 200 Jewish children arriving from a Berlin orphanage that had been demolished in Kristallnacht to Harwich, Britain on December 2 1938. Kindertransports were organized by Jewish organisations within Nazi Germany. Children whose parents were in concentration camps or weren’t able to support them were prioritized, as well as orphans. Most transports occurred by train to Harwich, however some took place by plane. Once the Jewish children arrived in Britain, they were either taken to meet their foster families, or if they didn’t have foster families, they were kept in a summer camp in Dovercourt Bay or in other places until they could be found foster families or hostels could be organsied for them. Overall, Kindertransport brought 9000-10000 children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland to Britain. 7500 of this number were Jewish. The last transport occurred on May 14 1940 from the Netherlands- this was the same day that the Dutch army surrendered to Germany. After the war was over many of the children became citizens of Britain or immigrated to other nations. Most of them would never see their parents again, as they were murdered during the Holocaust.

Lebensborn in German means “fountain of life”. The Lebensborn project was one of the most confidential Nazi projects. It was founded by Heinrich Himmler on December 12 1935, in order to keep the German race pure. The program encouraged German women who fit the Aryan category to have children with SS and Wermacht officers. Germany’s birthrate was decreasing, and Himmler wanted to counter this and expand the Aryan race. Both parents needed to pass a test to ensure that they were racially “pure”. The child was given birth to in secret and then given to the SS organisation, who took care of the child’s education and adoption. Lebensborn homes were set up across Germany, Norway, Austria, Belgium, Holland, France, Luxembourg and Denmark. One of the most frightening aspects of the Lebensborn project involved the kidnapping of “racially pure” children by the SS. Some were orphans but many were stolen from their parents. Children who were found to not be “racially pure” were taken to concentration camps and killed. “Racially pure” children were taken to Lebensborn centers to be “Germanized”. The children were forced to reject and forget their birth parents and take on the Nazi education. However, many of these children who were not adopted by SS families ended up in concentration camps, where they were exterminated. After the war, the Allies found many children in Lebensborn homes, where the mothers and staff had fled. These children were adopted, sent back to their birth families or sent back to their native countries. Regrettably, most of these children were too Germanic to fit in, some even refusing to come back to their original families as they believed that they were “pure” Germans. It is estimated that over 250 000 children were kidnapped during the Lebensborn project.

Many Jewish children throughout Europe were forced to go in hiding during the Holocaust. However, many of these children faced challenges. Some children were able to pass as Aryans and live out in the open. In order for them to do this, they needed false identity papers, obtained through the anti-Nazi resistance. These papers were at high risk of being discovered, as police examined documents thoroughly in search of Jews. Regine Donner, a Jewish child who was forced to pose as an Aryan in order to keep safe during the Holocaust says, “I missed out on my childhood and the best of my adolescent years. I was robbed of my name, my religion, my Zionist idealism.” Those Jewish children who could not pass as Aryan children were hidden in attics and cellars, where they had to keep quiet for hours. In the countryside, children were hidden in barns, chicken coops and forest huts. Noise would raise suspicion from neighbors, so the children were expected to live in constant silence. When bombings were occurring these children were unable to run to bomb shelters; they had to remain hidden. This type of hiding involved children suffering from lack of human interaction, fear and boredom. Other Jewish children went into hiding by hiding under a different religion. Many Catholics and Christians took in Jewish children, hiding them in their home, schools and orphanages. Even some Muslim families hid Jews under their religion in Albania and Yugoslavia. These children had to quickly learn the customs of their adopted religion to keep their Jewish identity a secret. It was difficult to find a family who was willing to protect Jewish children. Many families who took in Jewish children just took them in to receive money then turned them over to the authorities for even more money. Anger, stress and fear also played a part in many people being unwilling to take in Jewish children. Usually, children we moved from one family to another to ensure protection of the foster family and the child. The hardest thing these children in hiding during the Holocaust had to go through was the separation they had from their families. Separation was the cause of torment for both parents and children. For many children, this separation became permanent.

In 1939, Nazis began to confine Jews in ghettos in Poland and Eastern Europe, with the intention of isolating them from society and controlling their lives. Jews were not allowed to leave these ghettos that were created within the poor areas of the city. Ghettos were extremely crowded, and many diseases came about because of this. Children were affected by ghetto life harshly, and died from starvation, exposure and lack of suitable clothing and shelter. As the ghettos had an extreme shortage of food, many children became involved in smuggling food, as their small size allowed for them to fit through cracks in the walls of the ghettos. These child smugglers did their job at a very high risk, but still did not give up, exchanging personal belongings for supplies. Children were forced to work in these ghettos for many reasons, such as the father being taken away for forced labour, the parents not being able to get a job, or not enough income coming in for the family. In spite of all the difficulties faced in the ghetto, the Jews still tried to make life as normal as it could be. Educational programs and schools were set up for children. These classes were held in secret, in defiance of the Nazis. Children in the ghettos played many games, despite the suffering occurring around them. These games included table games, ball games and snow games. Many played with their toys or made toys out of bits of cloth and wood. Some children took part in plays that were established by adults. Many of the younger children of the ghetto were declared by the Nazis to be unproductive, so they were usually taken along with the elderly, ill and disabled to killing centers or mass graves.

In 1941 Hitler made the decision to carry out the “Final Solution”- the annihilation of all the Jews and other “undesirables” across Europe. Large numbers of children who the Nazis deemed to be unworthy were sent to concentration camps and death camps, where were gassed to death, worked to death, or killed by other means. In the concentration camps SS physicians and medical researchers used many children, especially twins, for horrific medical experiments, which is discussed later in this essay. Many teenage children were used for forced labour in the camps. The conditions in these camps were horrendous, with many children suffering from malnutrition and various diseases, having poor shelter and having to do incredibly hard labour. The work these children did ranged from carrying heavy stones for construction to electrical work. Children were kept in the camps until their bodies were no longer able to carry out any more work, and then they were exterminated. To survive these camps, the young people formed close bonds with one another, developing new relationships in the barracks. The majority of “unworthy” children during the Holocaust were sent directly to death camps, such as Sobibor and Belzec, where they were gassed. Two death camps, Auschwitz and Majdanek had a selection critera, where they would choose the fittest children for slave labour, and send babies, small children and mothers to gas chambers. However, near the conclusion of the war many children were thrown into the ovens or in burning pits to “cut costs”. Lucie Adelsberger was a Jewish physician who was forced to work at Auschwitz Birkenau. She described the children as “a mere bag of bones, without muscles or fat, and the thin skin like pergament scrubbed through and through beyond the hard bones of the skeleton and ignited itself to ulcerated wounds. Abscesses covered the underfed body from the top to the bottom and thus deprived it from the last rest of energy. The mouth was deeply gnawed by noma-abscesses, hollowed out the jaw and perforated the cheeks like cancer”.

 In death camps and concentration camps many appalling medical experiments were carried out on children, which usually killed these children. Dr. Josef Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death” was the man who led charge of these medical experiments. Jewish children, Gypsy children and other children were tortured and suffered immensely. Some of these experiments included placing patients into pressure chambers to test how they would fare at high altitudes, burning patients to test how they would respond to incendiary bombs, freezing them in ice water for three hours, depriving patients of all food and only giving them seawater to drink, infecting patients with mosquito venom and then using various drugs upon them to test how they respond to malaria, intentionally wounding them with mustard gas, infecting wounds with bacteria such as wood shavings and streptococcus, infecting patients with the spotted fever virus (typhus) and injecting them with poison to test the effect of different types of poisons on humans. Dr. Josef Mengele also conducted numerous experiments on child twins, as young as five or six years. He would inject twins with numerous chemicals, including dripping chemicals into the eyes to try and change their colour. He would then kill these twins by inserting chloroform into their hearts so he could dissect their bodies. As well as these experiments, Mengele would carry out murderous policies. For example, he once drew a line on the wall of the children’s block about 156 cm from the floor and sent those children who could not reach the line to the gas chambers. The story of Eva and Miriam Moses (born 1934), two child identical twins who survived Mengele’s horrific experiments during the Holocaust, is a remarkable one. At ten years old in 1944 the girls were deported to Auschwitz. Eva recalls that the first time she went to use the bathroom at the children’s barracks she saw the corpses of several children laying across the ground. Both girls endured various medical atrocities. Eva remembers how a set of Gypsy twins were brought back from Mengele’s lab after they were sewn back to back. Mengele tried to create Siamese twins by connecting their blood vessels and organs. They screamed day and night until after three days they died. Once the camps were liberated Eva and Miriam moved to Israel in 1950.

Children at the concentration camp Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers suffered terribly. It is estimated that there were 232 thousand children up to eighteen years of age at Auschwitz, which included 216 thousand Jews, 11 thousand Gypsies, three thousands Poles, one thousand Byelorussians, Russians, Ukrainians and others. Children born within the camp were killed immediately, without even being written up in the records. In mid 1943 non-Jewish children born were allowed to live. At the end of 1943 separate barracks were created for children above 2 years, which did not differ from the adult’s barracks. Substantial food rations or milk were not given to infants at Auschwitz, causing them to starve to death. Children who were in the camp hospital received slightly better treatment, as the prisoner medical staff tried to find them blankets, food, clothing and medicine. At Auschwitz many children were the sufferers of many medical experiments, as Josef Mengele worked here. Mengele created a kindergarten for all children that were part of medical experiments. This kindergarten had better food and living conditions than all other parts of the camp and also had a playground. Mengele would present himself as “Uncle Mengele” to the children, and provide them with sweets. A former Auschwitz prisoner doctor said of Mengele: “He was capable of being so kind to the children, to have them become fond of him, to bring them sugar, to think of small details in their daily lives, and to do things we would genuinely admire…And then, next to that, ….the crematoria smoke, and these children, tomorrow or in a half-hour, he is going to send them there. Well, that is where the anomaly lay.” As described above, Mengele would carry out experiments that involved unnecessary amputation, blood transfusion, dissection of twins and injecting children with various substances. The majority of children involved in experiments were killed or sent to gas chambers directly after. Few children at Auschwitz survived till liberation. Records state that approximately 700 children were in the camp when the Soviet soldiers arrived, and over half of these children were Jewish. These liberated children were mostly taken to hospitals set up by the Soviets and Polish Red Cross on the campgrounds. Doctors found that most of the children were battling life-threatening diseases from the camp. Sixty percent of the children had vitamin deficiency and overall weakening, forty percent had tuberculosis, and all the children were underweight by five to seventeen kilograms.

The causes of death of the targeted Jewish and non-Jewish children in the Holocaust can be categorized into five different groups. The first group involved those children who were killed immediately upon arrival in death camps; the second were those who were killed immediately after they were born within the camps; children who died in the ghettos; children usually over the age of twelve who were used as labourers in camps or for medical experiments; and those children who were killed in reprisal operations. In ghettos, children died from starvation, exposure and unsuitable clothing and shelter. The German authorities were unconcerned about these deaths, as they believed all the younger ghetto children were unproductive and labeled them as “useless eaters”. From 1942 onwards the ghettos were closed down and inhabitants were taken to numerous death camps or concentration camps. As many children were too young to do labour, they were immediately gassed or taken to mass graves to be shot along with the elderly, ill and disabled. Older children who were taken in to do forced labour were worked to death, and when they became “useless” were taken to gas chambers where they were exterminated.

Many targeted children found ways to survive during the Holocaust, despite their vulnerability. In ghettos children were able to smuggle in foods, medicines and clothing under the noses of the Nazis, due to their small size. They would trade their personal possessions for these supplies. Children in youth movements took part in underground resistance activities, which allowed them to survive. Others escaped with parents or relatives to go in hiding, or often went into hiding on their own until the war was over. Many children were “adopted” into families and had to forget their religion to avoid discovery. In Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in France, almost the whole Protestant population and many Catholics hid Jewish children in the town from 1942 to 1944. The Kindertransport rescue effort, discussed above, was also key in allowing Jewish children to survive in Britain, away from Nazi Germany and other Nazi occupied areas. After the war ended in 1945 many parents searched Europe for their missing children. There were thousands of orphans who were put in displaced persons camps. Other surviving Jewish Children left Eastern Europe for the State of Israel after its establishment in 1948.

After the war, there were thousands of children who had been separated from their parents during the Holocaust in camps or in hiding. Refugees and displaced persons in Europe searched far and wide for their missing children. The majority of the time the search made for family members ended in despair, as parents discovered their children were killed, and children discovered that they no longer had any family left. Many children who were put into hiding as infants had no memory of their parents or religion, having only known their foster family their whole life. Therefore, when relatives found them they became anxious and were unwilling to go with them. For these children, Jewishness symbolized oppression, while Christianity was representative of safety. Most children loved their foster families and didn’t want to be taken away by a stranger. In many circumstances they had to be physically forced away from their foster families. Some rescuers didn’t want to give back the children to their families, having grown too attached to them, or wanting money as a reward. Court cases were held to see who could have the custody of the child. The future of thousands of orphaned Jewish children came to be a big issue. In the Netherlands half of the 6000 surviving Jewish children were orphans, who ended up living with a surviving relative, a Jewish organisation, or given to non-Jewish families. The children who were reunited with their families didn’t return to their former homes, afraid of anti-Semitism, and migrated to other nations such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, Mexico, South America and South Africa. When the State of Israel was established in May 1948, 170 000 Jews immigrated there. After the war children began to describe their survival stories to document them for future generations and preserve their past.

The Holocaust was something that made children grow up too fast. They were forced into a world of conflicts too big for them to understand, a world of horrors too terrible for them to comprehend, and a world of suffering too scary for them to grasp. Due to this, they had no choice but to grow up. There were many ways in which children were affected by the Holocaust. Throughout this essay I have discussed how children were affected at the beginning of the Holocaust when the Nazis began to isolate Jews from the rest of society; the Hitler Youth movement that aimed to teach German children Hitler’s values; Kindertransport, a rescue effort for Jewish children; Lebensborn, a project which sought to expand the Aryan race; how children who were targets of the Nazis went into hiding; children in ghettos; children in concentration camps and death camps; medical experiments performed on children at camps; children at Auschwitz, the largest Nazi camp; the causes of children’s death during the Holocaust; how children who were targeted managed to survive; and also how these children fared after the Holocaust was over. It is horrendous that children had to undergo something that should’ve never been a part of human history, but it is something that we, the present generation must remember. No matter how disturbing the stories of these Holocaust children may be, it is important that we honour their deaths and be informed, to ensure that no event such as the Holocaust may ever happen again in history. These 1.5 million children who were murdered and the children who survived in the Holocaust still live on, not just in history books, but in the lives of others. Their deaths have reminded us humans to stand together as one, and not against one another. These children are etched into our memories and it is for them that we must ensure that our world can eventually live one day in an era without destruction and chaos, an era where there is finally peace. The children of the Holocaust were uncut diamonds that were cut too soon, and it is our duty to not let these diamonds lose their shine. Like Shimon Peres, President of Israel said, “Six million of our people live on in our hearts. We are their eyes that remember. We are their voice that cries out. The dreadful scenes flow their dead eyes to our open eyes. And those scenes will be remembered exactly as they happened.”

Madeleine Fenn essay 2015

Children During the Holocaust by Madeleine Fenn 

Today in a first world country like New Zealand, the majority of children lead peaceful lives and grow into capable adults. Therefore, it is difficult to consider that only around 70 years ago, millions of young people were affected by the largest recorded genocide in human history: the Holocaust. The Nazi party, helmed by Adolf Hitler, were proponents of violent and unjust Anti-Semitism and cruelty to other minority groups living in the Greater German Reich at the time, persecuting people based on race, nationality, religion and often physical appearance.

Historically speaking in times of unrest, children, as the innocents, are spared from death. During the Holocaust however, this was quite the opposite. Children were considered unnecessary eaters as they could not be put to forced labour. They were also targeted because the Holocaust was primarily focussed on the extermination of ‘unwanted’ races, beginning at an early age in order to eradicate the next generation. By the end of WWII, around 1.5 million children lay dead at the feet of Nazi ideology. Jewish children made up over 1 million figures in this appalling statistic, along with tens of thousands of Gipsy, disabled, and Polish children also perishing. To put this in perspective, New Zealand is a country of currently around 4 million citizens- the child death toll in the Holocaust was nearly 40% of our current population. That is 1.5 million children who were denied the right to a future, denied the right to growing up, and also denied their own childhood.

Although they were all killed as a result of the Holocaust, these children were the subjects of many forms of fatal persecution during this time. Numerous children were forced into literal hiding spaces with miserable conditions, and suffered from malnourishment and disease, which was often eventually fatal. Jewish children were also rounded up and taken to killing camps where youth were the first to die. It is believed the majority of child deaths took place in concentration camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau where death took the form of mass shootings, gassing and starvation. Certain children deported to concentration camps were also the victims of gruesome, sickening medical experiments carried out far beyond ethical acceptability. Some died as a result of grotesque experimentation and some were intentionally killed to hide the evidence. By the time the concentration camps were liquidated, only a few thousand children were left alive.

Outside of the concentration camps, far more children survived the Holocaust. Despite the immense penalty for harbouring and hiding Jews and other targeted individuals, many people spared innocent children’s lives by sheltering and hiding them either in their own homes or in secret locations. Children also hid under the masks of other religions in monasteries and nunneries. Perhaps the most famous effort for child protection during the Holocaust was the Kindertransport. Nine months before the outbreak of WWII, several rescue efforts were undertaken to smuggle Jewish child refugees from places in the grasp of the Nazis to be taken in by families in Great Britain. Jewish organisations working from inside the Greater German Reich co-operated with individuals in Britain to find suitable homes for the children. The secrecy of an immense transport project like the Kindertransport relied on the courage and compassion of many people who ultimately saved the lives of nearly 10,000 innocent children. Although the horrific mass child death rates of the Holocaust are a shameful blemish on humanity’s history, out of these perilous times also comes affirmations of the resilience and bravery of the human spirit in the stories of child survivors and their rescuers.

In modern New Zealand we live in a world very different from that of the Holocaust; most New Zealand children are so far removed from a world like this that is impossible to fathom what life would’ve been like for children who lost their homes, their families, and some, their future. In the world we live in now, it is far too easy to forget the 1.5 million innocents who suffered the ultimate injustice at the hands of a world they hadn’t even begun to understand and now never will. It is true that we cannot ever return to them their stolen future. And maybe all we can do is remember, and appreciate our own futures. Yet maybe this is enough. If we’re a generation that respects past loss and values life, we can also prevent such horrors from ever being inflicted on the children of the future – there is no commemoration that is more essentially respectful than this. 

Emma White essay 2015

The Children of the Holocaust by Emma White

The texts The Diary of Anne Frank and The Boy in Striped Pajamas both speak to the audience about the truly horrifying events that took place throughout The Holocaust. These works both convey their ideas through the eyes of children, and how many were not only forced to grow up in a short amount of time, but many still didn’t fully understand the true terror of what was happening around them. Through the eyes of Holocaust Children, we are provided with a very raw and simple outlook on the discrimination and torture that took place in Europe during WWII.

Firstly, The Diary of Anne Frank gives a true and relatable insight into the thoughts and lives of children during the Holocaust. Her diary recounts not only the procedures her family went through (for example when her and her family were forced into hiding), but her own teenage feelings as well. Many children were forced to grow up quickly and lose their sense of childhoood, but throughout The Diary of Anne Frank we see that many children still looked upon things with open hearts and innocent minds, for example when Anne said “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”This showed how amazing it was that someone who had seen such terrible things and witnessed unspeakable discrimination could still look upon life and understand it in a very mature manner. In a way, Anne was forced to grow up, but she still had a child’s innocent outlook on her life, which only deepened her knowledge of mankind, and human nature. Her diary provides an accurate and relatable look into the Holocaust. Anne was, and remains, one of the true heroines of our time, as her spirit and humanity is brought to life through the pages of her diary. It reminds us that it was real people, with real hearts and real minds who were affected by the Holocaust. I find that when a mass-slaughter occurs in a time or place separate to us, such as the Holocaust, although we empathise with the victims, we often subconciously subject them to little more than statistics or numbers. This in turn takes away the true horrible reality of what took place in the years of 1939-1945. This is why books such as The Diary of Anne Frank are vital to our understanding of the matter, because they enable us to truly realise the danger of categorisation, and the struggle of the individual. Through Anne’s words, I became aware that everyone who was affected by the Holocaust was a real person, with family and friends and feelings.

The Boy in Striped Pajamas was another important book that showed the audience how children during the Holocaust differed from adults during the Holocaust. It is evident that children are often less prejudiced than those around them, because they are too young to fully understand hate and the evil in this world. This is shown through the son of a Nazi, Bruno, and a young Jewish boy named Shmuel, who is imprisoned in Auschwitz. The novel outlines the reationship between the two, and contrasts the priviledged life Bruno leads compared to the brutal punishment Shmeul recieves daily. The Boy in Striped Pajamas showed an insight into what happened in the final moments of a concentration camp prisoner’s life, as no survivor has ever experienced this truly. We see this when, at the end of the novel Bruno and Shmeul both end up inside the camp, and die in the gas chambers. The thing that struck me about this scene was the realisation that these were just two children in over a million that died at the hands of the Nazi’s, which had the same effect on me as The Diary of Anne Frank did. Lastly The Boy in Striped Pajamas showed the ignorance of many young Germans dring WWII. Children are impressionable and tend to believe what they are told easily, which is why many blindly believed that the Jewish people were the enemy, but they could not understand why this was. This is shown through a quote from Bruno to Shmeul “Why are there so many people on that side of the fence, and what are you all doing there?” Bruno knew that he was supposed to hate Shmeul, for the simple reason that he was a Jew, but he didn’t actually know why.

The Diary of Anne Frank and The Boy in Striped Pajamas both teach us about the brutality of the holocaust through untainted, childish eyes. Whilst the diary conveys Anne’s account through a maturing thought process, The Boy in Striped Pajamas remains true to the understanding of the holocaust through immature youthful eyes. Both texts taught me how something as cruel as the Holocaust did not spare its hateful rampage for children, and the destructiveness that was a result of this.


Upcoming events

No upcoming event!

Get Directions to the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand is located at the Wellington Jewish Community Centre,

80 Webb Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011.

Open Sunday - Friday 10am - 1pm, and outside these hours by special arrangement.

Get in Touch

phone iconPhone us: +64 4 801 9480

email icon Email us: info@holocaustcentre.org.nz

facebookiconFind us on Facebook

Join our Events mailing list

A Member of AHO

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand is a member of the Association of Holocaust Organizations - an International Network for the Advancement of Holocaust Education, Remembrance & Research

A Registered Charity

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand is a registered charitable entity and donations are tax deductible. Charity registration number CC48551.