New online lesson about the fate of children in Auschwitz
‘Children at Auschwitz’ is a new online lesson created by the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. Its author is Helena Kubica.
'Children are always the most tragic victims of armed conflicts. Children died both in the wake of direct military action and in mass executions, during resettlements and pacifications, in prisons and in various camps set up by the German occupier, which were also the most convenient places of extermination. Auschwitz, as both a concentration and mass extermination camp, played a particular role among the latter,' says the introduction.
'Children and youth were deported to KL Auschwitz for a variety of reasons: Jewish – as part of the campaign of total obliteration of the Jewish people; Roma – as part of isolation and destruction of the Romani people; Polish – as part of the repression of Polish youth for their cooperation with, or participation in, the resistance; as part of the deportation of entire families from the Zamość Region (Polish Zamojszczyzna) and insurgent Warsaw to the camps; for “crimes” against the military economy of the Third Reich, which included escaping from forced labour or smuggling food; Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian – in retaliation for the activities of guerrilla troops in those territories. Several hundred children of both sexes, born to women of different nationalities who were pregnant on entering the camp, were registered as prisoners,' writes Helena Kubica.
The lesson is divided into several chapters, in which the author describes the fate of successive groups of children deported and imprisoned in the camp. Apart from that, one can read about the life and work of prisoner-children in the camp, children - victims of criminal medical experiments, evacuation of the camp and children liberated in Auschwitz.
Using only estimates based on the examination of the existing incomplete documentation, it can only be acknowledged that there were around 232,000 children aged under 15 and youth aged under 18 among the at least 1.3 million people deported to the German Nazi Auschwitz camp during the almost 5-year period of its operation. This number includes around 216,000 children and youth of Jewish origin, 11,000 Roma and Sinti, at least 3000 Polish, and over 1000 Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian and other children and youth. The number of children registered as prisoners in the first years of operation of Auschwitz was low, but it steadily increased to reach a maximum in the latter half of 1944.
‘Of the hundreds of thousands of children deported to Auschwitz, only a few were granted survival, and only a few hundred lived to see the liberation. Survivors carried a terrible burden: ruined health, inability to learn, work or just live, combined with the images of bestiality and horror, hunger and smoking crematoria that have haunted them, in their dreams. Even if these memories were not recorded into their consciousness, the camp laid heavily on their whole lives. Many of them, bereft of identity, family, physical and mental health, and peace, were “suspended in the void, seeking their place on earth in vain”,’ writes Helena Kubica in the summary of the lesson.
All our online lessons are available at lesson.auschwitz.org.
Helena Kubica worked in the Research Center of the Museum between 1977-2018. Today she is retired. Her research topics include the fate and history of children in the German Nazi Auschwitz camp, the pseudo-medical experiments of Josef Mengele, and the displacement of the Polish population from Warsaw and the Zamość region.