At the Mercy of Strangers emphasizes the difficulty of hiding Jewish children in Poland, when not only did the rescuer have the Nazis to fear, with their threat of summarily executing anyone saving a Jew, but also other Poles, who were happy to be rid of the Jews and to appropriate their possessions. When money was charged by a rescuer, it was just as often to buy the extras to feed their hidden guests, as it was for profit — but both figured in. To hide a Jewish child was a heroic act, and these families were usually involved in aiding other Jews — but no institutions were more forthcoming than the convents. Jews awakened to the possibility of placing children in convents only at a late stage, when the liquidation of the ghettos was well underway. Usually, Christian mediators were the parents’ paths to placing their children. Unlike theWestern occupied countries where the Nazis respected the convents and kept out of them, in Poland they had no such scruples. In some cases, the convents were ordered by their clerical superiors to rescue the children, but in most cases a child was dropped off at the convent. The convents brought a measure of peace and security to the children despite their mixed feelings of loyalty to their own religion. Even when the nuns did not know which child was Jewish, despite all attempts to disguise them, Jewish children always recognized one another. After the liberation, children would wander on the streets and found shelter in various Jewish “Homes” and organizations, such as the Lublin Home. The Central Jewish Committee and other Jewish organizations were formed and eventually took over the repatriation of Jewish children to the Jewish community, either to Palestine or to relatives. Probably no other Jewish community in Europe was as determined to return Jewish children to the Jewish community as were the Jews of Poland. Many children recoiled at their Jewish identity and did not want to be parted from their rescuers. Bibliography, index, sources.
At the Mercy of Strangers: The Rescue of Jewish Children With Assumed Identities in Poland
Marcia W. Posner, Ph.D., of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, is the library and program director. An author and playwright herself, she loves reviewing for JBW and reading all the other reviews and articles in this marvelous periodical.
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