Divid­ing Hearts: The Removal of Jew­ish Chil­dren from Gen­tile Fam­i­lies in Poland in the Imme­di­ate Post Holo­caust Years

Emu­nah Nach­many Gafny
  • Review
By – October 5, 2011

The top­ic of Divid­ing Hearts is the sep­a­ra­tion trau­ma suf­fered by many hid­den chil­dren who were hasti­ly, often clum­si­ly removed from the Pol­ish Gen­tiles who had become sur­ro­gate par­ents, peo­ple who had will­ing­ly accept­ed the dan­gers placed upon them to pro­tect their lit­tle charges. Con­di­tions were dif­fer­ent for each child. Some­times they were absorbed open­ly into the fam­i­ly, but oth­er times they had to remain hid­den— even from oth­er mem­bers of the fam­i­ly. In the fam­i­lies where they were absorbed and con­tributed to the wel­fare of the fam­i­ly, as in rur­al fam­i­lies, the part­ing was espe­cial­ly painful. Pol­ish Jew­ish sol­diers in the Russ­ian army searched for Jew­ish chil­dren in what­ev­er town they reached. Some­times, sur­viv­ing par­ents or rel­a­tives who knew where their chil­dren were, returned and claimed them. Oth­ers remained in the neigh­bor­hood and tried to con­tact the child again and again or to get res­cuers in the form of the Red army, or the NKVD — the Sovi­et Secret Police — to obtain the child for return to a fam­i­ly mem­ber. Many of the Jew­ish chil­dren who spent the war years in Pol­ish Chris­t­ian homes were now anti-Semit­ic and could not iden­ti­fy with a Jew­ish envi­ron­ment. The Con­clu­sion and Appen­dices are extreme­ly help­ful in fur­ther clar­i­fy­ing an often mud­dled situation.

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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