On the premise that the nearly universal “wave” resembles the Nazi salute, which was forbidden to Jews, Jewish children sent away by their parents (often never to see them again) were enjoined not to wave to them. Don’t Wave Goodbye chronicles the rescue efforts of One Thousand Children, the organization whose archives form much of the source material for this unusual book.
As early as 1934, and extending to 1945, American Jews, initially through the American Jewish Congress, then the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith, began bringing European Jewish children to the United States. In the introduction, Judith Tydor Baumel, of Bar-Ilan University, details the bureaucracy — American law insisted on Jewish foster homes for the children — isolationism and prejudice abounding in the US, which restricted the immigration.
The youngsters were 14 months to 16 years old. In the jittery Depression atmosphere in 1934, the sponsoring groups could not even suggest that 17-year-olds, a threat to the labor market, should be included.
There are stories of 34 individuals, 14 girls and 20 boys. Their earliest memories are somewhat evenly told, and are similar in describing the cautionary protectiveness of their German-Jewish parents, sharpened by Kristallnacht.
In memoirs, diaries, and letters from parents, we feel the children’s household, school and language struggles, adjusting to the US world, rural and city. Halfway through the book, the reader’s psyche is punched by an aged woman’s recollection of an episode of depersonalization (feeling detached, as if you are an outside observer of yourself, while other aspects of reality continue to exist), when she was pressured to decide for herself to leave her family. For 60 years, she had never spoken of the aberrant image, and still wonders that her mind has never been able to recast it into a less traumatic memory.
Another entry, this one by Bill Graham, the rock impresario, describes how with an unfortunate childhood and undoubtedly visible burrs in his demeanor he languished for nine weeks in an army barracks in Pleasantville, NY. Others were chosen immediately. At this point his memory sharpens. His is a different American success story within this group.
Also of note are some sidelights on the British Kindertransport, which rescued 10,000 youngsters. Dr. Baumel ends her analysis with a cautionary “what would happen today” if Jewish children were again so threatened.
Adolescents through early college age are targeted readers of these first-person recollections. Apparently, nothing has been written about this children’s rescue operation. Researchers and general readers certainly will find it absorbing and useful, despite the absence of an index. Acknowledgements, introduction, preface, 20 b/w illustrations.