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1. Index Number : P.IV.d. No. 866.

2. Title of Document : About Children who Survived the Concentration Camp.

3. Date : 1945 - 1948.

4. Number of pages : 8.

Language : German.

5. Author or Source : Elisabeth Zadek, London.

6. Recorded by : as above, 1948.

7. Received : April 1958.

8. Form and Contents : A report on rescue work on 16 - 18 children of all nationalities who survived concentration camps in Europe. They arrived in England in 1945. Their age was between 3 and 7 years. They were first taken to a reception station in Windermere. Description of their pathetic physical and mental condition. They were cared for by Alice Goldberger, social worker from Berlin. Her wonderful work for children in the interment camp on the Isle of Man became known to Anna Freud who achieved her release, and with whom she has been working since. After 3 months in Windermere, the children were taken to Lingfield House near London, and Alice Goldberger was put in full charge of them. In the course of time this old manor house has become the home of the children, whose gradual recovery and careful guidance into normal life is described in the document.

About Children who Survived the Concentration Camp

It might be interesting, not only for human interest but also for psychological and pedagogical reasons, to have a detailed report about the lives of sixteen to eighteen young children who came to England from the European concentration camps in 1945. They arrived in different transports, mainly of adolescents. Most of these little ones came with the first group of 300 children and their first home was the ‘nursery’ of the big reception camp in Windermere. Most were between three and five years old, with a few between six and seven. They were miserable little creatures, all of them well below the normal size for their age, and they were extremely irritable. The heads of many of them were shaven and covered with rashes, and they suffered from all kinds of skin diseases. At first, the children’s house sounded like a zoo, with screaming day and night.

Although there was one nurse for every two or three children, that was not nearly enough. Each child wanted the undivided love and care of one person for him- or herself. Although there were plenty of toys, the children would grab whatever another child was holding. An adult who had been busy with these children for about five hours would be completely exhausted for the rest of the day. There was no indication that – even with the utmost patience – it could be possible in a few years for these little animal creatures to react like human beings when approached.

It was Alice Goldberger – the children simply call her Alice – who devoted herself to their problems, just as she had previously to other tasks. She had been well known in Germany as a fully trained social worker, running the Jewish crèche in the Grolmannstrasse in Berlin.

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The well-ordered life of the toddlers, with sleep, personal hygiene, food, play and almost full-time outdoor activities in those wonderful summer weeks, worked wonders. Not only did the children look different physically, one could sense that they were calming down; they gradually became more confident that the next day they would not be robbed of what they had been given the day before.

After about three months in the large general reception camp (which despite the psychological drawbacks had the positive effect of careful daily medical supervision) the decision was made to move Alice Goldberger and her little ones, together with most of her staff, into a home of their own, in a lovely rural area near London, Lingfield in Surrey. This home has proved to be their real ‘Zuhause’ [home] for the past two years and Alice has turned out to be the woman who ‘loves them like a mother but is not their mother’ (Alice’s words) when the children ask her whether she has now become their mother.

They love every single day they spend in this home. A little girl said: ‘I don’t like supper, because then we soon have to go to bed. I like breakfast best because it’s the beginning of a whole new day.’ It is a fairytale home, almost too beautiful and therefore almost unreal for an adult who takes a lively interest in what is gong on in our world, in the problems of our era now coming to an end. A large, long, two-storey manor house, in the middle of a huge hilly park, with wide lawns, great stands of trees, flowerbeds and orchards, and a swimming pool reserved for the children provided by an old Jewish ‘Sir’. The furnishings are simple and appropriate: on the ground floor a very big playroom with a grand piano and glass doors opening onto the garden; next to it the dining room, with lots of tables covered with oilcloth and light and cheerful colours and flowers everywhere. One the first floor there are bedrooms with colourful blankets (each

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child has their own small wardrobe), three bathrooms, lots of side rooms and pleasant rooms for the staff. This house provides for a few years an ideal setting for convalescence, tranquillity and seclusion. Here the children find peace, and from here they become acquainted with English children of their own age, and the older ones go to school.

Now when you visit Lingfield House you meet healthy-looking, beaming children, spontaneous and at ease in their responses, who feel they are loved and understood, who play imaginatively and like to help in the kitchen and around the house. Those who go to school are almost all good pupils. The all feel they are one family. This is best illustrated by the following little story. A few days ago a six-year-old boy was visited by one of the financial sponsors of the home and was given a balloon, which made him extremely happy. Then he was told that he could now have something bigger, and he asked for a balloon for each child at the home.

This is what you can see on the outside. However, it is not just a superficial picture, but a real insight.

There is no doubt that the children lead the real lives of children, that they have become children again. But there is no doubt either that they live with the horrors of their past, both consciously and unconsciously. It was the family atmosphere at Lingfield which gradually encouraged them to talk. One evening, while she was having a bath, a little girl of about seven suddenly spoke about how her mother was shot in front of her, and how she was horrified when she saw her lying there dead and her little brother being taken out of his pram. She ended by saying: ‘Now we don’t want to speak about Mutti [Mummy] any more.’ This girl, who from the start seemed the most disturbed, had unfortunately to be taken to a home for mentally disturbed children [for] she could not stay with the other children. It was she who, on the first evening in Windermere, had wandered through the house screaming ‘Don’t take my little brother away. You won’t take my little brother, will you?’ She was always on the watch for cats and dogs, or something

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else that might frighten her. As she was very graceful and responsive to music, and sometimes even started to dance, it had been hoped at first that this would lead her to normality so that she would be able to stay in Lingfield.

A nine-year-old boy who – as was known – had been hidden before being taken to the concentration camp often talks about death, killing, maltreatment, but sometimes only as if it were an interesting adventure. Only recently did one of the older boys tell how he had been systematically maltreated by the Nazis to make him betray the hiding-place of his elder brother. But this little lad, then not yet seven years old, had not given his brother away despite the ill-treatment. When he came to Lingfield, very pale and thin, he fell ill almost immediately, suffering seizures in which he tore his clothes from his body. Now he is physically fit, sings beautifully, and demonstrates strength of character, as well as kindness (eg towards younger children) and a longing for excitement.

Dennie was about four years old when he came to Windermere; now he is six, a frail, strange child with fair curls and dark, distant eyes. He is extremely sensitive, cannot bear any noise and is physically under-developed. He often speaks about God: ‘Where is God? Is God a “He” or a “She”? Is He “up in the sky” or “below ground”? Such are his questions. When he received a toy telephone for his birthday he said: ‘I was lucky that I was not killed when I was a baby, wasn’t I? Otherwise I would never have got the telephone.’ He asked his nurse: ‘Do you know that my parents were shot dead?’ And then, ‘When I am grown up I’ll marry Tanja [his sister] and we’ll live in a small house, because we don’t like many people around.’  On another occasion, while having his bath, he urged his nurse to have a baby: ‘You must have a baby, for there is a baby that wants to be born.’ He is commended at school for his achievements but still says, with the suffering face of an old man, ‘My head is often completely empty, you know.’

Tanja, his sister, is three years older and gives the impression of a clumsy and also mentally extremely inflexible child. She does not

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get on well at school and loves smaller children especially because to those she is superior. But she has one special talent: she dances beautifully. When dancing she is completely changed, she is a free little being. Every evening a group of children sing, forming a circle round Tanja who dances in the middle. This evening dance makes her calm and relaxed for half an hour and gains her the respect of the others. Only once did she talk about her parental home. Everything there had been bigger and much more beautiful than in Lingfield: ‘the garden, the house, just everything!’ She also talked about a sweet baby with curly hair that they had had (certainly Dennie): ‘much, much nicer that Dennie’. She needed much more exclusive attention, more love and empathy, than the home could give her since there were fifteen children.

A ten-year-old girl came to Lingfield with her little three-year-old sister (a brother who was between them in age had died). When she arrived she resembled an old woman in posture and outward appearance; she was completely covered in a rash which she had caught from another girl in the camp. She had not wanted to hurt the other girl’s feelings, so she had stayed with her. She was very desperate because of her poor condition and at first she was very shy and continually depressed. Later she told how one night she had dreamt distinctly of her mother’s death and how her mother had asked her to look after her younger brother and sister. Afterwards she had learnt that that had been the very night when her mother died. She says: ‘Still, I can’t hate the Germans’, and on another occasion she said: ‘I believe that all religion is love.’

These few examples may suffice to show the reader to what extent these young orphans, much more than other children, are faced with the great and eternal questions of mankind, and how their souls really cannot cope with them. For all of them ‘death’ is something real and concrete. They have been continually surrounded by it. They simply do not understand that someone can die without being killed by another person. When a child in another

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home was hit by a car and died they immediately suspected one of his friends had murdered him. They all talked excitedly about that event, which haunted them for weeks.

It is incomprehensible why from all the countless children who were killed just these survived. It is known that one mother said before she was taken away that her little girls, who were about the same size, were twins – because these were at first saved for medical experiments. In some cases neither the real names nor any dates are known. A little girl explained with a beaming smile that Alice had declared a certain day to be her birthday, and now she too could have a lovely birthday party, just like the others.

The children’s physical state of health is – as already mentioned – generally good. Their food is simple and nourishing, they get plenty of vegetables and fruit grown in the garden. At first they could not be persuaded to eat lettuce. ‘We don’t like it, we’ve scoffed enough grass in the camp’ they said. There are children of many different nations: Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Germany, Austria, Poland. Their common language now is English, which they have learnt extremely quickly, just like a game, and which they speak at school.

 At present there are no definite ideas about their future. Most of the children need the warmth and feeling of togetherness of a close family circle, and there are enough people who would be ready to adopt them. But so far only a few adoptions have been permitted, in cases where there was no doubt that the prospective ‘parents’ were really prepared and sensitive enough to accept such a child with all their problems, which might not yet be foreseeable. Among others there are a doctor, who is a child psychologist, and a kindergarten teacher, trained in psychology, both of whom are fully aware of the great task and responsibility they face, and they have adopted one child each. One child is a very charming but very nervous little boy, the other a five-year-old girl who is a simple character who had at first been considered to be mentally retarded

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and had been taken to a Child Guidance Clinic for a period of observation. There they discovered that it was only a setback in her development which she is gradually overcoming. She is definitely not what you would call an attractive child, but she is lovable and needs a lot of affection. An operation to cure her squint has helped considerably to promote her development. I must say, it is very unusual in a case like this that there is someone willing to do everything for the girl and is happy with this child and the progress she is making.

It seems to be time now to make the children more familiar with real life, to end their rural isolation. And so the home is planning to move to London in the near future, and they hope to find a simple house and garden somewhere on the outskirts. There they will be able to do even more than in Lingfield to meet the children’s needs: some need continuing contact with experienced child psychologists, others need better schools which will meet their individual needs to a greater extent, and others again could do with more varied lessons in accordance with their special talents. Perhaps there will be more adoptions in time. But a small nucleus of children who cannot be transplanted will stay and form a kind of natural family. Alice Goldberger will go on guiding their education in the most caring and attentive way until they start work or go on to vocational training.

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