Escaping the Nazis

German Jewish refugee children arriving in Harwich, England, December 2, 1938.

German Jewish refugee children arriving in
Harwich, England, December 2, 1938.

Courtesy of the United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum
.
Youth aliya participants pose in front of the Horev boarding school in Palestine.

Youth aliya participants pose in front of the Horev
boarding school in Palestine.

Courtesy of the United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum
.
Identification card for Henry Birnbrey, a Jewish German Refugee child who came to the United States as party of the One Thousand Children program.

Identification card for
Henry Birnbrey, a Jewish
German refugee child who
came to the United States as
part of the One Thousand
Children program.

When Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, state-sanctioned violence directed at Jews became commonplace. The result was that thousands of German Jews fled Germany during the first few months of the new regime. The numbers of Jewish refugees increased each year as German antisemitic legislation became harsher and as more of Europe fell under Nazi control. However, once World War II began on September 1, 1939, it became increasingly difficult for Jews to find sanctuary in Europe. Going into hiding or leaving the continent altogether became the best options for survival.

While the majority of German Jewish children who fled Europe were accompanied by a parent, there were other cases in which they were alone. For example, Sonnert and Horton state that between 25,000 and 30,000 German Jewish children under the age of sixteen came to the United States between 1933 and 1945 (these figures include those from Austria). Of these children, about 1,100 were classified as unaccompanied minors. Although some unaccompanied minors travelled with siblings, most were by themselves. Because of the difficulties involved in immigrating, many parents applied for visas for their children before themselves to ensure that their offspring would escape. This section will discuss three programs in which unaccompanied German Jewish minors immigrated to other countries: the Kindertransport (Great Britain), One Thousand Children (the United States), and Youth Aliya (British Mandate Palestine).

Works Cited

Sonnert, Gerhard and Holton, Gerald. What Happened to the Children Who Fled Nazi Persecution? New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.