Keynote Address at the First Reunion of the One Thousand Children
By Dr. Judith Baumel, Ph.D.

© Judith Baumel 2002. All Rights Reserved

The world we live in can be a terrible place. It does not take a historian to note that the history of humanity is usually not characterized by attributes such as kindness, benevolence, tolerance, and humility. Yet many of the people here today are alive just because of those attributes, and due to individuals and organizational activists – both Jewish and Gentile — which may not have chosen these terms as their motto, but nevertheless lived by them. People who took part in one of the lesser known but nevertheless significant rescue efforts of the Holocaust period: the rescue of approximately 1000 unaccompanied refugee children from Nazism to the United States during the Hitler era.

Let me start with my “calling cardâ€?. I am not “justâ€? a historian researching an interesting topic. I did not decide to study the rescue and resettlement of Jewish children – and let me already clarify – Jewish by Nazi definition, which includes what rescue organizations termed “non-Aryan Christiansâ€?, in the United States during the Holocaust, as a purely historical topic of academic interest. I was raised as the youngest child in a family with two older siblings who had been rescued through this operation during the 1940’s. Born almost a decade and a half after the war’s end, I grew up knowing that — unlike millions of Jewish children who lost their lives under the Nazis — my brother and sister survived due to a four-country, trans-continental odyssey, and — as it has so well been termed by others — “the kindness of strangersâ€?. When I chose history as a profession, I knew that one of my first historical studies would be of the circumstances surrounding their rescue, in order to better understand not only where they came from, and how they got here, but who they are today.

For the next half hour I would like to take you back over half a century, and describe how a group of dedicated individuals, and later organizations, rose to the threat of Nazism, faced American immigration laws and child-settlement bureaucratic limitations, and took upon themselves the challenge of saving hundreds of children from discrimination and possible death.

The Beginning of the Child Refugee Scheme:
Our story begins in the Spring of 1933, only weeks after Hitler came to power, when the particularly touching plight of Jewish children in Nazi Germany moved several American Jewish organizations to suggest various means of assistance. In the middle of that year, the executive committee of the American Jewish Congress, a Zionist-Oriented organization connected with the World Jewish Congress, adopted a resolution expressing the hope that some 40,000 German-Jewish children would be cared for by private families throughout the world. A considerable number of these children were expected to reach the United States. Why not adult refugees? Well, children were preferred over adult refugees for a number of reasons. First, they would not compete with labor during the economic depression that had gone on since the beginning of the decade. Second, American immigration regulations already stipulated that the Secretary of Labor would accept bonds for unaccompanied children, something that would allow them to enter with relatively little bureaucratic difficulty. Third, as opposed to adult refugees which might arouse antipathy from various populations, children would arouse more sympathy than any other group.

Throughout the end of 1933 and early 1934 a sub-committee of representatives from the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and Bnai Brith worked on a program that would bring 250 German-Jewish children to the United States. Only children born in Germany would be considered in order to enable them to enter under the German quota. 18% of the children would be of Eastern European parentage. The organizers hoped that 1,000 children could eventually be brought out of Germany and resettled in the United States. Originally they set the age limit at 14 as the 14-16 age group was the most difficult to place, but the committee soon determined that 16 would be the upper age limit. Ideas generate bureaucracy and this case was no exception. In order to create the necessary machinery for such an undertaking an organization known as German-Jewish Children’s Aid was formed, to be in charge of posting bonds for the refuge children, preventing their becoming public charges, arranging their transfer to the United States and caring for them after arrival.

One of the prominent figures involved in German-Jewish Children’s aid was Celilia Razovsky. Razovsky had been born in St. Louis to an immigrant family and had been active for many years in refugee transfer and resettlement organizations where she used both her knowledge of immigration rules and procedures and her personal acquaintance with those responsible for administrating the laws. Now she began using these abilities in order to further the work of German-Jewish Children’s Aid, convincing American government officials of the need to assist the scheme and not hinder it with administrational stumbling blocks. Luckily for many of the former refugee children and their families who are attending this session, in most cases she was successful.

On Friday, Nov. 9, 1934, after 15 months of planning, the first group of nine German-Jewish refugee boys, aged 11 to 14, arrived in New York, accompanied from Cherbourg by Dr. Gabrielle Kaufmann, a Jewish professor of philosophy. Immediately upon arrival the boys were sent to Jewish foster families in and around New York City, a resettlement policy that would be changed as time went on and the organizations responsible for the children feared creating a refugee enclave in New York and its surroundings.

Due to Razovsky’s efforts, and those of other German-Jewish Children’s Aid activists, these boys were supposed to have been the first of 250 unaccompanied refugee children that the American government would permit into the country. But now the organization was faced with the ironic situation of having permission to bring children to the United States but lacking sufficient foster homes in which to resettle them and the money to cover their resettlement.

By American law, children could only be placed in foster homes of their own religion and these homes had to be able to offer a certain minimum standard that included giving a child his or her own toothbrush and facecloth, a separate bed for each child and no more than two children in a room. Let’s remember that these were the years of the great depression, when your average American family in the United States was going through great financial strain. Traditional and Orthodox Jewish families, often quite attuned to the need for benevolent activities such as fostering, usually had a smaller income than the average Jewish family. They often had large families, lived in crowded quarter, and as thus, were not eligible for the foster-family scheme. Just to give you an example, a Jewish family in New York heard of the program and greatly desired to help refugee children. Turning to the refugee organizations involved in the program, they were inspected by the child welfare bureau. The family already had five children of their own: the four boys slept in one bedroom, the girl slept on a folding cot in the living room. Even though they could offer a warm family atmosphere, they were turned down by the child welfare services which claimed that they couldn’t offer a refugee child the minimum conditions which the children’s Bureau demanded, two children to a room.

Thus German-Jewish Children’s Aid found itself facing opposition on several fronts: Jewish social workers in Germany were still not attuned to a project that would separate children from their families and were protesting the scheme; Each refugee child cost German-Jewish Children’s Aid $500 a year that was paid to his or her foster family; and to top everything off, even with the meager number of children signed up for the project, there were not enough families to go around. Those few wonderful families that had taken refugee children had heard of the program through word of mouth, organizational affiliation and the rare pulpit appeals in synagogues. No large-scale public appeals were being made in the fear of giving the project too much publicity which could cause a greater rise in antisemitism than already existed in the United States.

As a result, by March 1, 1938, German Jewish Children’s Aid had only 351 children under its auspices, including a number of non-Aryan children from Germany, and its directors were contemplating terminating the scheme. Just to recall, non-Aryan children were Christian children born to families in which a parent or grandparent had either been Jewish and converted to Christianity or had remained Jewish but married a Christian. In either case, according to the Nazi racial laws, the children of such a union were not Aryans and therefore subject to discrimination and potential persecution.

The events of the spring, summer and autumn of 1938 – the Anschluss, or in other words, the Nazi invasion of Austria, the Evian refugee conference, the Munich agreement and the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, the deportation of thousands of Polish Jews from Germany and finally, Kristallnacht, the pogrom of November 9-10, 1938 – were turning points for Central European Jewry and with it, for the refugee organizations dealing with its plight. Not only was it obvious to the refugee organizations that their work was not coming to an end but just beginning, but at the end of 1938 there began a series of legislative battles in the American Congress regarding German refugees in general and refugee children in particular. The most notable one was the proposal of Robert Wagner and Edith Norse Rogers in early 1939 to permit 20,000 refugee children from Germany into the United States over and above the existing quota. The idea was to create a framework that would circumvent the American quota system of the time, which permitted only about 150,000 immigrants a year to enter the country, some 26,000 of whom could come from Germany. But as a result of pressures from isolationist groups who tried to stranglehold the Bill, after committee hearings during the first half of the year, the final bill gave preference to child immigrants from Germany over adult immigrants, but all within the existing quota. In order to not discriminate against refugee adults who might be in more danger than children, Wagner and Rogers ultimately withdrew the Congressional Bill, in the hope that the isolationists would also withdraw their bills to limit immigration even more.

The Waves of Refugee Children:
Let’s turn now to the various waves of refugee children who began reaching the United States during the Holocaust. From early 1939 onward, German Jewish Children’s Aid’s efforts to bring refugee children to the United States entered into high gear. When war broke out in Europe, in September 1939, the major transportation routes through Western Europe were closed to children trying to leave Greater Germany. Most children had come by boat via Southampton, England. However, there were still children from Germany who managed to leave even after that date, travelling via Italy and later through occupied France, and on to Portugal, or via Holland and Sweden. A few children even came to the United States via Siberia and Japan, landing in San Francisco.

In 1939 another small group of children came to the United States from Belgium and the Netherlands. Most were unaccompanied children from Germany and Austria who had been sent there until they could be joined by their parents and were cared for privately by Jewish Refugee Committees there. Soon after reaching Western Europe, these organizations tried to send children to the United States. Additional children from these countries escaped to England and were brought to America with the next group of refugee children, those coming from Great Britain.

In 1940 a new group of children reached the USA, children who were fleeing the Blitz, including some refugee children who had reached Britain from central Europe in 1939. Most of the British children were not Jewish, not considered non-Aryan, and not included in “refugee child issueâ€?, as it was known. These British children who, unlike the refugee children from Germany, were welcomed publicly by various groups with open arms, were transferred through and cared for by an organization known as the United States Committee for the Care of European Children, which would later play a part in the rescue of Jewish and non-Aryan Christian refugee children.

In 1941, larger groups of refugee children began reaching the United States, this time from another location: France. Almost all of these children were actually refugee children from Central Europe who had found refuge in children’s homes in France. Most of these orphanages were connected with an organization known as OSE, to which I will return in a few minutes.

The last group of children reaching the United States were those from Spain and Portugal, again, mostly refugee children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and France, who had found refuge there, at times with their families. These were the children arriving in the United States between 1943 and 1945.

The Organizations and Activists:
During this period, the number and scope of organizations dealing with refugee children in the United States broadened. There were large-scale refugee organizations offering special services to refugee children such as the National Coordinating committee and the National Refugee Service; child refugee organizations such as German Jewish Children’s Aid and OSE. These initials stood for Oeuvre de Secour aux Enfants, a Franconization of the original Russian initials as the organization had been established in St. Petersburg in 1912 as a health and child care organization. At the time of the revolution OSE moved to Germany and after the Nazi rise to power it was transferred to France, establishing a small branch in the United States.

There were also small-scale refugee organizations offering special services to refugee children in the United States, such as the United Fund and Selfhelp, funding organizations such as the National Council of Jewish Women, HIAS, or the Joint, special care bodies such as the American Friends Service Committee, and government organizations such as the United States Children’s Bureau and the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees. Another important group was the United States Committee for the Care of European children, originally established to bring British Children to North America during the Blitz, but later dealing with several groups of primarily Jewish refugee children from France who were brought to the USA between 1941 and 1943 with the assistance of the OSE and the Quaker movement, the American Friends Service Committee. There were also small Jewish organizations, such as the Brith Sholom Lodge in Philadelphia, whose activists, Gilbert and Eleanore Kraus, traveled to Europe at great personal risk in 1939 and rescued children threatened by Nazi persecution.

Not only did the number of American organizations dealing with refugee children grow. Their European counterparts also grew in number, particularly Jewish social welfare and refugee organizations that dealt with choosing the children, preparing their documentation, and making their travel arrangements. Among the noted activists in Germany, for example, were the director of the Children’s Emigration Department of the Central Organization of Jews in Germany, Kate Rosenheim, and her dedicated staff workers such as Herta Souhami and Norbert Wollheim. The organization coordinated with Jewish organizations worldwide to find emigration opportunities for children at risk.

These people, young and old, who spent day and night trying to ease the transfer of refugee children fleeing Nazism, had their American counterparts. Among the American activists who deserve special mention with regard to the fate of the OTC’s are Cecilia Razovsky, who I already mentioned and who was also the assistant to the executive director of the National Refugee Service, and Lotte Marcuse of German Jewish Children’s Aid. Until 1937 Marcuse had also been a worker in the NRS, however in March 1937 she became placement director of German Jewish Children’s Aid. Marcuse had received a diploma in social work from the Prussian Ministry of the Interior in recognition of her services in aiding military family. After coming to the United States in 1921 she gained experience in the field of children’s social services and following her move to German Jewish Children’s Aid she became active in all activities concerning the transfer and resettlement of Jewish refugee children. Marcuse had her difficult side, and had a strong bias against traditional and observant children, but without her assistance, dozens if not hundreds of children would have had a harder bureaucratic struggle in their transatlantic oddessey. Another important activist was Dr. Ernest Papanek, a political refugee from Vienna who became an OSE educator in France, later moving to the United States where he tried to assist in the resettlement of several hundred children brought to the USA from OSE homes in France. Papanek, the more easygoing educator and Marcuse, the more rigid bureaucrat, clashed over the question of the children’s upbringing, with refugee children becoming objects of organizational struggle in issues such as keeping them together to make them feel more at home or distancing them from each other during resettlement in order to force them to mix rapidly with American children. Luckily, few, if any of the children were aware of these struggles at the time.

The Process:
And what of the refugee children and their foster families? Children coming from Germany went through one bureaucratic process, those coming from France went through another, and the children arriving from Spain and Portugal went through a third bureaucratic sequence. Children from Germany were usually selected through the office in Berlin, went through preliminary physical examinations, and German-Jewish Children’s Aid (which in the middle of the war was re-named “European Jewish Children’s Aid) was informed in order to make travel arrangements. I won’t bore you with the bureaucratic details that involved the American Department of Labor, Department of State, photographs, birth certificates, affidavits and other documents, usually in triplicate, let it just suffice to tell you the following story. When I was a student, studying about American immigration laws, my teacher tried to illustrate how much documentation was necessary for a person to enter the United States from Europe in the 1930s. He held out to the class what looked like one very long sheet of paper, with many lines of small print that were to be filled in. Then he stood up on the desk at the front of the room (and he was not short), held the document in his hand, held his hand high above his head, and still holding the first pages in his hand, he let what turned out to be an accordion sheaf of paper open up, until the last page reached the floor. Showing us this incredibly long document, he stated laconically “This is what people requesting a visa to the United States had to fill out… triplicate.â€?

Following the German takeover of Austria and Czechoslovakia, similar emigration procedures were followed in Vienna and Prague

After receiving permission to immigrate, families of refugee children were informed of the travel arrangements, the amount of luggage they were permitted to take, and permissible items. Although it was always asked to keep luggage to a minimum, it was a rare parent that didn’t take the opportunity to try and save a few valuable items, family photo albums, and the like. Not knowing what the children would be given in the United States, there were those families in Germany which sold all their possessions and sent children with steamer trunks full of clothing in sizes that would keep them until age 21! As a result, there are the stories of the uncle who meets his ten year old niece at the pier, saying “I thought you were a poor refugee and here you come with three suitcases!â€? However, I have never come across a story of children taking valuable possessions to the United States that beats the one which I heard from Norbert Wollheim, whom I mentioned earlier, regarding a transport of children he accompanied to England. One of the very small boys on the transport was carrying a violin, a priceless Stradivarius, and going through British customs the officers stopped the group, thinking this was a clearcut case of using refugees to smuggle goods. Wollheim protested, knowing that it would mean that the entire group would be sent back to Germany, and stated vehemently that “of course this is the boy’s violin, he is a child prodigyâ€? when he had absolutely no idea if the boy could even play. Suddenly, with the blood pounding in his head, he notices that all the British are standing at attention and realizes that he was hearing music. Before giving the boy the violin to take out of Germany, it turns out that his father had taught the child to play one song, just in case. The song was “God Save the Kingâ€?, and it ended up saving the lives of over a hundred children on this particular transport.

The other groups of refugee children followed a different procedure. Children in France were chosen from OSE homes by activists of the American Friends Service committee, and brought out through Spain and Portugal. After France was cut off following the German invasion of late 1942, Spanish Loyalist children, French and German-Jewish refugee children in Spain and Portugal, and non-Aryan Christian children of the same background reached the United States by boat via Lisbon. The story of the first group going through Portugal taught refugee activists a lesson for further groups. Before putting the children on the boat for America, the dedicated activists wanted to compensate them for their years of deprivation and fed them unlimited amounts of chocolate and candies, something that then children had not seen in years. Like most normal children would do, they gorged themselves and spent the first two days of the journey sick to their stomachs. Learning from the mistake, refugee activists decided to dole out the sweets very sparingly while the children got on board, in order to avoid this problem.

After the first years during which children went directly to foster parents, most groups of refugee children reaching the United States went through a few days of reception care. During this time, children who had gone through “refugee shockâ€? – the trauma of flight through several countries – could recover from their ordeal before having to meet their foster family and begin acclimatizing to life in America.
Throughout this period of reception they children underwent medical examinations, had time to relax and orient themselves, and the agencies could allocate children to child agencies throughout the United States. Among the institutions where the children were temporarily placed in and around New York City were the Clara De Hirsch Home, the Gould Foundation, the Seaman’s Church Institute, the Academy, the Hebrew Orphans Asylum and the Pleasantville College School. While the earlier groups were first taken on excursions around New York, the experience of later groups made it preferable to bring them directly to the reception center. This was particularly true with regard to the groups arriving after the outbreak of war whose members were much more traumatized than those in the earlier groups. For example, a group from Austria arriving in April 1940 was taken to see Pinnochio and a gangster film but only two of the children could appreciate them. Some of the children arrived undernourished, needing immediate medical care. This was particularly true of the children arriving from France, and later from Spain and Portugal, who had gone through difficult wartime experiences.

Children coming from OSE homes in France showed the greatest signs of wartime trauma. There were children who hoarded food for the first few days until it was explained to them that there was enough food for them in the reception shelter. Some of the older boys, who had spent time in camps, were rowdy and there were even cases of stealing, a survival technique they had learned in occupied Europe. Then there was the problem of language. Most of the children spoke German, a few knew French, and the workers dealing with them spoke to them in German and Yiddish until the children began to pick up American expressions, which some already did at the reception center. These were the languages which some of the foster families initially used with the refugee children that came to live with them. There were also cases of mixup until they learned the language. One girl thought the word “juiceâ€? was really “Jewsâ€? and that it was a special drink for refugees only.

This brings us to the area of foster families and resettlement. Foster families in the United States who agreed to take refugee children stated that they would care for them until they reached the age of twenty-one, see that they were educated, and guarantee they would not become charges of the state. Most of the children were assigned a social worker from a local social service agency to oversee the child’s resettlement process. Difficulties sometimes arose in cases where relatives offered to care for refugee children. Although they were often given preferential consideration, these homes were subject to investigation and supervision by the accredited child care agencies. Relatives’ homes did not always meet the necessary standing and in addition, the responsibilities and expenses of caring for refugee children were not always clear to the relatives. As a result, there were families who once faced with the reality, requested that their young relative be removed from their home and given to another foster family. In some cases, this caused resentment among the children who felt abandoned by their flesh and blood. In other cases, where there had been a lack of chemistry from the onset between the young refugees and their relatives, both breathed a sigh of relief at parting.

Then there were the foster families which had no family connection to the refugee children that they offered to house. The majority were decent, genuinely wishing to offer a home to a refugee child. However, there were those whose motives were not always pure. Some wanted children to act as companions to their own children, and there were even a few who wanted the children to act as servants and maids for the family. These families were, of course, checked out and rejected by the child welfare organizations. The situation was very different than that of the refugee children who had found homes in Britain, larger numbers of which were almost “pressed into serviceâ€? as companions and maids. This was due to the fact that the British system did not involve the in depth investigations by child welfare organizations that the American system required. It was also a factor which stemmed from the different nature of the rescue operation in Britain and the much larger numbers of children who found refuge in Britain. For if the American organization sponsoring the conference is called “OTCâ€?, in other words “One Thousand Childrenâ€?, the corresponding British organization could be called “TTCâ€?, standing for “Ten Thousand Childrenâ€?, as the British government, worried that they would be pressed into opening the doors of Palestine – to which they held the mandate – to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Greater Germany, made the magnanimous gesture of allowing in almost 10,000 refugee children during the nine months before the outbreak of the war. Although the United States took in almost three times the total number of refugees during the 1930s and 1940s than did the British, there were very few such “gesturesâ€? and the refugees – both child and adult – all entered under the existing sacrosanct immigration quotas.

Most of the refugee children in the United States were ultimately placed in large cities with approximately 27 percent in the greater New York area. Other cities where refugee children were resettled included Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Boston, Newark, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Kansas City. Cities having between two and ten children included Albany, Bridgeport, Buffalo, Columbus, Dallas, New Orleans, Omaha, Portland, Rochester, Seattle, Dayton, Denver, Hartford, Indianapolis, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Haven, Washington DC. And Wilmington. El Paso, Houston, Manchester, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Providence, San Antonio, Shreveport, Spokane and Stockton had one refugee child each.

Once the children were settled, the local child care agencies were responsible for them along with their foster parents. Children maintained contact with a social worker until their discharge at age 21. Contact was usually on a monthly basis and these meetings were often used for purchasing clothes with money from the local child care agency. There were refugee children for whom this was always a struggle, they wanted fashionable clothing, while their case worker was always steering them towards things that were practical and would be able to be worn for years.

How did children feel about the adventure that they were going through? Among the important issues that I want to mention are parents, foster parents, language, schooling, and future.

Many, if not most of the children, had left parents in Europe, with communication after the outbreak of war becoming difficult, if not non-existent. There were children who were angry with their parents for having sent them away. “My most vivid memories were a constant desire to be reunited with my family and occasionally I would be angry for having been sent hereâ€? stated a girl who reached the United States in 1939. With the outbreak of war, those children who had reached the United States before September 1939 were naturally frantic about their parents’ fate. Those arriving during wartime had often already been cut off from parents for weeks, months and even years. This, however, did not lessen their fears regarding what was going on in Europe in general and regarding their parents’ fate in particular.

Foster parents were another issue. Some of the children took very well to their new families, others less so. There were children who needed re-placement several times until the social services found an environment which was suitable for them. While the large majority of foster parents were people who out of the goodness of their hearts wanted to host a refugee child, there were still many cases of expectations versus reality. When thousands of refugee children reached Britain within a period of a few months, the refugee agencies there learned that the easiest children to place were young blond haired and light eyed girls who were though of as being more malleable, less demanding, and more likely to become “a member of the familyâ€?. Older dark haired boys were the hardest to place, as they were considered the most foreign looking and thought of as being troublemakers. In the United States, the division was not as harsh or clear-cut, however older children of both sexes were considered harder to place than younger ones and foster parents usually preferred girls to boys. These difficulties were illustrated by the number of boys who needed re-placing in foster homes throughout the pre-war and war years.

Language was an important issue in the children’s Americanization. Very few of the children knew any English upon arrival. However, most of them picked up English quickly, depending, of course, upon the age they were when reaching the United States. According to most scholars of language, the cut-off date for accents is around age 15. If a child moves to a new country before the age of 10 he or she will usually speak without an accent. Between 10 and 15 it depends how good an ear they have. After the age of 15 most children will retain some foreign inflection and at times, even a true foreign accent in their new language. This seems to have held true for most of the refugee children who came to the United States.

Education was a concern of all those involved in the refugee child issue: the refugee organizations, the children, their parents, foster parents, social workers and of course, educators. The release form which parents or guardians had signed in Europe entrusted German Jewish Children’s Aid with the education and training of their children. Due to their interrupted education and language difficulties, some refugee children were initially put back several grades or placed in a combined class for foreigners of all ages. Within a short period, however, most children were permitted to enter their regular grades. Two studies on the education of young refugees concluded that the children enjoyed learning and viewed school as a challenge and not a chore. Accustomed to the rigid European system of education, most refugee children adapted rapidly to the more flexible American system. Viewing education as a challenge there were refugee children who received educational prizes or grants for exceptional scholarship. For example, a fifteen year old refugee girl in New York City won a citywide high school context for her essay “What it means to me to be an American and another refugee girl received first prize in a national context for her essay entitled “Why national unity is important to my countryâ€?.

The academic excellence in high school that many refugee children achieved could not be translated into professional training. Although many of the children had come from families with white-collar professional backgrounds, budgetary limitations of child welfare services often made it difficult to obtain higher education and training. After completing high school children were expected to earn their keep. Nevertheless, family tradition, the desire for education, and the GI bill were among the factors that enabled refugee children who managed to complete professional training later in life, often after their military service. Among former refugee children one finds college professors, nurses, physicians, lawyers, business people, insurance agents, writers, manufacturers and restaurant owners. All of those that I have had the privilege of meeting and interviewing are loyal Americans, aware of the wonderful qualities of the country which gave them a home and the unique society which absorbed them. It is probably for that reason that the Jewish refugee children who came to the United States did not exhibit two characteristics that I found in a study of those children who went to Great Britain. While a not inconsiderable number of the children who came to Britain ended up in Israel and an equally striking number ended up converting to Christianity, I found almost no parallels among the children who came to America. By placing children with families of their own religion, the American child care agencies made sure that they would not be pressured through proselytizing by their foster families. Similarly, the unique nature of American society – originally a melting pot of immigrants – made almost all of the children feel at home enough to not want to leave the country that became their home. These two qualities of the child refugee experience in the United States are unparalleled in any other country which I examined that gave refuge to children persecuted by the Nazis during the pre-war and wartime period.

I can not conclude my talk without making an observation that belongs more to the realm of current events than to past history. After spending many years of my life studying the history of the refugee children’s movement during the Holocaust, both in Great Britain and in the United States, I find myself pondering the question of, “what would happen if a similar situation would arise todayâ€?? True, there is no longer a quota system for immigrants to the United States, and there is the precedent of the Vietnamese orphans brought to America in an airlift after the collapse of Saigon. But what would happen if we were talking, not about several hundred children, or even a thousand, but of 100,00 children, which was approximately the number of persecuted Jewish and non-Aryan Christian children in Germany before the outbreak of the Second World War?

What would be the reaction of the American legislature if asked to pass emergency rescue bills to bring tens of thousands of children for an unspecified amount of time to the United States, just like the Wagner-Rogers bill of 1939? And more specifically, what would happen if these children were Jewish? Would the American administration risk going against a world-wide growing tide of antisemitism in order to back such a step? Would American Jewish organizations be willing to pressure the government on this matter, take out full page advertisements appealing for the large-scale rescue of Jewish children, and turn to Jews throughout the United States to open their homes to young unaccompanied refugees? And if given cold “logicalâ€? reasons why such a plan would be unfeasible, for how long would these organizations continue to “buck the systemâ€? in order to generate enough publicity that would pressure the government into bringing these children to America?

Forget the government for a minute, what of the American people? Would Americans open their arms to these hoards of children who would not know a word of English, have different customs, and – on top of everything else – not for a month, or a year, but for an unspecified amount of time? Would their charitable nature extend to doing much more than writing a check, or making a one-time gesture, to taking on a full-time responsibility which would probably upset their household ways, and change every facet of their daily life? Would they be willing to shortchange their own children in order divide up their emotional and even financial resources among a group that included one more child, a refugee, a stranger? Would they be willing and able to cope with the traumas that such children would bring into a household, and be subject to pressure from some of those children to vouch for their parents who were still overseas and save them as well?

Yes, when you put it that way it sounds very different than the bland academic subtitle of my study of the OTC, “the rescue and resettlement of the Jewish refugee children in the United States 1934-1945â€?.

While I would hope that the American government and the American people would rise to such an hour, I pray that they will never again be put to the test.