Holocaust child survivors conference opens in J’lem

A three-day conference of Jewish child survivors of the Holocaust opened Monday night in Jerusalem.

The 19th annual conference, which is being sponsored by the US-based World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust, is being attended by 800 Jewish children who survived the Holocaust and their families.

The event, which is taking place at the city’s Renaissance Hotel, includes a series of workshops by mental health professionals, including psychiatrists and psychologists from all over the world and a day tour of Yad Vashem on Thursday.

The conference, which is being held in English, got under way Monday night with an address by Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a former chief rabbi of Israel and child survivor himself.

“For a long time we were the forgotten generation and were never felt welcome even among Holocaust survivors,” said Stefanie Seltzer, president of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust. She started the organization two decades ago in Philadelphia.

The conference will include a session on Jews who rescued Jews by the internationally renowned Holocaust historian and Yad Vashem academic adviser Prof. Yehuda Bauer.

“It is important to remember not just the mass murder of the Jews, but how those few who survived survived,” Bauer said.

He noted that thousands of Jewish children were handed over to monasteries and nunneries in both Western and Eastern Europe during the Holocaust or were placed in the care of non-Jewish or undercover Jewish individuals, where they would be saved from Nazi slaughter.

The annual conference, which is generally held in the United States, last took place in Israel in 1992 with a much smaller turnout, with registration for the current conference closed due to overbooking.

Some 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered in the Holocaust.

Thousands of Jewish children were hidden during the war in Nazi-occupied Europe, although their exact number is not known since many of the orphaned children never returned to their Jewish roots because they did not know of their Jewish faith, their adopted parents refused to hand them over to their Jewish relatives or because they formed attachments to their foster families.