Life in the Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust
About the Exhibit
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibition, “Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust,” will go on view at the Minnesota History Center on July 20.
This special exhibition tells the remarkable stories of the Nazis’ most vulnerable victims – Jewish children. Before the outbreak of World War II, approximately 1.6 million Jewish children lived in the countries eventually occupied by Germany and its allies. By the war’s end, between one and 1.5 million of those children were dead.
Thousands of Jewish children survived the Holocaust by having their Jewish identities disguised or by being hidden in attics, cellars, barns and sewers. For these children, going into hiding often meant leaving their families and identities behind. Those who could not pass as non-Jews endured extreme loneliness, physical pain and constant fear, often living silently in cramped, dark quarters. Life in hiding was never safe and was always fraught with danger, where a careless remark, a denunciation or the murmurings of inquisitive neighbors could lead to discovery and death.
“Children in hiding faced extraordinarily difficult circumstances during and after the war,” says the Holocaust Museum’s exhibition curator Steve Luckert. “Fear, isolation and frequent relocations were all part of daily life. Allied victory in 1945 brought no end to the pain felt by many hidden children who had lost their entire families. Some children were too young ever to have known their real parents and only learned about their true identities later in life. Others never came out of hiding.”
After the war, a new saga in the story of these children began. Surviving parents sought out children they had placed in convents, orphanages or with foster families. Local Jewish committees in Europe tried to register the living and account for the dead. In many cases the quest for family involved traumatic soul-searching for children to rediscover who they were.
The lives of the brave people who concealed or rescued children are also highlighted in the exhibition – the remarkable individuals who tried to save lives while risking their own. In German-occupied Europe, the penalties for hiding a Jew were often severe, including imprisonment in a concentration camp or death.
“This exhibition brings to life the heart-rending and riveting stories of the Holocaust’s youngest victims and of those who, at great personal risk, dared to protect them,” says Society Director Nina Archabal. “I hope that all Minnesotans will take the opportunity to explore these moving stories.”
The exhibitions' Minnesota showing is sponsored by Target. Funding for educational programs was provided by the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation.