During the Second World War, more and more children were taken to concentration camps. Among them were many Jews, deported together with their families during the Holocaust. Although the vast majority of Jewish children were murdered on arrival, many thousands were registered as prisoners. Just like adult inmates, they often faced hard labour, punishment and terrible hunger. Judith Jegerman, a Czech Jew, was a teenager when she was deported with her family from the Theresienstadt ghetto to Auschwitz in December 1943. In her post-war testimony (1990), she describes how she lost the belief in her parents’ ability to protect her.
[W]e were pushed into cattle trains […] like sardines […]. I was extremely frightened being in that closed place […] and father approached that latticed window and asked a Pole who was standing outside where the transport was going. And the Pole told him: the transports are on the way up, namely the chimney. And my father heard it and got diarrhoea. My father, who was the symbol of manhood and bravery. He took off his pants and defecated in front of the entire wagon. And it shamed me and made me sad. And I saw that my father had no influence, and I knew we were doomed. He started crying and for me it was the end of the world.[…]
I knew we were doomed
[After the selection on arrival] I only held my mother’s hand as tightly as I could and looked for [my sister] Ruth who went away with her friends. And then they told us to take off our clothes and stand in line. And we have already lost our personality and what we were worth. And as a girl I understood I needed to be quiet and had long ago realised my mother had no influence. It was my mother, but she could not make a difference …
Source: N. Shik, “Mother-Daughter Relationships in Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1942–1945”, Tel Aviver Jahrbuch fur deutsche Geschichte, vol. 36 (Göttingen, 2008), pp. 113, 116