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Return to Indersdorf after 66 Years

“I knew in 1943 that I was alone in the world.” Steve Israeler was 14 when the US Army liberated him on the death march from Flossenbürg concentration camp to Dachau. His entire family was murdered in the Holocaust. After the liberation he and other children were taken to the monastery in Indersdorf, where a United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) DP Children’s Center had been established. In mid-July, he and seven of the others visited Indersdorf for the first time in 66 years. The survivors received copies of documents including lists and personal files from the International Tracing Service (ITS) archive in Bad Arolsen – fragments of their former lives under Nazi persecution and subsequent UNRRA care.

Numerous children and young Holocaust survivors liberated from concentration camps or as forced laborers found refuge at the Indersdorf monastery. They had no immediate family, food or shelter after the war. These stateless children were taken in and cared for by social worker Greta Fischer and a UN team until their repatriation or emigration. “My parents loved me, and my nanny Marisia was like a second mother to me,” said Steve during his visit. He found aunts and cousins in France. He later made his way to New York and built a new life for himself. “I wanted to get out of Europe - this huge cemetery.”

In addition to visiting the Indersdorf monastery, the Jewish survivors and Lebensborn children, who had been left behind in care homes before the liberation, also visited the concentration camp and memorial Flossenbürg. They attended a symposium entitled “What helps children master their adult lives?” After a presentation on children traumatized during the Shoah and those today, the survivors discussed their experiences individually and reflected on the trauma they had endured. All agreed that children need love and a feeling of security in a free society.

Photo: Norbert Habschied