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Having survived - and what next?

Alex Last from the BBC in London has dedicated his radio report “Lost Children of the Holocaust” to the fate of the “child survivors”, the traumatised children liberated from the concentration camps. Documents in the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) were of great help to him in his search. The journalist succeeded in locating and interviewing four of the meanwhile aged “child survivors” in California and Israel.

He became interested in the subject when he listened to a BBC report from August 1946: In the programme, family members of twelve Jewish children and adolescents were called out, because they were supposed to be staying in England. The programme started with the words: “Captive Children, an appeal from Germany.”  At that time, the survivors lived in children’s centres established especially for this purpose where they received assistance, care and support from the Allies.

The historical BBC report announced the name of the sought person and gave a survey of the persecution suffered by the “child survivor”. “Jacob Bresler, a 16-year-old Polish boy has survived five concentration camps, but lost his whole family …” Almost 70 years later, Alex Last now wanted to know how life went on for the children and adolescents after this appeal. Were the appeals successful? How could the former persecutees master their lives?

The journalist contacted the ITS and came for a visit to Bad Arolsen in February 2015. His investigations were quite comprehensive, because the ITS does not only preserve records from concentration camps, but also the files of the Child Search Branch from the early post-war period, among them interviews with the children and adolescents. Furthermore, references were found in correspondence files, because some of the survivors had sent inquiries to the ITS in order to obtain, for example, certificates of incarceration that were necessary to receive a compensation. The various types of documents were helpful in tracing their fates. In the case of Gunter Wolff, a 15-year-old boy at the time, employees of the Tracing and Fate Clarification Department of the ITS succeeded in establishing contact between him and the journalist directly. Other institutions as, for instance, “The Central Zionist Archives” in Jerusalem helped Alex Last finding Sala Landowicz, Jacob Bresler and Fela Katz, three other “child survivors”.

In May, “Lost Children of the Holocaust” was broadcasted: an impressive report with eyewitness interviews, extracts from the historical recordings and impressions of the investigations.

Here you can listen to the report.

An accompanying article was published in the BBC Internet magazine.