Skip to main content


The Youngest Survivors of the Holocaust Historical Background

There were about 1.6 million Jewish children, ranging in age from infants to teenagers, living in Europe at the start of World War II. An estimated 1.5 million were killed in the war.

Hiding was a way for Jewish parents to save their children – or for the children to save themselves. The lives of the hidden children changed instantly as they left their families, friends, and belongings behind. Each hidden child had a unique experience. Some found refuge amid religious organizations. Others became maids, farm hands, or factory workers. Some stayed out of sight in cramped spaces underground, or hid in secret rooms.

Hidden children lived in constant fear of being discovered, captured, and killed. They lived day by day, longing to be reunited with family. Through their years in hiding, they focused on survival and maintained hope for the future.

To survive, Jewish children had to deny their right to exist as themselves. Many adopted false identities by changing their names and practicing Christianity. Concealing their heritage was hard to accomplish. They were always aware that they might be recognized and informed on to the Nazis, or might mix up their stories and accidentally reveal important information.

The hidden children would not have survived the war without the help of non-Jewish people. Christian rescuers were from every social and economic class. Rescuers put themselves at great risk, hiding their acts of kindness from their neighbors, friends, and sometimes even from members of their own families. Discovery meant arrest, torture, and a sentence of death.

The liberation of Europe in 1945 brought an end to the war. For hidden children, coming out of hiding did not mean a return to the normalcy of their former lives. Homes were shattered, villages destroyed. The hope that kept them focused on survival – that they would see their families again – was shattered for most upon learning of the deaths of their relatives.

In 1991, The First International Gathering of Children Hidden during World War II conference, held in New York City, brought their experiences into the public eye. In celebrating their survival and acknowledging their histories, the hidden children began the process of coming to terms with the past.

This is a traveling exhibit.
The Holocaust Museum and Center for Tolerance & Education exhibit Hidden Children: The Youngest Survivors of the Holocaust is comprised of 31 pull-up display panels with banner stands, each one measuring 24” x 78” when open. The rolled up panels are each in individual metal cases; each case is in a material foam-lined bag. For more information please contact the Museum at or 845-574-4099. This exhibit is available for rental.