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Children living in hiding

‘Hiding’ took many forms. A number of Jewish children were able to hide in plain sight by pretending to be Christian or living in convents and orphanages. This often meant taking on a new identity and obtaining false identification papers to avoid detection.

Hiding in plain sight? What could that mean in the individual case? Henri Obstfeld, born 1940 in Amsterdam, explains how he survived Nazi occupation as a toddler separated from his parents.
© National Holocaust Centre and Museum

What did hiding mean in practice?

Hiding would have been easier for assimilated Jews, especially in large cities that provided anonymity. A number of children lived with non-Jewish helpers as part of the family. However, for many others hiding meant having to physically conceal themselves, often in small makeshift spaces.

“Keep quiet. Don’t move. Nobody should see us.” What was life like in hiding? Simon Winston speaks about what daily life was like for his family in hiding.
© National Holocaust Centre and Museum

How might it have felt to live in a hidden space?

Hiding from sight would have meant spending long periods of time in dark and confined spaces. People (would have) needed to remain silent to avoid discovery. There was also the fear of being found out either by neighbours or the authorities. Even helpers could not be trusted. Changing circumstances meant you could be betrayed by the very people who had helped you initially. Razzias and raids were a constant fear.

Sheina, the porcelain doll, is the beloved companion of 6-year-old Suzanne Rappoport whilst living in hiding.  One night, after a rapid exit from one of her hiding places, Sheina was left behind. Paulette, the daughter of the couple who had looked after Suzanne, kept Sheina safe. Many years later, in 2005, Paulette made contact with Suzanne. Paulette returned Sheina to Suzanne at their reunion.
© National Holocaust Centre and Museum