Holocaust Inquiry Question: How did some members of minority groups manage to survive and recover from the Holocaust?
Some victims would take preventative measures to avoid being sent to concentration/extermination camps.
The vast majority of Jews in German-occupied Europe didn't go into hiding, because of the many risks and difficulties it posed. Hiding meant leaving behind relatives, risking immediate and severe punishment, and finding an individual or family who was willing to provide refuge. Despite this, many were willing to risk it all in order to stay safe and out of the Nazi eye.
In Holland, an estimated 40,000 Jews were concealed by everyday citizens. Out of this, only an estimated 15,000 survived. The ten Boom family of Haarlem in the Netherlands saved around 800 Jewish people with their "secret room" specially constructed for the purpose of moving Jews to permanent safe havens.
Thousands of Jewish people managed to survive with the help of false identity papers. It was essential for Jews to have false identity papers in order to pass as members of the "Aryan Race". These papers were frequently gained through contacts with the anti-Nazi resistance. .
Using forged or acquired papers, such as a birth or baptismal certificate, Jews could sometimes receive actual documents under an assumed identity from the authorities. Using these papers to hide Jewish identities did come with difficulties, though. Jews could be punished severely if it was discovered they had false papers.
Regine Donner, a Jewish child hiding in Belgium quotes, "I had to keep my Jewish-ness hidden, secret, never to be revealed on penalty of death. I missed out on my childhood and the best of my adolescent years. I was robbed of my name, my religion, my Zionist idealism."
Many viewed fleeing their countries as a necessary means of survival. Even before the beginning of World War II, many Jews attempted to escape from countries under Nazi control. Between 1933 and 1939, more than 90,000 German and Austrian Jews fled to neighboring countries such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, and Switzerland.
However, there were few countries willing to accept Jewish refugees and wartime conditions caused struggles for those trying to escape. In 1941-1942, with the beginning of systematic shooting of Jews in the Soviet Union and the deportation of European Jews to extermination camps, escape literally became a matter of life and death.
Many people were often unable to avoid the horrors of concentration and extermination camps. This didn't prevent some from attempting to survive in any way possible.
It was not uncommon for prisoners in the concentration camps to attempt to escape. Some managed to cut through or dig under the wire fences, others would sneak out in the trunks of trucks and cars or wear costumes and disguises. Others bribed their way or simply ran for it. All these methods has varying degrees of success, most rather low. Most survivors would usually try to survive inside the camps until the war was over.
A thirteen-year old Jewish girl named Shulamit Perlmutter is an example of a teenager who managed to escape the ghetto she lived in and flee to safety. Shulamit lived in the ghetto with her mother and sister until 1942, when they heard rumors that the ghetto was about to be destroyed. Shulamit's mother began to look for a hiding place, and eventually found one that would take Shulamit and her mother, and another that would take Shulamit's older sister. A few days after Shulamit's sister left, so did Shulamit and her mother.
As they started to cross the river to make their escape, shots rang out. Shulamit and her mother ducked and stayed in the river the entire night; and the next morning they saw that others from the ghetto had tried to do the same. Shulamit's mother held her down and they stayed put; forcing them to stay in the river for several days. Shulamit dozed off and woke up at one point, realizing her mother was gone. Despite becoming an orphan at such a young age, Shulamit managed to survive thanks to her escape and the help of her mother.
Even after the Holocaust had come to an end, much strength and recovery wat nespcessary. After liberation, many Jewish survivors feared to return to their former homes because of the antisemitism that persisted in parts of Europe and the trauma they had suffered. Some who returned home feared for their lives.
With few possibilities for emigration, tens of thousands of homeless Holocaust survivors migrated westward to other European territories liberated by the western Allies. There they were housed in hundreds of refugee centers and displaced persons camps such as Bergen-Belsen in Germany. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and the occupying armies of the United States, Great Britain, and France administered these camps.
A considerable number and variety of Jewish agencies worked to assist the Jewish displaced persons. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee provided Holocaust survivors with food and clothing. Refugees also formed their own organizations, and many worked for the establishment of an independent Jewish state in Palestine.
Based on my research on my inquiry question, I can come to a conclusion that the survival of minorities in the Holocaust was not based on just pure luck. Members of minority groups had to fight and work for their survival and eventual liberation; and would often do whatever possible if it meant surviving the horrors they faced. These survivors demonstrated the utmost determination, strength, and diligence. Stories of hiding, escape, and survival in the camps still remain present in society today, and continue to inspire every generation.
Sources: Altman, Linda Jacobs. Escape-- Teens on the Run: Primary Sources from the Holocaust. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2010. Print. "Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2003. Web. 20 Apr. 2017. "The Aftermath of the Holocaust." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. "Escape from German-Occupied Europe." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.