Children of the Holocaust

LW & CC

The Children

Children were especially vulnerable during the Holocaust. The Nazis advocated killing children of “unwanted” or “dangerous” groups in order to prevent the next generation and end their race (72). The Germans and their collaborators killed as many as 1.5 million children, including over a million Jewish children and tens of thousands of Gypsy children, German children with physical and mental disabilities living in institutions, Polish children, and children residing in the Soviet Union (73). The chances for survival for Jewish and some non-Jewish adolescents (13-18 years old) were greater if and only if they could be deployed for forced labor (74).


The fate of Jewish and non-Jewish children can be categorized in the following way: 1) children killed when they arrived in the killing camps; 2) babies aborted or killed immediately after birth; 3) young children who lied about their age and managed to get by in ghettos and camps; and 4) children, usually over age 12, who were used as either laborers or as subjects of medical experiments (75).

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Ghettos

In the ghettos, Jewish children died from starvation and exposure as well as lack of adequate clothing and shelter (76). The German authorities were indifferent to this mass death because they considered most of the younger ghetto children to be unproductive and “useless eaters” (77). Because children were generally too young to be deployed at forced labor, German authorities generally selected them, along with the elderly, ill, and disabled, for the first deportations to killing centers, or as the first victims led to mass graves to be shot (78).

Concentration & Killing Camps

Upon arrival at Auschwitz and other killing centers, the camp authorities sent the majority of children directly to the gas chambers (79). SS and police forces in German-occupied Poland and the occupied Soviet Union shot thousands of children at the edge of mass graves (80).

The Medical Experiments of Dr. Joseph Mengele

SS physicians and medical researchers used a number of children, including twins, in concentration camps for medical experiments that often resulted in the deaths of the children (81). The most famous doctor was Dr. Joseph Mengele. He stood at the entrance to the camps and decided which children seemed "fit" for his experiments. First, he would entice the children with candy and chocolate and then he would perform horrible experiments on them which usually ended in death.