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Jewish DP youth who numbered among the Buchenwald children, are gathered around a table at an OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants) children's home in France [either in Ambloy or Taverny].

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 45534

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    Jewish DP youth who numbered among the Buchenwald children, are gathered around a table at an OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants) children's home in France [either in Ambloy or Taverny].
    Jewish DP youth who numbered among the Buchenwald children, are gathered around a table at an OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants) children's home in France [either in Ambloy or Taverny].

    Overview

    Caption
    Jewish DP youth who numbered among the Buchenwald children, are gathered around a table at an OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants) children's home in France [either in Ambloy or Taverny].
    Date
    1945 - 1947
    Locale
    Taverny, [Val-d'Oise] France
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Claude & Judith Feist Hemmendinger
    Event History
    The Buchenwald children were a group of approximately 1000 Jewish child survivors found by American troops when they liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11, 1945. Most of the children were originally from Poland, though others came from Hungary, Slovenia and Ruthenia. Unsure of what to do with the child survivors, American army chaplains, Rabbi Herschel Schacter and Rabbi Robert Marcus, contacted the offices of the OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants), the Jewish children's relief organization in Geneva. They arranged to send 427 of the children to France, 280 to Switzerland and 250 to England. [Vivette Samuels reverses the figures for England and Switzerland in her monograph, "Sauver les Enfants."] On June 2, 1945 OSE representatives arrived in Buchenwald, and together with Rabbi Marcus escorted the transport of children to France. Rabbi Schacter accompanied the second transport to Switzerland. Because of the difficulty in finding clothing for the children, the boys were clad in Hitler Youth uniforms. This created a problem, for when the train crossed into France, it was greeted by an angry populace who assumed the train was carrying Nazi youth. Thereafter the words "KZ Buchenwald orphans" were painted on the outside of the train to avoid confusion. On June 6, 1945 the French transport arrived at the Andelys station and the orphans were taken to a children's home in Ecouis (Eure). The home had been set up to accommodate young children, but in fact only 30 of the boys were below the age of 13. This was only one of the many problems faced by the OSE personnel, who were not prepared to handle a large group of demanding, rebellious teenagers who were full of anger for what they had experienced. At Ecouis the boys were given medical care, counseling and schooling until more permanent accommodations could be found. Most of the children remained only four to eight weeks at Ecouis before being moved elsewhere, and the home was closed in August 1945. Among the first to leave were a group of 173 children who had family in Palestine. They were given immigration certificates and departed from Marseilles in July aboard the British vessel, the RMS Mataroa. The remaining boys at Ecouis were soon transferred to other residences and homes. Some of the older ones were sent to the Foyer d'Etudiants located on the rue Rollin in Paris, where they boarded while attending vocational training courses or working at jobs in the city. Others were sent to the Chateau de Boucicaut home in Fontenay-aux-Roses (Hauts-de-Seine). Many of the boys came from religiously observant homes. Since the OSE could not obtain kosher food for everyone, they divided the children into religious and non-religious groups. Dr. Charly Merzbach offered OSE the use of his estate, the Chateau d'Ambloy (Loir-et-Cher) for the summer, and between 90 and 100 boys chose to go there in order to receive kosher food and live in a religious environment. In October 1945 the children and staff of Ambloy were relocated to the Chateau de Vaucelles in Taverny (Val d'Oise). About 50 of the non-religious boys were taken to the Villa Concordiale in Le Vesinet (Yvelines) near Paris that housed an equal number of French Jewish orphans. In the summer they went to the Foyer de Champigny in Champigny-sur-Marne (Val-de-Marne). In all the homes attended by the Buchenwald children vocational training as well as regular classroom instruction was offered. At the same time OSE social workers made every effort to locate surviving relatives, succeeding in about half the cases. By the end of 1948 all of the Buchenwald children who had come to France had left the OSE fold and begun new lives for themselves.

    [Sources: Hemmendinger, Judith and Krell, Robert. "The Children of Buchenwald." Gefen Publishers, 2000; Grobman, Alex. "Rekindling the Flame." Wayne State University Press, 1993; Hazan, Katy, "Chronologie de l'histoire de l'OSE L'action de l'OSE apres la guerre." (31 December 2002).]

    https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005131.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Claude & Judith Feist Hemmendinger

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Biography
    Judith Hemmendinger (born Judith Feist) is the daughter of Phillip and Hannah Feist. She was born on October 2, 1923 in Bad Homburg, a resort area near Frankfurt. The family was quite wealthy, highly educated, and religiously orthodox. Her father was a mining engineer and her mother held a doctorate in zoology from the University of Heidelberg. Judith had four siblings, Selma, Moshe (Martin), Jacob and Ellen. When she was five, her father took a new job and moved the family to Eaubonne, near Paris and began spending their summers in Megève, in southern France. Since they were the only Jews in the area, Judith and her siblings attended a public school and received private tutoring in Hebrew and Bible. When Selma reached high school age, the family moved to Paris so that the children could attend better schools. The Feists were vacationing in Megève when the war broke out in September 1939. Phillip was arrested as an enemy alien since he held German citizenship, and was sent to a camp in Normandy along with members of the German embassy and consulate. Surprisingly, Phillip got along well with the non-Jewish Germans interned with him and spent his time studying Talmud. The rest of the family was assigned a residence in Megève. After Phillip's release in June 1940, the family went to Roanne, but Phillip was advised by German officials to return to Paris since they could not guarantee his safety in the free zone. Hannah and the children remained in Roanne, and Phillip promised to return as soon as possible. Back in Paris, Phillip passed his days studying Talmud with a friend, M. Chouchani, in the Metro, the only place where he could stay warm. Phillip later left Paris at the request of Rabbi Schneerson (a cousin of the Lubavitcher rebbe) who asked that he come to Nice in the Italian zone to help establish a school in nearby Voiron. While at the Nice train station, Phillip was arrested and sent to the Gurs internment camp. He was later deported to Drancy, and from there, to Auschwitz in September 1943, where he was killed upon arrival. In the summer of 1942, Judith went to work for USSAC, a religious youth hostel. On January 1, 1943, under the alias Jacqueline Fournier, she went to Taluyers, ostensibly an agricultural school near Lyon, but in reality a religious hachshara (Zionist agricultural collective) run by the Eclaireurs Israelites de France (Jewish scouts) . Twenty-two Jewish boys and two girls with false papers attended the school. There Judith fell in love with a fellow student, Claude Hemmendinger. In mid-September, 1943 her mother called to say that her father had been arrested. She wanted to flee to Switzerland along with the two youngest children and asked Judith to accompany them. The family hired a passeur to guide them over the Alps. He brought them near Annemasse and then told them to go the rest of the way on their own. After crossing the border, they were apprehended by Swiss police and taken to a prison in Geneva. Following their release, Judith and her family were sent to a refugee camp where Judith worked as a teacher. She learned that the OSE was establishing a six-month class to train social workers to deal with the post-war situation. Anxious to leave the confines of the camp, Judith applied and was accepted. She also worked for the OSE interviewing children who had arrived with false papers in an attempt to reestablish their true identities and so be able to locate their parents after the war. In May 1945 Judith returned to France in response to an OSE cable asking for volunteers to care for child survivors from Buchenwald. She arrived at the Ambloy home for Orthodox boys to find that the director had a hard time relating to the boys and wanted to quit. Judith soon took over as the new director, remaining with the children after the home moved to Taverny. She stayed with the boys until September 1947 when the last child found permanent shelter. After the home closed Judith went to visit an aunt and uncle in London. One day she received a letter from Claude Hemmendinger asking to see her again. He was recuperating at his parent's home in Strasbourg after being wounded in battle in Palestine. They met in Paris and married shortly thereafter in September 1948. The couple then immigrated to Israel. Judith's mother survived the war and in 1949 joined her family in Israel.
    Record last modified:
    2004-08-13 00:00:00
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