One Thousand Children
The One Thousand Children (often simply "OTC") refers to the approximately 1,400 mostly Jewish children who were rescued from Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied or threatened European countries, during the period 1934-1945, by organizations (both American and European) and also by individuals. Most importantly and specifically, the One Thousand Children refers only to those children who were forced to come unaccompanied and had to leave their parents behind in Europe. Most of these parents were murdered by the Nazis. (Originally only about one thousand such children had been identified as OTC children — hence the name "The One Thousand Children") (OTC)
The term also refers to the non-profit research and education organization One Thousand Children, Inc (OTC), whose primary purposes are to maintain a connection between the OTC children, to explore this little-known segment of American history, and to create archival materials and depositories.
Although some 1.5 million children perished in the Holocaust, approximately 1,400 children were brought to America in quiet operations designed to avoid attention from isolationist and antisemitic forces. (Originally only about one thousand such children had been identified as OTC children — hence the name "The One Thousand Children") (OTC) These children:
- came from Europe directly to the United States mainly from 1934 through 1945;
- were aged up through the age of sixteen (the "arbitrary" cut-off age, before they were considered adults). Remarkably, the youngest was actually only fourteen months old;
- arrived unaccompanied, leaving their parents behind, and
- were then placed with foster families, schools and facilities across the U.S.
The first small group of six children arrived in New York City in November 1934. This and subsequent small groups, totaling about 100 annually in the early years of operation, were taken to foster homes arranged through appeals to congregations and organizations' members.
Most of the children came through official programs run by refugee Agencies such as the German Jewish Children's Aid (GJCA), The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, "(the Joint"), and the Society of Friends (the Quakers). Also, to a lesser extent the U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children. In advocacy efforts some relevant work was done by the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, and the National Council of Jewish Women,.
For instance, many of the OTC children were initially gathered together, supported, looked after, and educated by the French Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE), sometimes for many months in the OSE "chateaux." Only then was OSE able to pass them on to the "Joint" and the Quakers, which then took them to the United States. Under the leadership of Andree Salomon, OSE did manage to gather together about 350 such children in three large groups, many from the Gurs internment camp. (These about 350 children belong simultaneously to both OTC and OSE.)
It is important to recognize the heroic efforts made by all these organizations to save these children, even if the number actually saved was not large. There were many heroic individuals involved with these organizations, including Kate Rosenheim and Cecelia Razovsky.
Other children came under private arrangements and sponsorship, typically made by the parent(s) with a family relative or friend. Such children would live with their sponsor, or sometimes live in a boarding school in close contact with their sponsor.
Before 1941, only small groups were brought into the country by such organizations, because of social hostility to allowing foreigners to enter the U.S. during the Depression. Sponsoring organizations wanted to avoid drawing undue attention to the children, whose immigration was limited by quotas for their countries of origin.
The demand on these organizations increased markedly in late 1938 when Kristallnacht convinced more parents that the destruction of Jews was an element of the Nazi agenda. However, U.S. immigration and foreign policy continued to place limits on immigration. The proposed Wagner–Rogers Bill to admit 20,000 Jewish refugees under the age of 14 to the United States from Nazi Germany, co‑sponsored by Sen. Robert F. Wagner (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Edith Rogers (R-Mass.), failed to get Congressional approval in February 1939. Jewish organizations did not feel able to challenge this decision. Even the Ickes plan for settling Jews in Alaska, known as the Slattery Report, failed to get approval.
In the later period of 1941–1942, larger groups of OTC children were organized and arrived in the U.S.A, when news of Nazi atrocities was more widely circulated. A few of the children came under the British Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB) program, as well as the non-governmental "U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children" (USCOM)
In the official OTC programs under the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), German Jewish Children's Aid Society, (GJCA), the Quakers, etc., foster families in the U.S. agreed to care for the children until age twenty-one, see that they were educated, and provided a guarantee that they would not become public charges. Most of these children were assigned a social worker from a local social service agency to oversee the child's resettlement process. Jewish children were generally placed in Jewish homes. These children, and their sponsors, expected that they would be reunited with their own families at the end of the conflict. Most of the children lost one or both parents and most of their extended families by the time World War II had ended.
The OTC story is similar to that of the kindertransport in which unaccompanied children came from mainland Europe to Great Britain. That program was "created" by the British government when it waived all visa requirements for such children. This contrasts greatly with the OTC program, for which most the US government did not waive any visa requirements.(Chapter 7 pp 124–142) reports that the State Department had a deliberately obstructionist paper walls policy in operation to delay or prevent the issuing of any officially permitted visas. This Paper Wall contributed to the low number of refugees. From July 1941 all immigration applications went to a special inter-departmental committee, and under the “relatives rule” special scrutiny was given to any applicant with relatives in German, Italian or Russian territory. From July 1943 a new visa application form over four feet long was used, with details required of the refugee and of the two sponsors; and six copies had to be submitted. Applications took about nine months, and were not expedited even in cases of imminent danger. Furthermore, from fall 1943, applications from refugees “not in acute danger” could be refused (e.g. people who had reached Spain, Portugal or North Africa). This created a huge barrier, since many of these children (usually with their parents) had fled there from other parts of Europe, some by being smuggled over the Pyrenees.
The One Thousand Children were not aided in any way by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government made only one "positive" effort: The Oswego NY "Safe Haven" scheme. This brought in refugee families - most importantly see Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter, also see references.
For many of the OTC children, the period before they reached America was very difficult. Before World War II, most were simply assembled by Rescue Agencies directly from their home towns in Germany and Austria, and then easily escorted to America. But after the war started, nearly all of them went through extreme hardships and dangers before they boarded ship for the United States. Some did travel to the port with parents, but many traveled alone, at least for part of their flight. Some were smuggled over the Pyrenees (usually with their parents). Some were incarcerated for a time in concentration camps such as Gurs internment camp in southern France, while some spent time in a French "château" (large mansion) run by the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants. It was usually only late in a journey that a Rescue Agency would start escorting the children.
Before the war, some of the OTC children came by individual arrangements made by their family, in which the child would be sent into the care of a relative in America. In America, they would either live with that family, or perhaps placed in a boarding school.
The difficulties these OTC children went through in America must also be stressed. Usually the children arrived not being able to speak English, and so they were held behind in school grade placement (though most rapidly learned English and then advanced rapidly in school-grade). Most were placed either in "foster-families" some of which were loving and some not; or they were placed in various types of institutions, some caring, and some not. They all had been taken away from their families. The older ones fully knew the dangers their left-behind parents faced from the Nazi threat.
Most OTC children went on to contribute greatly to American society:
- One OTC child, Jack Steinberger, became a Nobel Laureate in physics.
- Another OTC child, Ambassador Richard Schifter, was first of the Ritchie Boys during and after World War II, and then had a very significant diplomatic and legal career, and most importantly was the U.S. Ambassador for Human Relations at the United Nations.
Gunther (Guy) Stern was one of the Ritchie Boys and has had a distinguished career as a university professor and Holocaust Museum director.
- Bill Graham, promoter of the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones and of many other Rock musicians and concerts.
- Many other of the OTC contributed in a myriad of ways.
The very "existence" of the remarkable story of The One Thousand Children was discovered by Iris Posner in 2000. Posner was intrigued by the question of whether there was an American kindertransport effort. Posner and Leonore Moskowitz researched ship manifests and other documents, and originally found the names of approximately one thousand children, (hence the name), of whome they then managed to locate about 500 still alive. Since that time, they have found the names of about 400 more, so thus they have identified a total of about 1400. Soon after, Posner and Moskowitz jointly founded the organization The One Thousand Children.
Posner and Moskowitz, under the aegis of their organization "The One Thousand Children" organized a three-day International OTC Conference and Reunion in Chicago in 2002. Approximately 200 attendees had the opportunity to listen and interact with over 50 speakers drawn from OTC children, their children and grandchildren and foster family members and other rescuers.
A larger but similar British program, the Kindertransport, is more well-known. That effort brought approximately 10,000 similarly defined mainly Jewish children to the United Kingdom, between November 21, 1938 and September 3, 1939. While the Kindertransports came to England under a government‑sanctioned (but privately financed and guaranteed) program, this was not the case for the OTC children, where the 12-year effort was the result of the work of a "network of cooperation" among private American individuals and organizations. Some of the "kinder" from Britain subsequently migrated to America, e.g. the Nobel Prize-winning scientists Arno Penzias and Walter Kohn.
The Organization's archives have been donated to and now reside at the Yivo Institute Center for Jewish History, in New York City. These primary archives include video-recordings of the complete 2002 OTC Conference as well as partial written transcripts. Many artifacts, including personal diaries written as children or later as adults, are included; as well as data about each individual (identified) child, other information, and photographs. This archive is open to scholars.
Videos About OTC or OTC'ers
- "I, an OTC, am a True Holocaust Survivor!! Hitler Wanted to put Me on the Dung-Heap of History!! I am Here to Say He Failed!!" says Thea Lindauer, a Jewish OTC. (2 minutes) (2008) 
- "The Complete Story of the One Thousand Children" This tells the story of the OTC, the kids, the rescuers, and the rescue-programs. Most importantly, it tells of the tortuous physical paths and difficulties many of the OTC kids went through to get to America and freedom.(2008)(12 minutes) 
- "'Was there an American Kindertransport?' An Interview with Iris Posner" This 27 minute interview about OTC is mainly factual and historical, primarily about the search for the OTC kids. (This video may well be "omitted" by those who are more interested in the "personal" aspects of the OTC kids' actual stories, and prefer to immediately view video(4)). It presents a great deal about the OTC story, discussed from various view-points. Iris presents an overview of how she first asked the key-question "Was there an American Kindertransport?" and then searched for and found the OTC kids, and actually created the "OTC concept." She presents much about the OTC, how the kids were placed in America, and how appropriate records were made. (She does not talk about the kids themselves.) (27 minutes) (2007).
- Claude Kacser's One Thousand Children Story. Claude, an OTC, was 6 when he arrived in New York City in 1940. This significant video presents an important aspect of the OTC experience - the typical life-path impact upon the OTC kids. Claude not only presents his own story, but he also discusses the effect his OTC experiences had upon his personal, professional, and emotional life, very much as such an example of the OTC impact. (30 minute somewhat slowmoving video) (2002) 
- Ambassador Richard Schifter's One Thousand Children (OTC) Story. Richard, at age 15, fled Vienna in 1938 immediately after Kristallnacht. He went on to serve in Intelligence in the U.S. Army in Germany 1944-46, and had a very important career that culminated by serving as U.S. Ambassador for Human Rights at the United Nations. (2003) (18 minute video) 
- Thea Lindauer's One Thousand Children Story Thea left Germany in 1934 as an OTC at age 12. She presents the social background of her story in Germany, the beginning of her own OTC story in Germany, then her own OTC story in America 1934-1937. Importantly, she also presents the developments in Germany during that time, and their specific impact upon her Jewish family that she left behind. (2008) (44 minute video).
- The One Thousand Children website www.onethousandchildren.org
- Jason, Philip K. and Iris Posner, editors, Don't Wave Goodbye: The Children's Flight from Nazi Persecution to American Freedom . Praeger Greenwood Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, 2004. ISBN 0-275-98229-7.
- Baumel, Judith T. Unfulfilled Promise. Denali Press, Juneau, AK. 1990. ISBN 0-938737-21-X
- Much information about the GJCA is give by documents at the "Center for Jewish History"http://access.cjh.org/home.php?type=extid&term=109118#1
- see the OSE-France official web-site www.ose-france.org http://www.ose-france.org
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum USHMM caption to photo 38351, which shows Andree Salomon and several of these children
- Wyman, David S. The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941–1945 (Pantheon, New York) ISBN 0-394-42813-7
- "FDR and the Jews" by Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman tells some of the other lack of support for early actions against Hitler, and for Jewish refugees in general.
- Jason, Philip K. and Iris Posner, editors, Don't Wave Goodbye: The Children's Flight from Nazi Persecution to American Freedom, Praeger Greenwood Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, 2004. ISBN 0-275-98229-7
- What Happened to the Children Who Fled Nazi Persecution: Gerhard Sonnert and Gerald Holton ISBN 1-4039-7625-2.
- Parens, Henri. Renewal of Life: healing from the Holocaust. Schreiber Publishing, Rockville MD, 2004. ISBN 1-887563-89-X
- Thea Kahn Lindauer. There Must Be An Ocean Between Us (iUniverse) ISBN 978-0-595-45240-8
- Phyllis Helene Mattson. War Orphan in San Francisco (Stevens Creek Press) ISBN 0-9761656-0-0. The author describes her many behavioural issues and placement transitions that she went through, surely because of the drastic disruption in her life at age 12.
- Fern Schumer Chapman. Is It Night or Day?
- Louis Maier. In Lieu of Flowers ISBN 0-86663-213-1
- A truly important statement by an OTC "I am a Holocaust Survivor!"' (2 minute video)
- A very important and highly detailed resource is the "One Thousand Children" website www.onethousandchildren.org 
- "The One Thousand Children: Their Complete Story (The American Kindertransport)" (12 minute video)
- "Torn From Home" - a remarkable 11 minute video of several OTC kids telling their stories (and has initial horrors of Naziism taking over in Germany) 
- This 30 minute video presents the impact that the OTC experience often had on the practical and emotional life-path of an OTC. An OTC tells his OTC and life story, and the very strong effect his OTC years had over his whole life (a slow-moving 30 minutes) 
- Interview with OTC founder Iris Posner (30 minute video)
- OTC American Ambassador Richard Schifter's very successful OTC and adult life is presented (24 minute video) 
- "Thea Lindauer & The One Thousand Children: Their Stories (American Kindertransport)"(45 minute video)