One Thousand Children

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The One Thousand Children [1][2](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, and came directly to the United States, during the period 1934-1945 - having been rescued by organizations (both American and European) and also by individuals. The "One Thousand Children" refers specifically only to those children who circumstances 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).

This OTC group who fled directly to America, is exactly similar to the kindertransport who fled mainly to Britain. Both groups are truly Child Survivors of the Holocaust.

One Thousand Children, Inc (OTC)[edit]

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. OTC, Inc's print, photo, and audio-visual archives, and some of its activities have been transferred to YIVO, though it itself has ceased to exist.

Early history, initial arrivals of children, helping organizations, difficulties during WWII[edit]

Some 1.5 million children perished in the Holocaust (see Children in the Holocaust). 1,500,000 children. Yet millions of children did survive. A very few were saved by the efforts of some program or group. In western Europe these would include the kindertransport program, which included the individual efforts of Sir Nicholas Winton,and the work of Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE). In these, the children remained in Europe or went to Palestine.

In the One Thousand Children program[1][3] , approximately 1,400 children were successfully rescued and brought to the United States, 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). The youngest was 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),[4] The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, "(colloquially known as "the Joint"), and the Society of Friends (the Quakers, see History of 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.[5]

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,[6][7] many from the Gurs internment camp. (These about 350 children are simultaneously both OTC and OSE children.)

Those involved include 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,[8] (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.[9](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.[10] 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 to rescue any one at all: The Oswego NY "Safe Haven" scheme. This brought in refugee families, with the initial very negative proviso that they leave the country at the end of the war! After the war, they were in fact allowed to stay in the United States! For more information see Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter, also see references.[11][12]

The OTC children[edit]

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.[13] It was usually only late in a journey that a Rescue Agency would start escorting the children.[1][3]

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.

Most OTC children went on to contribute greatly to American society:[14]

  • One OTC child, Jack Steinberger, became a Nobel Laureate in physics.
  • Another OTC child, Ambassador Richard Schifter, during and after World War II was one of the Ritchie Boys. He then had a very significant diplomatic and legal career, and was the U.S. Ambassador for Human Relations at the United Nations. As a child in Austria, his father told him that no Jew could become an Ambassador (in Austria). Schifter did become an American Ambassador to the United Nations, but his father had been already murdered by the Nazis. (See his personal video cited below.)
  • 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, the promoter of the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones and of many other Rock amusicians. He was the first Rock impresario and promoted many very significant Rock concerts.

Emotional and Practical Effects[edit]

The OTC children went through significant emotional trauma and practical difficulties before their arrival in America, during their initial period in America, and even later.[15][16]

Most OTC children were placed in "foster-families," some of which were loving and some not; or sometimes they were placed in various types of institutions, some caring, and some not. But that could not replace the love and support from his own family; and the new relationship would take time to develop. The older OTC children fully knew the dangers their left-behind parents faced from the Nazi threat. And then, at the end of the war, nearly always the OTC child would find out, sooner or later, that his parents had been murdered by the Nazis; and there would also have been the prior stress of waiting and hoping, before that final factual discovery.

At a more practical level, an OTC child arrived in America not being able to speak English, and so he was held behind in school grade placement (though most rapidly learned English and then advanced rapidly into his proper school-grade). He had to adapt to a new culture and way of behaving.

Holocaust Child Survivors and Hidden Children, OTC similarities to Hidden Children, OTC are Holocaust Child Survivors[edit]

Hidden Children of the Holocaust[edit]

Hidden Children [17][18][19][20][21] of the Holocaust. are those children who were hidden in some way during the Holocaust, so as to avoid capture by the Nazis.

One sub-group even of Hidden Children are Children who, during the Holocaust, were placed into the care of a "foster-family," usually Catholic, and raised as-if one of the family.[20][21]

OTC Children and Hidden Children in foster-families - Parallels and Differences[edit]

The OTC experiences and those of those Hidden Children in foster-families had many overlapping similarities, in that he child had been separated from his parents.

However, the OTC experience had the additional negative practical and psychological traumatic features that arose from going to the new land of America, as discussed above (see "Emotional and Practical Effects").

The Hidden Child was directly hiding from the Nazis. He had to pretend he was someone he wasn't, a member of his "foster-family," a Catholic, etc. He was "Hidden." The older Hidden Children knew that if they were discovered by the Nazis their fate was dire. Here indeed was deep psychological trauma. The OTC child was never in fear for his life - that is why he had fled to a safe land, America

An OTC child, exactly like a Hidden Child in a "foster-home," had previously depended on his own parents for everything, both practical and emotional. For either child, he "lost " his parents and his parental support during the war (or for an OTC sometimes even before the war). Instead he went into the care, good or bad, of strangers, who could not fully replace his parents. Often he was too young even to "remember" his parents and his hopefully happy childhood before the war; however, the unconscious awareness of his loss itself caused trauma.

In contrast to an Adult Survivor, any Holocaust Child Survivor's self-identity was still developing, or if he was very young he did not yet have any self-identity at all. He had had little or no autonomy. He was totally dependent and helpless. He was only a Child.

OTC are Holocaust Child Survivors[edit]

An OTC child went through very significant trauma, both practical circumstances and deeply psychological, some of it only in his subconscious yet still present. These trauma in large part corresponded to many aspects of those developed by the "foster-family" sub-group of the Hidden Children - Child Survivors who had been raised as-if one of a (generally Catholic) family. Caused by the Holocaust.[22]

Research and discovery[edit]

The fact that some unaccompanied children fled from Europe directly to the U.S.A. was first researched by Judy Baumel-Schwartz[23][1] in a doctoral thesis and book.

However, only in 2000 did Iris Posner[1] have the realization and then implemented it, that these children should be considered a significant distinct Holocaust Survivor group, which should be discussed in the truly public domain.

Iris Posner, in 2000, discovered the story of the Holocaust Survivor group "The One Thousand Children." Posner was intrigued by the question of whether there was an actual American kindertransport effort. Posner wrote letters to newspapers asking such children to contact her, and she and Leonore Moskowitz researched ship manifests and other documents. They originally found the names of approximately one thousand children, (hence the name), of whom 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.

Iris Posner's contributions to the OTC story[edit]

Iris Posner's contributions[24] to the OTC story are absolutely crucial and outstanding - without her there would be no "One Thousand Children" story. These contributions started with her "discovering" and "creating" the One Thousand Children as a concept. She and Moskowitz then went on to search for their names and other information, and then searched for the actual "children;" and then she and Moskowitz put on the 2002 Conference. It was at this Conference that many of the OTC Children realized that they had a new identity - as OTC and as Child Survivors of the Holocaust.

British Kindertransport[edit]

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 Britain 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.

OTC Repository of OTC Archived Documents and Other Media is Now at YIVO[edit]

The Organization's archives have been donated to and now reside at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research [25] 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.

Certain other artifacts are located at the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH)[26] in Philadelphia.

Videos About OTC or OTC'ers[edit]

  1. "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) [27]
  2. "The Complete Story of the One Thousand Children" This tells the story of the OTC, the kids, the rescuers, and the rescue-programs. 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) [28]
  3. "'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. 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).[29]
  4. 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 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) [30]
  5. 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 career that culminated by serving as U.S. Ambassador for Human Rights at the United Nations. (2003) (18 minute video) [31]
  6. 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. 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).[32]

One OTC Child's Story: Werner S. Zimmt[edit]

Werner S. Zimmt is just one of the many stories of these One Thousand Children, who survived because the German Jewish Children's Aid rescued him. In an exclusive interview with journalist David Leighton, published in the Arizona Daily Star newspaper, on May 13, 2014, he told his story (see external link below):

Werner and his twin brother were born to a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany. After Adolf Hitler's rise to power and the inception of his anti-Semitic policies, his parents, fearing for their sons lives, worked with the German-Jewish Children's Aid to quietly move them to safety in the United States. The twins arrived in the U.S. in 1935, and after a short time in an orphanage in New York, were moved to Chicago, where they lived with a foster family for a few years. During this time Werner Zimmt learned English and attended school. His parents would eventually escape the Nazi's death grip and come to the U.S. to join their sons.

When the U.S. entered World War II, Werner volunteered to serve in the U.S. Marines, but was rejected because he was considered an enemy alien due to his German heritage. The following year, the U.S. Government changed its mind and he was drafted in the U.S. Army, where he became one of the Ritchie Boys. "He had the dangerous job of manning listening posts in front of the main line and sending back intelligence to headquarters, and of going on reconnaissance patrols. He also served as the interrogator of German prisoners of war."

After the war, Werner Zimmt went onto become a chemist, working for DuPont in Philadelphia for many years. After he retired he relocated to Tucson, Arizona, where he worked at the University of Arizona, Department of Agriculture and also volunteered at the Arizona State Museum on campus. Zimmt passed away on Sept. 12, 2014.


  1. ^ a b c d e 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
  2. ^ The actual OTC web-pages give much information and are a primary source: One Thousand Children [1]
  3. ^ a b Baumel, Judith T. Unfulfilled Promise. Denali Press, Juneau, AK. 1990. ISBN 0-938737-21-X
  4. ^ Much information about the GJCA is give by documents at the "Center for Jewish History"
  5. ^
  6. ^ see the OSE-France official web-site
  7. ^ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum USHMM caption to photo 38351, which shows Andree Salomon and several of these children
  8. ^
  9. ^ Wyman, David S. The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941–1945 (Pantheon, New York) ISBN 0-394-42813-7
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ The official web-page for OSE is
  14. ^ Sonnert, Gerhard and Gerald Holton "What Happened to the Children Who Fled Nazi Persecution": ISBN 1-4039-7625-2.
  15. ^ Moskovitz, Sarah "LOVE DESPITE HATE - Child Survivors of the Holocaust and their Adult Lives." Schocken Books, New York 1983. ISBN 0-8052-3801-8.
  16. ^ Krell, Robert"Child Holocaust Survivors, Memories and Reflections." Trafford Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4251-3720-5.
  17. ^ Much about the Hidden Children was included in an Exhibition held at the United States Holocaust Museum (USHMM) in 2006: "Life in Shadows."
  18. ^ Even more information can be found at the hyperlinks in the prior reference:
  19. ^ A related Exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYCH, also described the Hidden Children"
  20. ^ a b The Andi-Defamation League (ADL) is a source for information about the Hidden Children
  21. ^ a b Here the ADL describes, with photos, a few Child Survivors, not all being Hidden Children
  22. ^ Robert Krell, "Child Holocaust Survivors, Memories and Reflections." Trafford Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4251-3720-5.
  23. ^ Baumel, Judith T. Unfulfilled Promise. Denali Press, Juneau, AK. 1990. ISBN 0-938737-21-X
  24. ^ The actual OTC web-pages give much information and are a primary source: One Thousand Children [2]
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • 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

External links[edit]

  • One Thousand Children [3]
  • "The One Thousand Children: Their Complete Story (The American Kindertransport)" (12 minute video)[4]
  • "Torn From Home" - a 11 minute video of several OTC kids telling their stories (and has initial horrors of Naziism taking over in Germany) [5]
  • 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) [6]
  • Interview with OTC founder Iris Posner (30 minute video)[7]
  • OTC American Ambassador Richard Schifter's very successful OTC and adult life is presented (24 minute video) [8]. (and see above.)
  • "Thea Lindauer & The One Thousand Children: Their Stories (American Kindertransport)"(45 minute video) [9]
  • David Leighton, "Street Smarts: Tucson veteran was among 1,000 children saved from Nazi Germany," Arizona Daily Star, May 14, 2014. This tells the interesting story of one OTC who joined the Army to fight in WWII; as did many OTC, often starting as one of the Ritchie Boys. (see above for more details.)