CHILDREN AND WAR
Many of us remember images from the world wars, the war in Vietnam and in Afghanistan most recently. If we were not cognizant of or witnesses to these events, we likely have seen pictures of what these wars looked like. Today, I saw video of babies and children being lifted over the heads of adults to bring them to the front of the line in hopes of increasing their chance of escaping on a plane at Kabul’s airport. Can you imagine a parent having to do that to save a child? As is said, desperate times call for desperate measures.
I spend a lot time in archives in France where I am searching through documents which shed light on the efforts to rescue Jewish children during World War II. Time and time again, I see how desperate times were. Parents did anything to save their children from deportation even though before 1942, women and children were considered safe.
I’ve come across many documented instances where parents begged religious sisters to take their children into their schools. And they did. Some parents threw their children from windows and then suicided just to be safe from the ravages of the war. In one setting, I remember reading the account of a nun who was forced to give up a little girl. The nun, in tears, remembers the little girl in the back of the truck saying, “Don’t cry. I’ll be back.”
I can never claim to be able to relate experientially with children during war, but I can relate by meeting them in hundreds and hundreds of documents held in archives. Someday I might write about a Hermann Zeydenfeld whose story I followed by way of diaries of nuns in Paris who were trying to take care of him. He was born into war and never made it out alive. His story is fascinating and representative of so many boys and girls who endured war.
The sad and tragic stories are countered as well by happier endings to stories about escape, and successful hiding,. A few years ago, I helped a Jewish woman in Scottsdale who wanted to nominate the Catholic family, which rescued her in Eastern France, for Israel’s highest award for rescue without pay and with great risk to life and limb, Righteous Among the Nations. In fact, this lady was able to meet up in Paris with two of the children in this family. Currently, I am assisting in research for a woman who is seeking the name of the nuns who took her and her sister into their school in Bayonne, France. They came from Austria and made it so far as Nice, from where the parents had to send the children further west to register them in a school. So far, no clear answer, but it will come.
Remember and pray for children who suffer the ravage of war.