Monday, December 20, 2021

Did the Children Cry? Hitler’s War Against Jewish and Polish Children, 1939-45


Nazi crimes against humanity children genocide war crimes Poland Germany invasion deportation concentration camps Germanization resistance hiding survivors

In this, Lukas’ seventh book, he traces the devastating effects of the Nazi regime on Polish and Jewish children during the years 1939 to 1945. Creating a time-line of military tactics, he outlines seven categories, detailing the losses and effects of each. They are Invasion, Deportation, Concentration Camps, Germanization, Resistance, Hiding, and the War and Child Survivors. In each, we meet rescuers and informants, heroes and criminals, survivors and victims.

Of perhaps greatest interest to Catholic readers is the chapter on hiding in which Lukas emphasizes the role played by clergy, religious and the laity. In it he writes, “The Catholic Church played a critical role in aiding unfortunate people, including Jews, during the war.” Lukas related several instances where priests, monks and nuns hid children in the robes of their cassocks and habits to aid in their escape. Baptism and the hiding of children in convents and churches were also mentioned as methods of protection. Also noted are the tremendous losses suffered by clergy and religious, 50 percent in some places, 20 percent in others.

Those orders of women religious singled out for their heroic efforts include the Sisters of Charity (Grey Sisters), the Felician Sisters, the Ursulines, Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary and the Order of St. Elizabeth. Lukas quotes a distinguished Jewish historian, Szymon Datner, on the efforts of Polish Catholic nuns, as such: “In my research I have found only one case of help being refused. No other sector was so ready to help those persecuted by the Germans, including the Jews….this attitude, unanimous and general, deserves recognition and respect.”

Not to be forgotten were the efforts of individuals, no doubt with the support of many behind them. Ranking Polish clergymen, such as Archbishop Adam Sapieha of Krakow, Bishop Karol Niemira and canon Roman Archutowski, led the way by urging clergy to help the Jews. Others followed their lead, including Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, future Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla, the Home of Father Boduen, and many other individuals and groups too numerous to name here but which are included in Lukas’ account.  (more...)

Did the Children Cry? Hitler’s War Against Jewish and Polish Children, 1939-45

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