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Children of the Holocaust Who Are Anonymous No More

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tags: Holocaust, Jewish history, technology



They appear for less than three seconds in the film footage, faces distorted through the window glass. Small cherubs, staring out confusedly at a chaotic scene on the railway platform. In a few moments, the train will roll out, and they will be on their way to a Nazi death camp.

For decades, these nameless children have been among the anonymous victims of hate captured in rare footage that showed the Nazis shipping off people in cattle cars to be murdered.

The footage is part of a compilation known as the Westerbork Film, named after the Nazi transit camp from which Dutch Jews were deported to death camps in occupied Poland and Germany. Shot in 1944, the footage has been used in countless war documentaries, the unknown passengers serving as the public faces of the millions sent to “the East.”

Now two Dutch researchers, authors of a new book about the film, have identified two of the children behind the glass, along with at least 10 other individuals captured on film, providing a more detailed, personal view of lives ravaged by the Holocaust.

The children were 3-year-old Marc Degen and his 1-year-old sister, Stella Degen. The researchers believe that their cousin, Marcus Simon Degen, who would soon turn 4, was also on the train with them. The children were deported with their parents on May 19, 1944, to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. The scene was captured by Werner Rudolf Breslauer, a German-Jewish inmate, who was assigned to film aspects of the camp for propaganda purposes.

All three of the children would survive the war, even after their parents were taken from them, because of the efforts of another prisoner who hid and cared for them. Two of them are still alive to bear witness to the horrors they suffered.

“Now I feel that I can shout from the roofs, I’m still here, the Nazis didn’t get me,” said Marc Degen, who recently turned 80, in an interview from his home in Amstelveen, a leafy suburb of Amsterdam. His sister, now Stella Fertig, lives in Queens, N.Y. Their cousin, Marcus Simon, also survived the war, but he died in 2006.

The researchers, Koert Broersma and Gerard Rossing, will reveal the additional identities of other people in the film as part of the launch of their new book, “Kamp Westerbork gefilmd,” on Tuesday at the Remembrance Center Camp Westerbork, a museum and memorial site in Drenthe, the Netherlands.

Read entire article at New York Times

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