When children were “exterminated”

Photo: Martin’s map “Children under four deported to Auschwitz, 17 August 1942”, Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust

585 words / 2 ½ minute read

Updated editions of three of Martin’s atlases will be making their appearances in the months ahead.  (Watch this space.)  I am at the moment indexing his Holocaust atlas.  He organised that atlas in such a way that text describe the stories he maps in each two-page spread.  Along with maps of camps and deportation routes, there are maps of resistance and escape, but all pales against the German determination to destroy every last remnant of Jewish life.

Where possible, Martin gives numbers – the years or centuries in which Jews had lived in the towns, the numbers of Jews murdered in their towns, or deported to their deaths, and ages and names of some of those whose story the map tells.  Most poignant are the maps of deportations of children.  Martin writes:

“From France, the deportations continued without pause.  On 17 August 1942, among 997 mainly Polish-born Jews deported from Paris to Auschwitz, 27 were children under the age of four, almost all of whom had been born in France, and most of whom were deported without their parents.  Marguerite Jakubovitch was deported with her six brothers and sisters, the oldest of whom was only ten years old:  all had been born in Paris, and were deported without their parents.  All 27 young children named here were gassed within hours of reaching Auschwitz.”

The map shows the rail route from Paris, from the transit camp at Drancy where Jews had been brought and held, to Auschwitz, along with the names and ages of the 27 children who were younger than four years old.  Along with Marguerite who was 3, was Helène Berger, aged 2; Liliane Birenbaum, 3; Henri Zelago, 3; Sarah Winter, 3; Henri Wrzacki, 3; Jacques and Francoise Brabander, 3 year old twins; Micheline Zaborowski, 3; Simone Gotlib, 3; Jacqueline Meichel, 2; Micheline Perl, 3; Nicole Rozenberg, 3; Ginette Moszkowicz, 3; Rosette Frankel, 3; Micheline Weinstock, 2; Simon Goldstein, 2; Albert Poznanski, 3; Rosette Sznorman, 3; Paul Szpanger, 2; Huguette Gutmajnster, nearly 3; Jeannette Jublier, 3; Max Karpensztrig, 3; Denise Kohl, 3; and Anny Baranczyk, 3.

The Auschwitz Chronicle, a day-by-day accounting of Auschwitz based mainly on German documentation, records that on August 19, “997 Jews, including a number of families with children, arrive with the twentieth RSHA transport from France, from Drancy.  341 children between two and 10 years of age and 323 girls up to the age of 16 arrive with the transport.  After the selection, 65 men and 35 women of this transport are admitted to the camp …. The other 897 people are killed in the gas chambers.”

The first mass deportations to Auschwitz in March 1942 were of Jews captured in France.  Gassing began as an organised and mechanical form of murder at the end of July.  Less than three weeks later, twenty transports from France had arrived, each with a similar number of people crammed onto the train, each with very few “admitted to the camp”.

Those from the French deportation trains had spent two days in transit, not knowing where they were going, what the destination was, and without food, water or sanitation.  In Martin’s map we learn that tiny children without even parents to comfort them made this final journey.  We’ve seen the photographs of mothers with their young children in their arms awaiting what they don’t realise is to be their death.  But what of tiny children, alone, who barely understand what life is, let alone death.  It is beyond imagining.

 Read: Holocaust Atlas

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