DISGUISE AS A WAY OF HIDING
G iven the near impossibility of other means of evading the Nazis, the Jews and other victims tried to hide from them. Above all, they tried to save, by hiding, their most precious possessions: their children.
Frequently, children were hidden by disguising their Jewishness. Such concealment was filled with danger. And whether these attempts at hiding through false identities succeeded depended on many factors: luck was important, as were planning, quick-wittedness and sheer bravery. The stories in this section reveal how arbitrary success was, as well as the burden of terror and confusion that being disguised and hidden placed upon the children.
Perhaps most incredible among these stories are those about young people who had to fend for themselves. Alone in an alien world, they needed to find work and a place to live while keeping up the lie of being someone other than themselves. They had to constantly guard against the dangers that could be posed by a slip of the tongue, a wrong accent, recognition by a former acquaintance, looking “Jewish”—even by a circumcision. The story “In Constant Terror” introduces us to a young girl whose loving family, in desperation at the hopelessness of surviving the Warsaw ghetto, sends her out into the hostile Polish landscape. With only her wit and her Polish language skills to maintain her false front, she takes on the identity of peasant, working on the farms of Poland and Germany, barely catching her breath between moments when she is almost recognized.
One common aspect of life in disguise was the need to pose as a Christian. For young people who were raised in devout Jewish families—even when they were sheltered by people who knew they were Jewish, as in “Convert! Convert!” in the story “I Choose Life”—the masquerade was very difficult. It wasn't just that the hidden children didn't know much about Christianity and might be exposed this way. More than that, they lived with a kind of inner agony at the outer “betrayal” of their faith.
In contrast to these stories of children who braved existence on their own, the series “A Hidden Child in Greece” details one writer's experiences in a country where rescuers hid Jewish children within their own families. These rescuers, although complete strangers, not only took the children in but kept in