AMSTERDAM (Aug. 23)
A conference of Jewish children who survived the Holocaust in hiding in this country opened here Sunday to wide publicity in the local media.
It was a local version of the landmark conference of “hidden children” held in New York in June 1991. But this conference was only for Jews who as children were in hiding in Holland during the Nazi occupation.
Over 500 people now living in several different countries registered to participate. Even more applied, but the organizers did not want participation to be too massive.
At last year’s conference in New York, only 60 hidden children from Holland participated, as the travel expenses were an obstacle for many.
The Amsterdam conference, lasting three days, was organized by the Jewish Social Welfare Foundation and the Information Center for Material Aid to Victims of World War II. It was initiated by Max Arian, who was himself a hidden child.
Arian was present last year at the New York gathering. He is now a journalist for the Dutch left-wing weekly Di Groene (The Green).
Apart from the opening and closing sessions, the conference will be accessible only to the “hidden children” themselves.
Several social workers and psychologists were on hand to help those who might experience emotional difficulties.
The conference was opened Sunday morning by the Dutch minister for social welfare, Hedy D’Ancona, whose father was Jewish.
D’Ancona stressed that an important result of this conference is that persons who for 50 years were unable to talk about their traumatic experiences now at last are able to tell their story and share it with others.
SOME TRAUMATIZED. OTHERS BITTER
Several interviews and radio and television programs that appeared on the eve of the conference stressed the traumatic experiences of these children, particularly after the war.
Some are embittered that they were forcibly removed from their loving foster parents, where they had felt safe and at home, and taken to Jewish relatives or even to Israel.
Others, on the other hand, were angered that they were left with non-Jewish foster parents, where they felt totally alien and where Jews were known only from the Old Testament.
Of this second group was Bjorn Gruenbaum, now a prosperous businessman in Philadelphia, who appeared on a Saturday night television program which had received advance publicity.
In a replay of an American television interview, Gruenbaum said he was not only a survivor of the Holocaust but a survivor among survivors, as many children in similar positions as he had committed suicide or had landed in psychiatric institutions.
He himself, at the age of 16, fled from the small Dutch town where he had felt thoroughly unhappy and escaped to Sweden, where he became, in his own words, “a human being for the first time in my life.”
From Sweden he went on to the United States, where he now owns a firm in advanced computer technology.