The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Hidden Child Foundation invited Dr. Dienke Hondius, assistant professor of History at Vijre Universiteit Amsterdam, as the featured guest speaker at an annual gathering of children who survived the Holocaust in hiding. (Photo: Richard Koek)
NEW YORK, NY – On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the death camp where the Nazi regime murdered nearly one million people during the Holocaust, the Hidden Children Foundation held it’s annual gathering of Holocaust survivors who escaped Nazi persecution in hiding as children.
Rachelle Goldstein, co-director of the Hiddent Child Foundation survived the Holocaust in hiding after being separated from her parents when she was only three years old. Goldstein opened the meeting with a reflection on the anniversary of liberation: “Today is a very special anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz…we reflect again upon our martyred family members. For us child survivors, Auschwitz and the Holocaust are never far from our thoughts.”
The Hidden Children Foundation is a group of nearly 5,000 child Holocaust survivors around the world. The US chapter is a branch of the Anti-Defamation League, founded in the United States in 1913, is a Jewish organization that works to educate and raise awareness about antisemitism, prejudice, and hate. Similarly, the Hidden Children Foundation’s mission is to educate others about the consequences of bigotry and hatred, so that “never again” may one day become a reality.
Goldstein continued, “The 75 year marker is also a pressing call and a final appeal for our stories to be documented for the historical record.”
This is exactly what Dr. Dienke Hondius has set out to do in her pioneering project Mapping Hiding Places.
For many years, histories of hiding were relatively unknown and even marginalized within and outside survivor communities.
According to Hondius, this was in large part due to the fact that actual knowledge of the Holocaust was relatively unknown until the 1960s and recognition of survivors as valuable sources of information was not realized until the 1980s with the release of Claude Lanzmann’s documentary Shoah, which featured Holocaust survivor testimony.
“There were silencing mechanisms, specifically of the survivors of hiding…There may have been something about hiding that silenced survivors–to always be silent, to be quiet in hiding, to be a good child, to adjust yourself to the family you were with–that may have changed people and after the war, it became more difficult to speak up…to have your voice,” said Hondius.
Of course many are familiar with the story of Anne Frank, who hid in an attic in Amsterdam for nearly two years before being betrayed and deported to Auschwitz, and then eventually Bergen-Belsen. Anne Frank’s diary is among the most-read books in the world, second only to the Bible.
Many may be surprised to know that until now, there has been no in-depth study of what it meant to go into hiding, experiencing liberation in hiding, and returning from hiding places, among other patterns within hiding experiences. This is the gap that Mapping Hiding Places seeks to fill.
Now, the project has expanded using ESRI mapping software to pinpoint the exact locations of places where Jews hid during the Holocaust (1933-1945). Hondius and her team have mapped over 1,000 hiding places throughout Europe so far and each point on the map contains an individual story of someone in hiding.
“The information about hiding is spread everywhere. There are a lot of memoirs, a lot of interviews, there are a lot of diaries, so the information is everywhere, but [it’s] not brought together. There is no overview, no deeper insight to this history–and with mapping we can change that.”
is an international project that began with university students at Vijre Universiteit Amsterdam under Hondius’ direction gathering information about locations on hiding places.
Rachelle Goldstein made opening remarks at the annual Hidden Children Foundation gathering. (Photo: Richard Koek)
Dr. Dienke Hondius, and Rachelle Goldstein at the Hidden Children Foundation in New York City, NY. (Photo: Richard Koek)
The aim of the project is to increase knowledge and insight in the histories, locations and relations in of Jewish people who survived the Holocaust in hiding. By mapping these hiding locations, Hondius and her tam hope to gain more insight into histories, memories and legacy of Jewish hiding in europe during the Holocaust.
The challenge? Many people did not know the exact locations where they were hidden. Everything had to be kept secret, not only to protect the Jewish person in hiding, but also the people who were hiding them.
By creating a large network of researchers, Holocaust survivors and their children, Hondius hopes to fill in the information gaps and collect addresses of hiding places to show a comprehensive story of hiding in Europe during World War II.
All of this information will go into a database through the ESRI mapping software. Eventually these maps can be used for educational or tourism purposes. Already, Hondius and her team created walking tours of hiding places in Amsterdam and once more research is conducted, there are opportunities to expand tours to other places throughout Europe.
When it comes to education, mapping hiding histories can be a very powerful tool for researchers, teachers, and students.
In her presentation Hondius said, “Kids are interested because they think the war, that it is like the Middle Ages, that it was a long, long time ago. When you stand in front of a building and you explain that somebody was in hiding there, it becomes much more real. So, it has a special force to talk about locations.”
Aside from expanding the database, the hiding places map, and walking tours, Mapping Hiding Places is also connecting survivors of hiding with artists to create graphic novels about their experiences in hiding. Graphic novels are the latest form of storytelling and approach to Holocaust education.
Dr. Hondius is now Ida E. King Distinguished Visiting Professor of Holocaust Studies at Stockton University. While at Stockton, Dr. Hondius will incorporate her undergraduate and graduate students into the Mapping Hiding Places project.