Over one million children under the age of sixteen died in the Holocaust - plucked from their homes and stripped of their childhoods, they lived and died during the dark years of WW2 and were victims of the Nazi regime.

One of them was eight-year-old Georges Halpern, who was being sheltered with 43 other children in Children's home in Izieu, a little village east of Lyon, in the hope that the Nazi Gestapo would not find them.

Georges Halpern was born Oct. 30, 1935 in Vienna. After the war a letter to his parents was found - the little boy wrote: "Chere Maman, I send you 10000000000 kisses your son who loves you very much. There are big mountains and the village is very pretty. There are a lot of farms and we look for blackberries and raspberries and white mulberries. I hug you with all my heart. Georgy."

The sleepy village of Izieu lies overlooking the Rhone river between Lyon and Chambery in central France. Refugees from Herault were the first arrivals at the Children's home and their Jewish identity was kept secret by the staff. The children, aged between five and seventeen, felt safe and secure, supervised by seven adults. One of the young boys entertained his companions by making "movies", paintings on transparent paper and scrolled past a lighted box.

However, on the morning of April 6, 1944, as they all settled down  in the refectory to drink hot chocolate,  three vehicles, two of which were lorries, pulled up in front of the home. The Gestapo, led by the 'Butcher of Lyon' Klaus Barbie, entered the home and forcibly removed the forty four children and their seven supervisors, throwing the crying and terrified children on to the trucks like sacks of potatoes.

As a witness later recalled:'I was on my way down the stairs when my sister shouted to me: it's the Germans, save yourself! I jumped out the window. I hid myself in a bush in the garden. I heard the cries of the children that were being kidnapped and I heard the shouts of the Nazis who were carrying them away..'
Following the raid on their home in Izieu, the children were shipped directly to the "collection center" in Drancy, then put on the first available train towards the deathcamps in the East. Forty-two children and five adults were gassed in the extermination camp of Auschwitz.
Two of the oldest children and Miron Zlatin, the superintendent, ended up in Tallin in Estonia and were put to death by a firing squad.
One survivor of Auschwitz revealed during Klaus Barbie's trial what happened to the children:e child to be seen. Then those who had been there for a while informed us of the reality. 'You see that chimney, the one smoke never stops coming out of . ..  you smell that odor of burned flesh ... ?'
Of the forty-four children kidnapped by the Nazis in Izieu, not a single one survived. Of the supervisors there was one sole survivor, twenty-seven year old Lea Feldblum.


The Children from Izieu playing, still hoping the Nazi Gestapo would not find them ...  (photo from "The Children of Izieu")

In a way more than other photos, this photograph captures the essence of the horrors of Holocaust. In his Letter from Izieu Raphael Rothstein tells about the photo:

"For several years I have been haunted by a photograph taken in a tiny rural village called Izieu in the summer of 1943. It shows a group of children and their teachers in a happy mood playing near a farmhouse 60 miles from Lyon, at a high point in the beautiful Rhone Valley. We see the children, who had been brought there a few months earlier by the OSE Jewish rescue organization, cheerfully posing for the camera, unaware of what we know would be their fate. It is this knowledge that gives this picture its special poignancy."

Klaus Barbie sent an almost unbelievable recital of the proud accomplishment and success of the action: "This morning the Jewish children's home 'Children's Colony' in Izieu-Ain was liquidated. Altogether 41 children aged three to thirteen were arrested. Furthermore, it was possible to arrest the whole Jewish staff consisting of ten persons, including five women. Cash or other valuables could not be seized." In addition it says that the transport to Drancy will take place on 7 April 1944. Signed: Barbie. SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Alois Brunner transported the children from Izieu to Auschwitz.

In Izieu a young French woman Renee Paillares, a friend of the Zlatin's and an aide at the children's home in Izieu, succeeded in hiding the three-year-old Jewish refugee child Diane Popowski in her home. The little child, born in 1940 in Luxembourg, did survive the Holocaust.

Georges Halpern's  parents, Seraphine and Julius Halpern, survived the war and moved to Israel where they handed Serge Klarsfeld - author and attorney - copies of their only son' s photos, letters and drawings of quaint village churches and boats. Until just before their deaths in the 1980s, the Halperns continued to run ads around the world in hope of finding their son.
According to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum full statistics for the tragic fate of children who died during the Holocaust will never be known. Some estimates range as high as 1.5 million murdered children.

This figure includes more than 1.2 million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy children and thousands of handicapped children who were murdered under Nazi rule in Germany and occupied Europe.


       The children from Izieu and their seven supervisors:

Sami Adelsheimer, 5
Hans Ament, 10
Nina Aronowicz, 12
Max-Marcel Balsam, 12
Jean-Paul Balsam, 10
Esther Benassayag, 12
Elie Benassayag, 10
Jacob Benassayag, 8
Jacques Benguigui, 12
Richard Benguigui, 7
Jean-Claude Benguigui, 5
Barouk-Raoul Bentitou, 12
Majer Bulka, 13
Albert Bulka, 4
Lucienne Friedler, 5
Egon Gamiel, 9
Maurice Gerenstein, 13
Liliane Gerenstein, 11
Henri-Chaïm Goldberg, 13
Joseph Goldberg, 12
Mina Halaunbrenner, 8
Claudine Halaunbrenner, 5
Georges Halpern, 8
Arnold Hirsch, 17
Isidore Kargeman, 10
Renate Krochmal, 8
Liane Krochmal, 6
Max Leiner, 8
Claude Levan-Reifman, 10
Fritz Loebmann, 15
Alice-Jacqueline Luzgart, 10
Paula Mermelstein, 10
Marcel Mermelstein, 7
Theodor Reis, 16
Gilles Sadowski, 8
Martha Spiegel, 10
Senta Spiegel, 9
Sigmund Springer, 8
Sarah Szulldaper, 11
Max Tetelbaum, 12
Herman Tetelbaum, 10
Charles Weltner, 9
Otto Wertheimer, 12
Emile Zucherberg, 5
Lucie Feiger, 49
Mina Friedler, 32
Sarah Levan-Reifman, 36
Eva Reifman, 61
Moïse Reifman, 63
Miron Zlatin, 39
and Lea Feldblum, 27, sole survivor.

I recommend the books:
French Children of the Holocaust: A Memorial, by Serge Klarsfeld. New York University Press. 1,904 pp. 2,500 photographs.
The Children of Izieu: A Human Tragedy, by Serge Klarsfeld. New York, Abrams: 1984

Photographs from French Children of the Holocaust A Memorial by Serge Klarsfeld
Musee Memorial des Enfants d’Izieu - www.izieu.alma.fr
The Simon Wiesenthal Center - www.wiesenthal.com