Oral History

Herbert A. Friedman describes finding two child survivors after liberation

Herbert graduated from Yale in 1938. He became a rabbi and worked very closely with American Jewish leader Stephen S. Wise. He became a chaplain in the US Army during World War II. In the spring of 1945, he went to Europe. When the war ended, he was recruited by David Ben-Gurion into the Aliyah Bet ("illegal" immigration) operation of the Hagana. This involved smuggling Jews from eastern Europe through Germany to Palestine. He worked with displaced persons, mainly in Berlin and the American zone of occupation.


We were driving down and we had about a half a load of people and we saw saw two children on the side of the road. This is...just remains locked in my head. Uh...and I jumped out and I wanted to talk to the children. You talk to them in a combination of German or Yiddish or Hebrew. You you find some, you...One of those three languages would work. Uh...but the kids were frightened. They saw an off...uh...a soldier in a uniform and they started to run across the field. And it's a little boy and a little girl and they're holding hands and they're running and they're stumbling and I didn't want to threaten them by running faster than they were. So I kind of followed them and they were gasping and they were crying and finally they ran out of steam and they stopped. And so I stopped and I got...got my arms around them and I tried to explain to them...and I pointed uh...uh the chaplain's insignia on the uniform was a little uh...uh Ten Commandments thing. And they quieted down. I scooped up the two kids, they were about ten or eleven years old, and uh scooped up the kids and uh put them in the truck. But the fear was so palpable, and whatever experience they had been through was so utterly real that they were shocked out of any knowledge of their own names, where they came from, what they were doing there. I mean it was...it was like total amnesia. Uh, and it was obviously already a medical condition. They could not remember their own names. It was the anonymity of those two survivors, they didn't know who they were, what happened to them, where they came from, that really impacted me. Because I don't understand the six million and I don't understand the one and a half million children or whatever the number is. But two children, that's real.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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