Where to go?

Jack U collected photos of boys who were in France. Jack and another Melbourne Boy Benny G are in the photos.
Jack U collected photos of boys who were in France. Jack and another Melbourne Boy Benny G are in the photos.

In deciding where to go after Buchenwald, the young survivors knew that returning to their original homes was not an option. Many had not been in their hometowns for six years, and some were so young when they were forced to leave that they did not remember their address. Furthermore, many feared that antisemitism awaited them if they were to return. Despite this, some did return to their hometowns to look for relatives. Deeply disappointed when they found that no relatives had survived and that their homes had been ransacked or taken over by others, they went to the Jewish welfare organisation who arranged refuge accommodation for them.

The Buchenwald children were given the option of going to Palestine, as it then was. In 1945, Palestine was still under the British Mandate – it did not become the State of Israel until May 1948. Gaining entry permits into Palestine under the British Mandate was difficult. With very few countries willing to accept Jewish refugees, many Holocaust survivors did choose Palestine, especially those who were brought up as Zionists. Szaja C explained that he did not want to go to Palestine because of the war and unrest there. He said that, after surviving the Holocaust, he needed to settle in a peaceful place. This was echoed by many of the Buchenwald Boys, including Sam L who said that, as the only survivor in his entire family, he had an obligation to ensure his family's continuity by planting new roots in a safe place. The reality of the danger in Palestine was felt by Joe and Bernie K, whose eldest brother, Motti, did go there from Buchenwald. However, tragically, not long after his arrival Motti was killed in the Israeli War of Independence.

Sam Si in orphanage in France
Sam Si in orphanage in France

Most of the young Buchenwald survivors who were to eventually settle in Melbourne, were assisted by the Swiss Red Cross and the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE) in finding suitable refuge and rehabilitation in orphanages in France and sanitoria in Switzerland. Some of the Boys felt that whether they were sent to France or to Switzerland was not up to them, but based solely on their age, or their state of health. They concluded this because, generally, the older Boys and those in worse health were sent to Switzerland.

Melbourne Boy, Max Z, described his sadness upon receiving the news from Rabbi Herschel Schacter that he was not included in the group of boys who the French Red Cross was taking to France, due to a quota restricting both the age and number of children. Max was part of the group who went to Switzerland. The Swiss Red Cross also imposed a quota.

The video below shows Rabbi Schacter (at 33 sec) assisting the Boys as they arrived in Switzerland. Melbourne Boy, Henry S (at 40 sec), is pictured sitting on a bench waiting for the group to get off the train. The narrator tells how some very young Buchenwald survivors arrived in Switzerland, although many of the boys seeking refuge were actually somewhat older than the Swiss had expected.