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Life in an Orphanage

Dublin Core


Life in an Orphanage


Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
Holocaust survivors.


Oral history interview with Thomas Buergenthal, Holocaust survivor. This video was originally produced by Media Entertainment, Inc., for the 2000 documentary The Genocide Factor.


Media Entertainment, Inc.


Genocide Factor Collection, Oral History Program, Tampa Library, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.


Tampa, Fla. : University of South Florida Tampa Library.


Buergenthal, Thomas


Tape number: 4120D


video / mp4




Oral History


Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Buergenthal, Thomas


The period in the orphanage is interesting, again as a sort of historical footnote, because our orphanage was an orphanage run by the Jewish Bund, which was a socialist communist Jewish organization that didn't want people to go to Palestine then.

At the same time, a Zionist group, the Hashomer Hatzair, had more or less infiltrated the orphanage, and there was one counselor who got all of us who -- those who wanted go to Israel -- it was then Palestine -- put their names on a list, and would then run away one by one to the Zionist kibbutz in Poland, or camp, and would be shipped from there to Palestine. And I signed up for this group. Problem was that I was the only one who had been in Auschwitz and in other camps, and so the decision was made that I should run away last because I would be interviewed on the newsreel and on radio about my camp, and they thought that if I ran away it would blow the whole operation. So I was put on the list. The list was sent to the Jewish Agency for Palestine, to Jerusalem. But I was told that I would be told when to run away, but I would be the last person.

In the meantime, something unbelievable happened. My mother had survived the camp, and my brother -- my mother's brother was here in the United States, and they began looking for me all over, of course, after the war. And they couldn't find me. My mother never gave up hope that I was alive. Everybody told her it's impossible that he survived, but she believed that I survived. And among other places where they looked, of course, was the Jewish Agency for Palestine. Somebody in the search bureau of the Jewish Agency for Palestine noticed that there was a child in an orphanage in Poland who was going to be coming to Palestine, who met the description of the child that the woman was looking for in Germany, and notified my uncle in the United States. And that's how they -- how I was eventually reunited with my mother.

What happened was that the -- it wasn't all that easy to leave Poland, you know. I had no papers or anything else. And my mother was in Germany at the time, in the British Zone. So the American Joint Distribution Committee basically smuggled me out in December of 1946 from Poland to Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovakia to the American Zone, and then the American Zone to the British Zone in Germany until I was reunited with my mother. And the Joint operated with the Brihah, which had bribed a lot of people on the border, and that's how I got to Germany in '46. That was really three years after I'd been separated from my mother.

Original Format

Beta tape




Media Entertainment, Inc., “Life in an Orphanage,” USF Library Special & Digital Collections Exhibits, accessed August 13, 2020,