These pages document the histories of hidden Jewish children Manfred Wildmann and Sylvia Birnbaum Wildmann and their families in Germany, France, and Belgium during World War II. Sylvia translated the wartime letters exchanged by Manfred's family members as they attempted to survive in France. Later, she published her own memoirs about her childhood in Germany, escape to Belgium, and life as a hidden child.
Manfred, 1932.
Manfred, 1932.

“For a large family and with the Depression in the U.S., it was easy for the immigration authorities to use this as an excuse to deny visas. We could also have tried to go, perhaps illegally, to another country in Europe.

Again, that was not easy for a family of six with very limited funds, and my mother always said that this would be useless, since Hitler was going to take over all of Europe sooner or later. She was right, but what we probably could and maybe should have done was to leave individually, on children’s transports to England, for example. But my parents felt that the family should stay together.”
Read More Life in Philippsburg

Laure, Margot, Hugo, Purim 1927
Laure, Margot, Hugo, Purim 1927

THE FOREIGN SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
October 2, 1940
Mr. Heinrich Wildmann, Philippsburg
In answer to your letter of September 16, 1940 the Consulate regrets to inform you that all Consulate officials responsible in your case, after impartial and just examination, feel compelled to decide, in view of the present situation, to withdraw the previously given tentative approval of your documents that are in our possession. Your name will continue to be carried on our waiting list and your case might be considered again, when those reasons, which led to the rejection of your visa, no longer exist.
Sincerely yours, For the Consul General Hugh H. Teller, American Vise Consul
Read More U.S. Rescinds Visas

“On October 21, 1940, late in the afternoon, my grandfather, as head of the Jewish community, was told to inform all the Jews of Philippsburg that the next day Jews were not allowed to leave their homes. The next morning the police (it may have been the Gestapo) came to every Jewish house, to inform us that we had one hour to pack after which we would be taken away to an unknown destination.”
Read More Life in Philippsburg

Laure, Sukkot, 1939

“When the train finally came, a passenger train with third class coaches, we were relieved that it was heading south and not north towards Poland. While we didn’t know any details of what was happening in Poland, we knew that whatever it was, it wasn’t good.”
Read More Deported to France

“My mother and my brother were deported from Rivesaltes while I was in Grammont, in August 1942. Their last letter is dated August 20, 1942. My father was at that time in a hospital attached to the camp located in Perpignan. He was deported in November 1943. None survived.” Read More Deportations to Poland

Drawing by Manfred.
Drawing by Manfred.

8/20/1942 “Today I and Hugo are being shipped off… My dear and good child, take to heart everything we always told you, be well behaved and honest and do good deeds and hate whatever is base, look for good company and avoid the bad.  Let us hope that we will be reunited in good health and then my most tenderly loved youngest we want to compensate you, who have had to suffer so early in life by being deprived of your loving parental home.  With my whole-hearted love I kiss you a thousand times and send you many, many regards and bless you beseechingly.”  – Mama
Read More In transit to Aushwitz

Drawing by Manfred.

April 8, 1943 “On your 13th year, you are entering the Jewish community as a full fledged member. This has always been a special event in the Jewishly minded family and the celebration of the Barmitzvah was a lovely celebration.  You will best remember the Bar Mitzvah of your brother.  We rejoiced then and how much would we have liked to celebrate your Bar Mitzvah in the same manner.  Fate has decided otherwise.  As it has for thousands of years, the wave of Jew hating has reached us, has thrown us out of our everyday life, has cast us out of our so-called homeland, has cast us out  of our wonderful family life and has splintered our family.” – Papa 
Read More Bar Mitzvah

“But despite the behavior of the Vichy Government, many Frenchmen did not cooperate with their government and helped in the hiding of Jews, particularly Jewish children. This accounts for the fact that over 70% of all the Jews in France and over 85% of the Jewish children survived the war.”
Read More Life after Liberation

SYLVIA

1934 – Hannelore and I (left), the reception committee for Chaim Weizmann
1934 – Hannelore and I (left), the reception committee for Chaim Weizmann

“I did not find it strange when my mother asked me if I wanted to take my roller skates along on vacation. She even insisted that I could carry them in the white cloth bag she had sewn. But I saw no reason, no reason at all to encumber myself with such a load. After all, we were going away on a “two week vacation” and would be home soon, so my roller skates stayed home in Leipzig with all of our family’s precious possessions including our furniture, Persian rugs, fancy dishes, books, photo albums and our toys which would be sold at auction with the proceeds going to the Nazis.”
Read More Spa 1938

1935 - The Shupo (Schutzpolizei) is telling Henry and me not to be afraid of the big dog
1935 – The Shupo (Schutzpolizei) is telling Henry and me not to be afraid of the big dog

“I did look back. The soldier and the old man had stopped behind us. The old man was kneeling in front of the soldier, his hands together. Was he begging for his life or saying his last prayer? I did not want to see more and turned around. A shot rang out and I heard the soldier run to catch up with us.
Read More Audruicq and Polincove – France

1936 - At the photographer with my blue Zuckertüte, blue dress and blue shoes
1936 – At the photographer with my blue Zuckertüte, blue dress and blue shoes

“At one time, early during the deportations, while I was away in hiding already, my parents and the Zauderers made plans to escape to Spain or possibly to Portugal with their children. To cross so many borders illegally, they needed a passeur, or a smuggler, to guide them. When my father met the passeur, he didn’t trust him. After all, my father would have his whole fortune, whatever it was, with him to pay the guide. The Nazis paid a bounty for each Jew denounced to them. It turned out that my father’s intuition was correct. The guide took the whole Zauderer family straight to the Gestapo.”
Read More Saint Josse 1940-1941

1942 - This Yellow Star (Magen David) was worn by one of my parents. The picture shows front and back with still some hanging threads
1942 – This Yellow Star (Magen David) was worn by one of my parents. The picture shows front and back with still some hanging threads

“Then little by little decrees came down forbidding Jews in public baths, parks and finally schools. There also was a curfew at night. On June 7th, 1942, for my birthday, the yellow star had to be worn for the first time by the few friends who came to my party.”
Read More Yellow Star June 1942

I had no idea that I was going to live in a castle together with a real prince. His personal welcome filled me with gratitude that this important man had found the time to welcome me, a little Jewish girl of twelve, who was going to be hidden in his castle.

Later on we received our summer uniforms: very colorful shorts and a matching shirt, to the merriment of the staff who wondered where this huge quantity of wildly colored material had come from. Just like in the musical “The Sound of Music,” it came from the chateau’s draperies.”
Read More Beloeil Summer 1942

The Rath family in Nice, France in 1941. My friend Peter was deported with Convoi #62 in 1943.
The Rath family in Nice, France in 1941. My friend Peter was deported with Convoi #62 in 1943.

“I did not meet my parents in the parlor anymore. It was too dangerous for them to come visit me. Then the light bulb in my room popped and, with night falling early in December and January, I was left in the dark to undress. My best friend was the full moon or clear nights with just a moon sliver shining into my window. I can still feel this utter loneliness, the lack of tenderness, the lack of a human voice. I lived over two months alone in that room until one evening I was told that my parents were in the parlor.”
Read More Couvent St. Joseph

Three patrol leaders, from R. to L. Fernande, Dora and I. Mademoiselle Christiane is hugging Dora and me
Three patrol leaders, from R. to L. Fernande, Dora and I. Mademoiselle Christiane is hugging Dora and me

“It is difficult for me to remember in sequence what I did for over a year and a half in Cul-des-Sarts. Right after my arrival, I was pretty depressed. I had just come from the convent where I had lived by myself, away from contact with people for at least two months. Eventually we older girls aged twelve to fourteen became a close knit group, but it took time for each of us to accept the others.”
Read More Cul-des-Sarts