What of survivors deemed ‘too young’ to remember the Holocaust?

Beliefs that horrific events of early childhood could not cause lasting emotional hurt persisted for decades

A group of child survivors behind a barbed wire fence at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camp,  in southern Poland, on the day of its liberation by the Red Army, January 27th,  1945. File photograph: Alexander Vorontsov/Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty

A group of child survivors behind a barbed wire fence at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camp, in southern Poland, on the day of its liberation by the Red Army, January 27th, 1945. File photograph: Alexander Vorontsov/Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty

In one of the most moving passages in this extraordinary book, the author recalls one of the first interviews she did with one of the so-called “child survivors”, a woman she gives the pseudonym Leora. “I don’t know what to tell you,” says Leora, before the interview starts.

To put her at her ease, Clifford uses the standard practice of asking her for her birth name, and her date and place of birth. But Leora couldn’t, because she didn’t know any of these things. Her earliest memory was of living with a poor French peasant woman, from whose care she was removed at the end of the war. Both interviewer and interviewer end the interview sobbing.

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