Children’s Block 66

So that is what my new home looked like.” With those words, 16-year-old Salek Orenstein concluded his description of his lodgings in the Little Camp of Buchenwald. Along with more than 2,400 Jewish forced labourers, among them many children and teenagers, he had arrived in Buchenwald from a forced labour camp in Częstochowa on 18 January. With no one to take care of them, the boys’ prospects of survival were slim.

The internal camp resistance responded. To help the young ones, the illegal International Camp Committee set up children’s quarters in Block 66. The young Salek was one of the first to move in.

The boys in Block 66 received additional food and warm clothing and were not assigned to labour. The block also offered them protection from the indiscriminate violence of the SS. And the fact that they did not have to wear badges on their clothing made it impossible to identify them as Jews.

By early April, Block 66 housed some 700 children and adolescents. It was thanks to those accommodations that most of them survived.

(Marie-Luise Hartleb)

References: Robert J. Büchler, “Am Ende des Weges: Kinderblock 66 im Konzentrationslager Buchenwald”, in Dachauer Hefte 6 (1990), pp. 104–117, Martin Gilbert, The Boys: The Untold Story of 732 Young Concentration Camp Survivors, New York 1997.