This year marks the 70th anniversary of not only the end of World War II, but of the liberation of many of the Nazis' concentration camps. Tablet's Andrew Harris brings us this story of boys who were liberated from Buchenwald in April of that year, and who have celebrated their liberation every year since:
On April 11, 1945, Szaja Chaskiel was liberated from Buchenwald concentration camp. He was one of 900 boys, aged 8 to 18, “born” that day, as he puts it. Uniquely bonded, they quickly became known as ‘The Buchenwald Boys.’ For 66 years a group of these survivors and their descendants in Melbourne, Australia, have celebrated this rebirth with the annual ‘Buchenwald Ball.’
This year, the night before the ball, which fell a few hours after the end of this Passover—precisely seventy years after their liberation—Szaja, now 86, retold the story of the exodus of the Buchenwald Boys from the Shoah, led by the Third Army’s Rabbi Herschel Schacter, the American liberator who addressed them in their mamaloshen. Assembled in Szaja’s living room were five other Boys who were surrounded by their descendants as well as those of the Boys who had since passed on.
Following liberation, roughly half were initially sent to France by the Red Cross and other agencies while the other group went to Switzerland. While some remained in France, many left Europe for New York, London, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and to cities in Israel and in South America. A 65-strong band came to Australia, settling in Melbourne and Sydney; today, less than twenty are still alive, and four have died in the past year.
In the late 1940s the Boys seized their teenage years, dancing in the clubs of Paris. They learned how to dance the cha-cha and the jitterbug to charm the ladies, and how to party. Now old men in Melbourne, the Boys are still celebrating.