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Yad Vashem "A Time to Heal" (Ecclesiastes 3:3) - The Story of the Children's Home in Otwock, Poland
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Education

“No private school, no matter how well funded, could have provided more for the children than that which we received in the children’s home in Otwock.”

(From the testimony of Stefa Fromer)

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Many of the children in the home sought to fill in the gaps in their education that resulted from the years on the run and in hiding during the Holocaust. They were forced to overcome the difficulty of entering an educational environment after living years outside of any formal framework. Wiktoria Blum recalls: “There were children who had no study skills or work habits… Older children came who had received absolutely no education. So they had to be prepared in order to be able to attend school.”

Many of the teachers in the home were themselves Holocaust survivors who had also experienced the trauma and loss, and the education they provided to the children also helped themselves to heal. They tried to assist the children in making up the schooling that they were lacking, while also attempting to deal with their lost childhoods. “Before bedtime a teacher would tell a story, she would speak with each child and stroke their heads… the teachers, who had gone through the war, who lost families and remained alone, they gave all of their love to the children.” (Excerpt from the testimony of Wiktoria Blum)

Stefa Fromer relates to the various aspects of the children’s schooling: “In the school they diligently taught us. We had teachers for art, dance, gardening, crafts, language and other topics… We also studied Jewish history and celebrated the Jewish holidays in all of their splendor. No private school, no matter how well funded, could have provided more for the children than that which we received in the children’s home in Otwock.”

Some of the students enrolled in Polish schools as well and began their studies. They were not deterred by the open antisemitism they encountered both on their way to school and in the school itself, by the hostile treatment they received from some of the teachers and students or by the stones thrown at them during their walk to school. Antek Lemberg relates: “We knew one thing: we are going to study. In 1945 I was twelve, and I enrolled in third grade. What could we do? We learned in a very intensive manner. In the summer we studied one year’s worth of material; in 1946, I had already moved up to the fifth grade.”