Reports of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border have sparked outrage across the country and fueled millions of dollars in donations to unite immigrant parents with their children. For some World War II survivors, known as the “hidden children of the Holocaust,” the reports have stirred traumatic memories.
In a video released by the Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday, Rachelle and Jack Goldstein ― two Holocaust survivors who were separated from their parents as young children during the war ― urge U.S. leaders to change course.
“It’s cruel. It’s bad, and I think it sets us back in the eyes of the rest of the world that we allowed this to happen,” says Jack Goldstein, who was 9 when his family sent him to live in a Catholic convent to escape Nazi persecution.
Rachelle Goldstein co-directs the Hidden Child Foundation, which represents Holocaust survivors who went into hiding during the war. She says the pain can last a lifetime for children separated from their families at a young age.
“You take a child away from the parents, from the home, from everything that they know, they are never the same,” says Goldstein, who was a toddler when she was separated from her parents in Belgium.
The Hidden Child Foundation released a statement along with the video:
Now in our late 70s and 80s, we still ache from the losses we suffered as a result of this separation. It is very difficult for us to see such inhumanity taking place today at our southern border. Let’s be clear: We are not comparing what is happening today to the Holocaust. But forcibly separating children from their parents is an act of cruelty under all circumstances.
Nearly 2,000 immigrant children were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy from mid-April until the end of May.
Administration officials have doubled down on their policy in the face of criticism, at times denying that it exists and at other times attempting to defend it by citing Bible verses.
“I have a lot of faith in this country ... and it is a wonderful country,” Jack Goldstein says in the video. “But right now it is not. Let’s get back to our values because this is not what America stands for.”
Rachelle Goldstein adds simply, “When we see evil, we must call it out.”