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From the S&S archives: Child Auschwitz survivor comes home

Peter Dattel is reunited with his mother, Ruth Friedhoff, at the headquarters of the American Joint Distribution Committee in Berlin.

CARROLL SPRAGUE / ©S&S

By JULIA EDWARDS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 2, 1947

BERLIN, Feb. 1 — The only one of 8,000 Berlin children who traveled the one-way road to Auschwitz concentration camp and came back, 7-year-old Peter Dattel, is home again.

Peter cannot talk to his mother. He forgot his German during two years in Czechoslovakia, two years during which she did not know whether he was alive.

When his mother met him at the border, he failed to recognize her. But he remembered Auschwitz. Thinking she was someone come to take him back to camp, he started to cry.

But on the way to Dresden, en route to Berlin, he began to remember. And at last he asked:

"Where is your pin?"

It was the pin she had worn in Auschwitz, identifying her as a Jew.

The Dattel family was rounded up and sent to the concentration camp in June, 1943. The father died in a gas chamber. Three times the guards took Peter off to the chambers. But each time someone saw his blond hair and blue eyes and each time they sent him back to his mother in the experimental block.

Mother and son were separated in January 1945, when Auschwitz was evacuated. She faced a 110-kilometer march. Peter, who never could make it, she gave to a Czechoslovakian couple whose name she did not even know.

Since her own liberation from Mecklenburg Prison in May of 1945, the mother, now Mrs. Ruth Friedhoff, has been searching for Peter.

Only the ugly Nazi tattoo on his arm, 127,106, enabled the International Red Cross to find him safe in the home of Babel Bauer, bookkeeper in Brno.

The Joint Distribution Committee sent Julius Mayer, who used to feed Peter in Auschwitz and now heads the racial office of the magistrate, with Mrs. Friedhoff to meet Peter at the border.

They returned to Berlin two days ago, and yesterday Peter happily ate candy and thanked his friend at TDC headquarters.


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