Scrapbookpages Blog

October 11, 2010

Were there two four-year-old boys at Buchenwald?

In doing research, several years ago, for my web site section about the Buchenwald concentration camp, I vaguely recall reading about two children who were four years old when the American liberators arrived to rescue them on April 11, 1945.  However, I could only find the name of one of the boys on the USHMM web site: Josef Schleifstein whose name at birth was Janek Szlajfaztajn.

Josef Schleifstein Army Signal Corp photo, 1945

Some of the 904 orphan boys at Buchenwald, April 1945

Today I received an e-mail telling me about a new book, which is the story of another small child who survived Buchenwald: Stefan Jerzy Zweig. The book is Tears alone are not enough by Zacharias Zweig (now deceased) and Stefan Jerzy Zweig, with closing words from Elfriede Jelinek. The Foreword was written by Heinz Strotzka.

To coincide with the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11, 1945, the first edition of the book Tears are not enough by Zacharias Zweig (posthumously) and Stefan Jerzy Zweig was privately printed in spring 2005.

The following information is from the Forward of the book:

The immediate family, consisting of Dr. Zweig, his wife Helena, their daughter Silvia (born in 1932) and their son Stefan Jerzy (born in 1941) first had to move to the Cracow Ghetto. After spending long periods in the concentration camps of Biezanov, Skarzysko-Kamienna and Plaszow, the Zweig family was put on a transport destined for Buchenwald.

From reading the book Schindler’s Ark on which the film Schindler’s List is based, I learned that the male prisoners in the Plaszow camp were sent to the Gross Rosen concentration camp and the women were sent to Auschwitz.  Schindler’s Ark is a novel, so maybe the author left out the part about some of the Plaszow prisoners being sent to Buchenwald.

Continuing the quote from the Forward of the book:

Helena Zweig and her daughter were incarcerated in a satellite camp of Buchenwald and were subsequently deported to Auschwitz, where they were murdered in the gas chambers.

This seems strange. Why weren’t the mother and daughter sent directly, along with all the other women and girls at Plaszow, to Auschwitz and gassed immediately?  Auschwitz is only about 35 miles from the location of the former Plazow camp, but Buchenwald is much farther away.

More of the quote from the Forward of the book:

Helena’s son Jerzy was only able to survive thanks to the extraordinary protectiveness of political prisoners at Buchenwald, who saw in this protection an act of resistance and wanted thereby to set an example of humanity.

So the German staff at Buchenwald was trying to get at those children, to kill them, but they were no match for the political prisoners who saved the boys as an “act of resistance”?

Finally, this quote from the Forward of the book:

As a result of the emphatic protest raised by Stefan J. Zweig against personal insinuations and attacks by the head of the memorial site, Dr. Knigge, the director ordered the removal of a wall plaque at the memorial site which provided information on Buchenwald’s youngest prisoner.

Cover of new book about the four-year-old boy rescued from Buchenwald

The  photo of the child shown on the cover of the book has a remarkable resemblance to a photo of Josef Schleifstein, shown below.

Josef Schleifstein, circa 1946 Photo Credit: USHMM, courtesy of Aviva Kempner

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the little Jewish boy in the photo above was born Janek Szlajfaztajn on March 7, 1941 in Sandomierz, Poland during the German occupation. His parents were Izrael and Esther Szlajfaztajn. The family was moved into the Sandomierz ghetto in June 1942. After the liquidation of the ghetto, the family was moved to Czestochowa, a city in Poland, where Izrael and Esther were put to work in one of the HASAG factory camps. During this period, their son was placed in hiding in the area.

The USHMM says that Izrael Szlajfaztajn was then sent to the Letzium Work Camp in the Radom District, where he worked for a firm called Ralnik from October 1942 till September 1943. He worked in Makashin, near Sandomierz, from September till December 1943 and in a HASAG ammunition factory in Kielce from December 1943 to approximately November 1944.

In January 1945, when the HASAG camps were closed and their operations transferred to Germany, the Szlajfaztajn family was deported to Germany. According to the USHMM, Esther was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Izrael and Janek were taken to Buchenwald where they arrived on January 20, 1945. Izrael had concealed little Janek in a large sack in which he carried his leather-working tools.

The child could not remain hidden for long in the camp, but his life was spared, in part because the Germans valued Izrael’s craftsmanship and in part because they took a liking to the child. The SS guards came to treat Janek as a camp mascot, and even had him appear at roll calls wearing his child-sized striped uniform.

Despite this special treatment, Janek remembered being lined-up for execution at one point and his father intervening at the last moment to save him. He also remembered being very sick during his imprisonment and living in a hospital for a time. Soon after their liberation in Buchenwald, Izrael and Janek were taken to Switzerland for medical treatment. Some months later, they were reunited with Esther in the town of Dachau, where they lived until emigrating to the U.S. in 1947.

I searched the website of the USHMM and could not find any mention of Stefan Jerzy Zweig.   The Forward of the new book mentions that Stefan Jerzy Zweig was the youngest prisoner to pass through the gates of Buchenwald and the last, together with his father, to leave after Liberation.

So were there really two four-year-old Jewish boys at Buchenwald, or was there only one boy who went by two different names?

The child in this photo was identified as Josef Schleifstein

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

The photo above is from this website.

The same photo is identified on this German website as Stefan Jerzy Zweig.

The four-year-old boy at Buchenwald was the subject of a novel by Bruno Apitz entitled Naked among Wolves, which has been made into a film.

This quote is from the Epilogue of the book about Stefan Jerzy Zweig:

The commemoration plaque with the name of the three and a half year old Jewish child has been removed from the  Buchenwald Memorial. The name has also been removed (the worst thing of all for a Jew, a renewed expunging of a life) and replaced by a more generally formulated inscription because the naming of individuals (which is to say of life itself because life always consists of individuals) was not permitted. Those born after the fact have the final word, and they have the freedom to steer things the way they were supposed to have been: Anne Frank has already raised too many hackles with her diary. In the New Germany we can’t tolerate the idea that there were red Capos (communists, socialists of all shapes and kinds, the resistance fighter Robert Siewert and the post-War union leader Willi Bleicher symbolize all of them), red Capos who saved people.

On this website, I found an article written on 07/07/09 by Kenneth Waltzer which included this quote about the orphan boys at Buchenwald: “The two youngest boys were four years old.”  Were there two four-year-old boys at Buchenwald who looked exactly alike?


  1. […] previously blogged about the boys at Buchenwald here and here. I also blogged about another boy at Buchenwald […]

    Pingback by The young boys who were saved by the prisoners at Buchenwald | Scrapbookpages Blog — March 11, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

  2. […] previously blogged about  Stefan Jerzy Zweig here.  With a lot of help from the readers of my blog, I was able to establish that Stefan Jerzy Zweig […]

    Pingback by A new edition of a famous novel about Buchenwald is out « Scrapbookpages Blog — July 28, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

  3. There are direct reports after liberation to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, filed by Meyer Levin, speaking of two four year old boys — Schleifstein and Zweig.
    Both were alive, both were with their fathers, Israel and Zacharias (Harry). There are pictures of both. I am willingto share these reports.

    Comment by kenwaltzer — December 4, 2010 @ 4:16 am

  4. When Niven was publishing his book, we were uncertain which picture was which boy — the pictures had been so mixed up on both sides of the Atlantic. But they can be told apart. And, in those images where the boys have camp numbers, it is easy to tell which is which. Arriving at different times, their numbers were significantly different — Zweig five digits, Schleifstein six digits. Both are still alive.

    Comment by ken waltzer — October 18, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

  5. The stories of the two four year olds have developed in what are almost alternative universes — the Eastern bloc (the German Democratic Republic) during the Cold war, and the West (USA) as part of the surge of Holocaust memory. But there were definitely two different boys — they were reported on immediately in the press after liberation by Meyer Levin — and their pictures have been mixed up ever since. Bill Niven’s book is the authoritative source on Stefan Jerzy Zweif and what happened regarding him. My forthcoming book will be the authoritative book on children generally at Buchenwald….

    There were also five and six year olds, several eight year olds, nine year olds and ten year olds.

    Comment by ken waltzer — October 17, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

    • Thanks for this information. I looked up Bill Niven’s book and found a photo of the book cover which has a different picture of Stefan Jerzy Zweif. It is at this website:

      I hope that your book will be published soon since there is great deal of interest in the subject of the boys at Buchenwald.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 17, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

      • FG – This explanation from Ken Waltzer is not entirely convincing. It’s easy to claim that their pictures were mixed up; and indeed it shows the chaotic nature of the Holocaust legends. Most of the information about the Holocaust is “mixed up” and we continue to read long-debunked “facts” in the mass media and even in books by establishment writers, published by establishment publishing houses.
        These kind of sources cannot be depended on. If that is what is used, it’s useless.

        Waltzer writes, “there were definitely two different boys — they were reported on immediately in the press after liberation by Meyer Levin …” Boy, that sounds convincing. 🙂 Not.

        What makes Bill Niven “the authoritative source?” Are you planning to read Niven’s book? I hope so. Or at least check him out more. These people expect to be believed just because they say so. I hope Prof. Waltzer has something better than that in store for us with his book.

        Comment by Skeptic — October 21, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

  6. There were two four year olds at Buchenwald, Stefan Jerzy Zweig, who arrived with his father, Zacharias, from Skarzysko, in August 1944; and Josef Schleifstein, who arrived with his father, Israel, from Czestochowa, in January 1945. Archives on both sides of the Atlantic have mixed their pictures up repeatedly. Neither, by the way, was the youngest at Buchenwald, although they were the two youngest at liberation. Another boy, born June 1942, Idele Henechowice, was brought to Buchenwald in December 1944 and sent to Bergen Belsen in January 1945. Idele was the youngest ever in Buchenwald.

    Comment by ken waltzer — October 17, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

  7. Billy Wilder was probably the person who made this little boy well-known. Wilder used the boy for emotional content.

    The proof? At the, Steven Spielberg video archive, film called “Buchenwald camp at liberation – the dead and the living
    Story RG-60.0001, Tape 1.”

    It’s an unedited reel, and less than 30 seconds after Wilder accidentally walks into the picture, we see the little boy, with the camera getting a glint of a tear in his eye, as the boy looks to the side to make sure he’s doing what he was told to do for the shot.

    However, the scene after that shows another little boy, who may be a different boy.

    And what an opportunist: Wikipedia states that Zweig lived much of his life in East Germany as a cinematographer, married to an East German schoolteacher.

    And what an opportunist: Wikipedia states Zweig went to East Germany and became a cinematographer, marrying a German school teacher.

    Comment by Budham — October 13, 2010 @ 8:38 am

    • Thanks for telling us this important information. I have seen the unedited footage, but I didn’t notice the second boy. I have added a group photo of some of the Buchenwald orphans. There are two little boys standing right in front, but one of them looks to be about a year older. According to his father, Stefan Zweig was 3 and a half when Buchenwald was liberated. If he is in the photo that I added, he was taller than the 4 year old boy.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 13, 2010 @ 9:16 am

    • I went to the USHMM web site and saw the raw footage again. The text which accompanies this video describes what is shown in each scene. In the scene of the little boy, the text identifies him: “The boy is Joseph Schleifstein, born 7 March 1941 in Poland.” It appears that someone is instructing the boy to lift his head so that his mouth and chin are not in the shadows. When he lifts his head, I could see that the photo on the cover of the book about Stefan Zweig was a still shot from the film. I had previously thought that it was a black and white photo that had been colored.

      So this makes it very clear that Zweig stole the identity of Josef Schleifstein and the book written by his father is a fake. In the later scene, the small boy who is shown seems to be the same boy that is in the photo that I added to my blog post. This boy is a bit taller than Josef. The video shows the corpse of a man who has blood on his face; he was probably a staff member who was beaten to death by the prisoners, or maybe a Kapo.

      There are several men who are wearing berets, which was how the Communists who ran the camp identified themselves. Once again, a big THANK YOU to budham who gave us the number of the video with this footage of the one and only 4-year-old boy at Buchenwald.

      Watch the video here:

      Comment by furtherglory — October 13, 2010 @ 11:38 am

  8. More lies from “Prof.” Kenneth Waltzer. He “can” know better, but he’s just trying to make up the best story he can get away with, to sell his [promised] book on Buchenwald and to sell “The Holocaust” itself. He’s another Michael Berenbaum of the USHMM, who will believe anything/anyone with no questions asked if it’s a good story.

    Amazing what you’ve uncovered here. You should put what you’ve learned on your website.

    Comment by Skeptic — October 12, 2010 @ 6:29 am

    • Waltzer can be excused for not knowing that two different families claim to have had a four year old boy in the Buchenwald camp, but the photos show that there was only one boy. Since I have an interest in photography, I always look closely at photos.

      The important clue is that one family claims to have been sent from Plaszow to Buchenwald and that the mother and daughter in the family were then sent to a sub-camp of Buchenwald. When the Plaszow camp was closed, the men and women were separated, not sent as families to another camp. None of the other Jews at Buchenwald had been sent there directly from Plaszow.

      The story of Josef Schleifstein is believable, while the story of the other boy is not. The USHMM does not acknowledge the story of Stefan Jerzy Zweig, which is a significant clue. As far as I know, no one was sent from Buchenwald to Auschwitz to be killed. It was just the opposite: Jews were sent to Auschwitz to be killed and then some of the survivors of Auschwitz were sent to Buchenwald; that’s how many of the Buchenwald orphans arrived at Buchenwald.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 12, 2010 @ 7:14 am

      • Waltzer cannot be excused because he’s a university professor and this is his specialty. If you can discover this so easily (relatively), just on the internet, and he doesn’t, it shows that he accepts what is most helpful to his thesis … he is not really searching for the truth.

        He reads your blog, so will he now adjust his narrative to fit your revelations? That will be interesting.

        Comment by Skeptic — October 12, 2010 @ 7:14 pm

    • This reminds me of “Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love That Survived,” the story of Herman and Roma Rosenblat. The first clue that I had about that book being fake was the claim that Roma’s family had moved from Poland to Germany during World War II and were living near Berlin when little nine-year-old Roma started going to the fence of a sub-camp. Going from Poland to Germany was the wrong direction for Polish Jews to move during World War II. In the Stefan Jerzy Zweig story, the whole family was sent from Plaszow to Buchenwald when all the other women and children at Plaszow were sent to Auschwitz and the men were sent to Gross Rosen.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 12, 2010 @ 8:18 am

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