Teheran Children


Teheran children's voyage, 1939-1943 (PHG\1413963)In the height of the Second World War, a group of 730 refugee children, most of them in the ages of 2-18, arrives in Israel. "The Tehran children" were Polish war refugees that were exiled to the USSR and reached Israel after a grueling, three and a half years long journey.
“In Teheran, there are 981 children from the ages of half a year to 17 years old. 80% of the children arrived at Teheran without parents. Only 20%, approximately 220, of the children came together with their parents. Not all of the other children were orphans; however, at this moment, they are without parents; perhaps later, the children will find their parents, or the parents will find their children in Palestine. For this purpose, I have requested that in Teheran, the children will be photographed with their names, so that their parents will recognize them when they arrive in Palestine in spite of the changes in their facial appearance.”
In these words, Henrietta Szold, the director of Aliyat HaNoar, who was appointed to supervise the absorption of the children in Palestine, described the state of the Teheran children in the discussions of the annual conference of the council “The Institute for Children and Youth” in December 1942 (from folder J1\3230). 
Theran children at the train station in Rehovot, 1943 (NKH\483416)The Tehran children and their families were Polish war refugees in the USSR. After Poland ceased to exist, the USSR annexed the East of the country and Germany occupied its West, in accordance with the Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact. The Soviets refused to maintain for the war refugees living on its share of the Polish territories, and exiled them to Siberia and other remote locations. In the winter of 1941, when Germany violated the Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact, the refugees were freed and fled south, to Central Asia. Many died from hunger and disease. Some of the children were given to orphanages, and made their way to Tehran when the USSR enabled Polish refugees to find shelter in Iran (then under British control). 1000 Jewish orphans and 800 adults left the USSR in this path. In Tehran, the Jewish refugees, together with the Jewish community of Tehran, provided for the children until they were brought to Israel. The last group of Tehran children arrived in Israel in 1943.