The Photo that Broke My Heart

The Photo that Broke My Heart

I’ve cried over so many heartbreaking photos and videos and heartbreaking stories and tragedies from the Shoah. But for some reason this black-and-white class photo of a Jewish child forced to turn his back to the camera made me cry nearly harder than any of them.

In 1932, 5-year-old Paul Philip Freudenberger was the only Jewish student at an elite kindergarten in Wurzburg, Germany. Freudenberger, who passed away 2 years ago, told his son, “At the end of the year, it was decided to bring in a photographer to take a group photograph of all the children. We all went outside to the public park…Suddenly the teacher came over to me and said, ‘Not you! You are a Jewish child.’ and she turned me around with my face to the wall, so that they would only see my back. She said I am Jewish child, and I wasn’t allowed to ruin the photograph.”

In 1937, the Freudenberger family made aliya to Israel where Paul Philip (who changed his name to Shraga Har-Gil) was injured in the War of Independence and went on to become a well-known journalist.

But his son recalls that the memory of that humiliation was a source of pain for his father’s entire life.

Why is this photo so painful for me to look at? So painful, that at first I thought I wouldn’t be able to post it?

Because, for a JewishMOM, is there anything, ANYTHING more beautiful than a Jewish child?

Look at the faces of these children from the Kovno Ghetto. Look into their eyes. What could possibly be more precious?

A month after this photo was taken these children were transported to the Majdanek concentration camp.

And to consider that there were people who, instead of the great beauty and innocence that I see in the face of every Jewish child, saw only the ugliness of yet another “dirty Jew”…Such burning hatred that over a million beautiful Jewish children were murdered. It’s excruciating.

Please Hashem, may no Jewish child ever suffer ever again…

March of the Living at Auschwitz....Am Yisrael Chai!

*This photo and story appeared today in Yediot Achronot in an article written by Tamar Travelsi-Chadad


  1. In this mother and grandmother’s heart there is only love for my children. The photo of the 2 (brothers) boys look so much like my own grandson (May Hashem bless him with a long and healthy life). It makes me cry to know that still today there are so many people who hate Jews because they are simply “Jews”

  2. And what pain is greater for a mother than the pain her child suffers? None.

    I will never understand the hatred that can convince a mind to do such horrific things.. I wish only to change your prayer slightly.. “Please Hashem, may no child ever suffer ever again..” Least we ever forget that such things are going on in the world even today – to some other mother’s child… in N. Korea, in Africa and even behind the closed doors of your neighbors’ homes.

  3. Thank you for posting this. Every photo makes me want to cry.
    Did you see the picture of March of the Living this year in Auschwitz?
    Am Yisroel Chai!

  4. In one of the first Harry Potter books Firenze explains to Harry why the slaying of a unicorn is a crime: “…it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn. Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.” — THIS IS HOW I FEEL ABOUT PEOPLE HURTING JEWISH CHILDREN

  5. This is such a powerful post. Although the photo is heartbreaking, I appreciate you posting it as it’s a reminder that we cannot forget the past. Something that makes me sad is when children – all children – are shunned for one reason for another. But this particular photo of the Jewish boy turned around is so sad. Never forget!

  6. I wonder how the other boys who were there feel looking at the picture. Are they embarrassed, filled with shame, remorse, regret, that they did not stick up for their friend or at least offer him a hand in friendship and sympathy when the session was over? How did they treat the one Jewish boy in their class when it wasn’t picture time?

  7. What I was getting at is — I’d rather be the granddaughter of the humiliated Mr. Shraga Har-Gil than a granddaughter of the boys with the bright smiles on their faces.

  8. Yet another thing to realize that I have taken for granted all my life. A simple class photo.
    I just realized something else: the beauty of Torah and mitzvot is how they teach us to elevate the mundane by infusing the everyday with holiness. The nazis did the exact opposite: they sought the total desecration of the mundane: anything from a simple class photo to a false tooth was stripped and denied of any humanity at all.
    They sought the dehumanization of others, but in the end brought it upon themselves.

  9. as much as we hear stories about the war, it is still so hard to imagine such cruelty. the picture with the little boy turned , made my heart ache.


    Yes, his ostracism is very sad, but do you know what is sadder? That this Jewish child was in a gentile school. A Jewish child should get a Jewish education from Jewish teachers along with Jewish friends. It was a source of humiliation for his entire life because he could not understand the gentile’s non-acceptance of him. He probably had not learned what Rashi quotes, that Eisav hates Yaakov. When you know that they hate us, you are not surprised. It’s when you think you are the same that you are shocked by their hatred.

    • yes. absolutely. brava. i don’t need to repeat your words. they were splendid.

  11. This is completely heartbreaking. This reminds me of dear Claude Berri, and of Birkenau, and of Anouk Aimee. I abhor that this Holocaust ever happened. It is terrifying and although it seems so far away, it also seems so near in the human heart.

    We are so lucky we are no longer living in an era of war and fear. And we do have to infuse everyday with holiness.

    When will the pain ever go away?

  12. regarding so called “march of the living” it should be called march of the big bucks. who makes money from this program? the children and grand children of the same poles who helped the nazis so zealously. my parents were both survivors of hitler, yemach shemoh. the earth there is soaked with blood of our fellow jews. they haven’t changed their ways, they are the same poles who called my mother dirty jew, when she was a child.

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