The Jew Who Joined Hitler Youth to Survive the Holocaust
This is the story of Solomon Perel, who was eerily exposed by a German doctor, but cleverly endured.
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Solomon Perel survived the Holocaust by hiding his Jewish identity and joining Hitler Youth, the sole boys’ youth organization of Nazi Germany.
These boys were indoctrinated with the myths of Aryan racial superiority, the idea that Jews and Slavs are subhumans, and the belief that Nazi Germany’s future superimposes everything else.
Perel’s fascinating story is featured in the 1990 film Europa Europa, which was loosely based on his autobiography, Ich war Hitlerjunge Salomon (“I Was Hitler Youth Solomon”).
After the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, the 14-year-old Solomon and his brother attempted to escape to Soviet-occupied territory. Solomon succeeded and was placed in an orphanage in western Belarus (then part of the Soviet Union), while his brother made his way to Lithuania.
After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Perel fled the orphanage and was captured by the German military. Since he was a native German speaker, Perel was able to convince his captors that he was a Volksdeutscher (an ethnic German living outside Germany) and they accepted him into their unit as a Russian-German interpreter.
Perel became endeared to his German army unit, and the unit’s commanding officer even made plans to adopt him, providing him with further protection. As an interpreter, he participated in an interrogation of one of Joseph Stalin’s children.
Yet, being a minor, Perel was eventually told that he could not remain with the army, so they sent him to a Hitler Youth boarding school, where he continued to conceal his Jewish identity under the name Josef Perjell.
But that wasn’t the only thing he had to hide.
Perel refrained from showering with other students whenever possible, or showered while facing the wall or while wearing underwear, to hide his circumcision. And he invented excuse after excuse to avoid medical examinations that would’ve revealed himself.
But one time, a German doctor eerily exposed him. This is the story of how Solomon Perel managed to survive: