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November 23, 2022

The Joy of New Shoes, 1946

Am Himmel Orphanage, Vienna, Austria –– This photograph by Gerald Waller shows a six-year-old Austrian orphan called Werfel moments after he received a new pair of shoes donated by the Red Cross.

Werfel, a 6-year old Austrian orphan, beams with unbounded joy as he clasps a new pair of shoes presented to him by the American Red Cross.

The picture was first published in LIFE magazine on December 30, 1946 with the following caption:
EUROPE’S CHILDREN - Christmas brings joy and sadness

For many of Europe’s children there was a Santa Claus this Christmas. When a big box from the American Red Cross arrived at Vienna’s Am Himmel orphanage, shoes and coats and dresses tumbled out. Like the youngster (pictured), the children who had seen no new clothes throughout the war smiled to high heaven. But for thousands of other European children there was no Santa Claus. When a boatload of illegal Jewish immigrants arrived at Haifa, Palestine recently, two Polish children (picture to follow) got separated from their parents. Tears filled the eyes of the boy, and his wan sister clutched him protectively. They were later reunited with their parents, but the whole family was shipped to Cyprus.

LIFE magazine December 30, 1946

Almost five years later the same photograph reappeared in LIFE thanks to a reader: 
This is Werfel, six-year-old Austrian orphan, hugging a new pair of shoes from America. For nearly five years LIFE reader Mrs. Richard Henry Wehmeyer kept this picture as a visual object lesson. "Every time I heard some petty complaint," she says, she told friends about the little boy with the new shoes, un unfolded the clipping to shoe them. 
As Mrs. Wehmeyer said in her letter "This picture of a child's ecstasy over a pair of shoes has meant something personal to me for a long time." It is a special attribute of the photograph that it lasts so long - in a treasured clipping, and in the memory.

LIFE magazine September 24, 1951.

1 comment:

  1. Little Werfel was reunited with his mother, brother and sister in Austria by 1947. The Red Cross Relief Worker Opel Hall of New York, visited them periodically. The photo was also the cover for the Courier, Red Cross magazine. Hope this helps to all of you who, like me, were wondering about the little kid on the photo.




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