[xmca] WWII and childhood

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at gmail.com>
Date: Sun Jun 24 2007 - 20:49:49 PDT

Not entirely irrlevant to all i hope
> Kjersti Ericsson and Eva Simonsen, eds. _Children of
> World War II: The Hidden Enemy Legacy_. Oxford:
> Berg, 2005. viii + 296 pp. Notes, references, index.
> $28.95 (paper), ISBN 1-84520-207-4.
> Reviewed for H-Childhood by Richard Ivan Jobs,
> Department of History, Pacific University
> Children in Danger or Dangerous Children?
> Few academic books could enjoy such propitious
> timeliness as this collection of essays. The essays
> resulted from a research project begun in Norway in
> 2001 to explore the history of children born of
> Norwegian mothers and German fathers during World
> War II. These children, now in their sixties, have
> been receiving considerable media coverage lately as
> they have organized to press their rights and seek
> damages for discrimination from Norway in the
> European Court of Human Rights. In the past year,
> major print and television media outlets, even in
> the United States, have covered this story as these
> "war children" from Norway, Germany, and elsewhere
> have sought to make their stories heard through
> organized activism. These essays give voice to
> these historical subjects through ethnographic
> interviews and personal testimonies as well as study
> the impact, experience, and variety of state
> policies regarding these ongoing reminders of the
> war's legacy. Thus, the book as a whole reveals, in
> a transnational and comparative fashion, the ways in
> which these children and their mothers were
> categorized and stigmatized as the object of both
> benevolent and harsh state policies and social
> pressures. Importantly, the comparative aspect not
> only juxtaposes nation-states, but also examines the
> differences and continuities between the periods of
> Nazi occupation and the postwar years of liberation.
> The editors, Kjersti Ericsson and Eva Simonsen, used
> the project in Norway as a base to work toward an
> international focus, resulting in this collection of
> fourteen essays which cover the prelude to the war
> via Republican children in Spain to Black German
> "Occupation" children of the war's aftermath. The
> essays, however, mostly focus on the offspring from
> German soldiers and local mothers throughout
> Nazi-occupied Europe. As is usually the case with
> such collections, the burden to make the essays
> cohere effectively falls to the editors, who, in
> their introduction and epilogue, have done a
> marvelous job of laying out the meaningful themes
> and historical significance of the topics under
> study. This is particularly noteworthy here,
> because several of the essays fail to fully
> capitalize on their interesting material with
> persuasive interpretation. That is to say, all the
> essays are interesting for the information they
> provide, but they are rather uneven in narrative
> quality and historical analysis. Perhaps this is a
> consequence of the disciplinary methodology of the
> individual authors, but without a descriptive list
> of contributors, this reader is left guessing.
> Still, Ericsson and Simonsen have a done a very good
> job of laying out the complexities, problems, and
> historical significance that these essays reveal
> collectively.
> This compilation shows in new ways the
> contradictions and twisted logic of Nazi racial and
> social policies, but also, importantly, the
> problematic ways in which these children were
> managed in the postwar period in their respective
> countries. The various postwar national policies
> regarding these offspring of German soldiers are the
> focus of many articles in the book and show the
> range of responses possible. Thus state policy
> intersects with lived experience. Kåre Olsen's
> interesting opening chapter uses the Norwegian
> Lebensborn maternity home as a case study to explore
> how Nazi policy would place the children of German
> soldiers and local mothers on a racial scale that
> differentiated "valuable" populations of northern
> Europe from those of lesser quality, from the East
> for example. Thus, the Lebensborn maternity homes,
> designed to care for the mothers and their offspring
> in ways that would promote a healthy Aryan
> population, was the logical inverse of the genocidal
> efforts to eliminate racial undesirables. But after
> the war, these children became a national political
> problem for Norway because of the hostility directed
> towards them as a result of their German paternity.
> Lars Borgersrud examines the Norwegian War Child
> Committee established in 1945 and its efforts to
> deny these women and their children citizenship and
> to deport them, if not to Germany, then to Sweden or
> even Australia. Thus, these women and children
> landed in a legal limbo and were denied their rights
> and citizenship--the subject of the current legal
> suit. Meanwhile, Arne Øland's chapter shows how the
> Danish government succeeded in concealing the German
> paternities of several thousand children born during
> and shortly after the war. His chapter combines a
> historical narrative followed by extended personal
> testimonies, but it ends without any sort of
> conclusion or interpretive analysis that connects
> his policy survey with these biographical sketches.
> Thus, the reader is left wanting the author to
> advance an interpretation or argument in addition to
> providing information and anecdote. Still, the
> official silence in Denmark was a marked contrast to
> the overt machinations in Norway to be rid of the
> problem altogether. Fabrice Virgili shows that in
> France it was felt that the children were French,
> but that due to their problematic paternity, they
> ought to be sheltered from social ostricization.
> Hence the French state responded in a protectionist
> and pronatalist manner, while in the Netherlands,
> these children were viewed as a threat to Dutch
> society and the object of occasional violence, as
> recounted by Monika Deiderichs.
> Particularly interesting to this reader was the
> persistence of eugenic social policies and
> scientific endeavor in the wake of the war and its
> terrible racial legacies. Yara-Colette Lemke Muniz
> de Faria's article on the children of German women
> and African American soldiers clearly demonstrates
> how this racial/anthropological scientific
> enterprise continued well into the postwar period as
> these children were repeatedly put under
> professional study in ways reminiscent of the Nazi
> regime. While not seeking to eliminate these
> children from the German population, the study of
> their racial difference did help determine social
> policy of the 1950s, emphasizing how they ought to
> be treated as different from the more purely German
> children. The policies of socialization, then, were
> meant to make up for this racial difference. This
> theme comes through elsewhere, too, as states were
> worried that local children with soldier fathers
> might be too "German," which could be displayed, for
> example, in a propensity for marching. Hence,
> psychiatrists and other professionals across Europe
> engaged in diagnosis and remedy at the service of
> the state to determine if these children were in
> danger or themselves dangerous--perhaps even
> depraved due to their German paternity. It becomes
> evident over the course of the book that there were
> two competing paradigms regarding what might become
> of these children due either to their biological
> heritage or socialization. Thus, these children
> became valued for what they offered as objects of
> scientific study in the postwar nature/nurture
> debate. Michael Richards looks at similar themes in
> pre-war Spain. Since his essay is neither about
> World War II nor the German paternity of children,
> it is something of an outlier in this collection.
> Nonetheless, what is interesting is that the dilemma
> for Republican children in Francisco Franco's Spain
> was not about race or nationality so much as
> ideology. Many of these children were secretly
> given to families sympathetic to the new regime,
> because "it was concluded that 'Marxism' had
> 'psycho-biological roots' and that women were
> particularly prone to this threatening 'bio-psychic'
> conditioning" (p. 123). The danger to Spanish
> children lay within the ideology of the familial
> household, and particularly with the mother, thus
> efforts were made to counteract these
> pseudo-biological leftist tendencies among
> Republican children through the socialization and
> moral puericulture of Nationalist households.
> Some chapters, like Dorothee Schmitz-Köster's on
> German Lebensborn homes, read more like reports than
> interpretative essays. While Ebba D. Drohlshagen's
> ruminations on the terminology for these children
> are interesting and full of data, they again lack
> the interpretive bite of a compelling essay. Anette
> Warring's chapter on the plight of Danish women as
> sexual collaborators is a story familiar to
> historians of the period, though of course the
> particulars may be new. The issue of women's sexual
> practices during the war is a reoccurring theme
> throughout, and while related, it leads some essays
> away from the valuable contribution of this book and
> its focus on children into the well-trod territory
> of women, sex, and the war. However, the chapter by
> Kjersti Ericsson and Dag Ellingsen explicitly shows
> how the stigmatization of the mother affected the
> offspring, or as they write, "not only were the
> 'sins' of the mothers visited upon their children:
> so also were the sins against the mothers" (p. 99)
> as they suffered through violence both symbolic and
> real. In an interesting twist, Regina Mühlhäuser
> shows how the children of German fathers in the
> occupied eastern territories served to stigmatize
> the soldiers as lacking appropriate racial
> awareness. Owing to the children's "racially mixed"
> nature, the manner in which the Nazi state dealt
> with these children while in control of Poland was a
> marked contrast to those of Norway. In Poland there
> was a danger of either the dilution of German blood
> or the dangerous improvement of the subject
> population due to the infusion of German traits.
> The Nazi policies in Bohemia and Moravia lay
> somewhere in between those of Norway and Poland.
> Michal Simunek shows how the Nazi protectorate there
> adopted policies that it hoped would be a long-term
> eugenic breeding program for the systematic change
> and replacement of hereditary traits. Because of
> the already high degree of intermarriage between
> ethnic Czechs and Germans in the Sudetenland, the
> goal became carefully selective breeding to diminish
> the Czech qualities of children while augmenting the
> German ones.
> This collection, as a whole, certainly adds to our
> understanding of the lasting impact and human legacy
> of the war. As the editors state, "the war did not
> only take lives, it also created lives" (p. 1).
> Taken as a whole, we also see how various policies
> of intervention in the postwar period anticipate or
> parallel the proliferation of the welfare state. The
> suitability of mothers, the social scientific study
> of children, and the adoption of policies to develop
> and provide for these young charges all presages the
> expansion of the European state into familial
> affairs as the continent struggled to recover from
> the effects of the war. This book is, without a
> doubt, the most complete study of these war children
> to date, filling a significant void both in the
> history of the war and the history of children, but
> it also suggests numerous directions for new
> research or for a truly transnational monograph to
> examine the issue comparatively.
> Copyright (c) 2007 by H-Net, all rights
> reserved. H-Net permits
> the redistribution and reprinting of this
> work for nonprofit,
> educational purposes, with full and accurate
> attribution to the
> author, web location, date of publication,
> originating list, and
> H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online.
> For other uses
> contact the Reviews editorial staff:
> hbooks@mail.h-net.msu.edu.
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Received on Sun Jun 24 20:51 PDT 2007

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