Witnesses of War: Children's Lives Under the Nazis

Front Cover
Jonathan Cape, 2005 - Child witnesses - 509 pages
Children lay at the heart of the Nazi war. The Nazis murdered Jewish, gypsy and disabled children, so that the pure-bred German child would inherit the new colonial empire being conquered in the East. Yet in the final weeks of the war, the regime would devour its own, calling on the very teenagers it had so lauded to sacrifice themselves on the 'altar of the fatherland', as it sent teenage girls to flak batteries and boys to fight Soviet tanks, or to hunt down escaped concentration camp inmates. Although the Nazi regime separated children on the basis of race and national identity, the experience of children does not fall into tidy categories. Even in this most murderous of European wars, children were not merely passive victims of genocide, bombing, mechanised warfare, starvation policies and mass flight. They were also active participants, going out to smuggle food, ply the black market, and care for sick parents and siblings. As they absorbed the brutal new realities of German occupation, Polish boys played at being Gestapo interrogators, and Jewish children at being ghetto guards or the SS. Within days of Germany's own surrender, German children were playing at being Russian soldiers. As they imagined themselves in the roles of their enemies, children expressed their hopes, fears and envy in their play. Drawing on a wide range of new sources, from welfare and medical files to private diaries, letters and drawings, Nicholas Stargardt evokes the individual voices of children under Nazi rule. In re-creating their wartime experiences, he has produced a challenging new historical interpretation of the Second World War.

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WITNESSES OF WAR: Children's Lives Under the Nazis

User Review  - Kirkus

An absorbing study of Nazi-era childhood, drawing on diaries, interviews and other primary sources.The Third Reich was founded on the premise that the German "race" could and would be purged of ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - CarlaR - LibraryThing

This was a very interesting book that focuses on the children of WWII. Very rarely does a book come out that focuses on the lives of the children. Not only that, but this book deals with all of the ... Read full review


Germans at War
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About the author (2005)

Nicholas Stargardt, the son of a German-Jewish father and Australian mother, was born in Melbourne and brought up in Australia, Japan and Britain. He teaches European history at Oxford.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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