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. 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.

From inside the book


Germans at War
Disciplined Youth
Medical Murder

12 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

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 modern European history at Magdalen College, Oxford.

Bibliographic information