The last decades of the twentieth and the first years of the twenty-first centuries saw a marked increase in the number of children’s books offering a realistic treatment of war. War is now an accepted, even common, subject in children’s books — but why should adults choose to write about war for children? Surely we should protect children from the inhumanity of war for as long as possible? Such questions and arguments arise in contemporary Western cultures where a sanitized construct of childhood, one that cocoons children from the realities of the political world, is promoted by sectors of the entertainment industry. Yet throughout history wars have not spared children: they have been both unwilling victims of conflict as well as enthusiastic wartime propagandists and even combatants. It was, for example, the sight of child victims, the war orphans and refugees who roamed across Europe in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars in the early nineteenth century, that drove Swiss educationalist Pestalozzi to create his children’s villages. In more recent times, the fates of children displaced by the Third Reich or made homeless by combat in the Second World War are the subject of numerous fictional and autobiographical accounts. These children were also the targets of wartime propaganda that prepared them for adult combat. In Germany, young people who were enthusiastic members of the Hitler Youth in the 1930s went straight into the armed forces (or, for girls, non-combatant war service) as soon as they reached adulthood; translations from the German of Hans Peter Richter’s trilogy for young readers, Friedrich (1987, first published in German in 1961), I Was There (1987, German edition 1962) and The Time of the Young Soldiers (1976, German edition 1967), chart the deadly momentum that began in childhood.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Literature of War: Comparative and Autobiographical Approaches
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number