Children of World War II: The Hidden Enemy Legacy

Children of World War II: The Hidden Enemy Legacy

Children of World War II: The Hidden Enemy Legacy

Children of World War II: The Hidden Enemy Legacy

Excerpt

Wars go on for a long time after armistices have been declared or peace treaties signed. Traumatic war experiences are not easily overcome, and the bitter divisions which wars create may be beyond conciliation. Wars have repercussions in the lives of the next generation as well. Children with no personal experience of war may nonetheless have to cope with the traumas of their parents. The wartime reputation of the parents may stick to the children, forcing upon them the identity of daughter of a hero or son of a traitor.

This book is about one group of people for whom the war seems to have lasted until this day. Sixty years have elapsed since the end of World War II. Only now, their stories are beginning to emerge in several European countries.

The war did not only take lives, it also created lives. But for the war, the people who are the subjects of this book would not exist. They were born during or shortly after the German occupation. The fathers belonged to the German forces, the mothers to the native population of the occupied countries. The life course and personal experience of these children have been deeply affected by this contingent constellation of parents, and the meaning given to this particular constellation by society. The children grew up enveloped in public and private silence. This silence, however, was not a void or a blank. It was filled with meaning: a silence of shame and guilt. Somehow, these children were simultaneously invisible and too visible. In many countries, silence still reigns. In others, the children's existence and fate is only now reaching public consciousness.

Children of German fathers and mothers from an occupied country are the main subjects of this book. However, we have also included chapters on the children of the prelude and the aftermath to World War II. The prelude was the Spanish civil war. The children of the losing side were regarded as dangerous and depraved by the Franco regime. The aftermath was the Allied occupation of Germany. This occupation also produced children. The most visible among them, who caused most concern, were the children of German mothers and US soldiers of AfricanAmerican origin. In spite of differences, there are striking parallels between the ways all three groups of children were regarded and treated by authorities, professionals and lay people in their respective countries.

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