Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism

By David M. Rosen | Go to book overview

Notes

Chapter 1 War and Childhood
1. The source materials in this study are themselves not evenly balanced. The stories of Jewish child soldiers, for example, often come from literate individuals, many of whom survived the Holocaust and went on to rebuild their lives as adults in Israel and the United States. Some one and a half million Jewish children, almost 90 percent of the Jewish children in Europe alive in 1939, were murdered by the Germans and their allies. Deborah Dwork, Children with a Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi Europe (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992), xi. The child soldiers who survived escaped almost certain death, a fact that lends an immediate aura of heroism and poignancy to their stories. Because many of these stories are highly personal, they have a dramatic quality that is not present in more contemporary reports on child soldiers. Many Jewish child partisans also belonged to socialist or left-wing Zionist youth groups, and they made sense of their personal struggles for survival within the grand narratives of the struggle for Jewish self-determination and socialist revolution. Finally, the fact that these narratives are told largely by adults looking back at their experiences allows the narratives to achieve a coherency and depth that may not be possible in the stories of children and youth who are currently close to the battlefield.
Young people fighting in today’s wars have yet to seize control of their own narratives. Much of what we know about contemporary child soldiers comes from the accounts of journalists and the investigative reports of human rights organizations. These accounts are not only shocking but are also deliberately crafted to emblematically illustrate the concerns of humanitarian and human rights groups. Accordingly, they focus exclusively on the horrors of war and reveal almost nothing of the ideologies, values, passions, daily lives, or routine experiences of children who are participating in conflict. Direct access to the experience of former child soldiers is also restricted by adult concerns that children are persons in need of protection and that the best interest of children requires either that adults speak on their behalf or that the children speak only in carefully managed and protected settings. I do not mean to imply that human rights organizations have not fairly recorded the terrible actions of children. But they provide a limited story. Indeed, as Wilson has argued, decontextualization is central to human rights reporting while the goal of anthropology is to “restore local subjectivities, values and memories as well as [to analyze] the wider global social processes in which violence is embedded.” Richard A. Wilson, “Representing Human Rights Violations: Social Contexts and Subjectivities,” in Human Rights, Culture and Context, ed. Richard

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Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iv
  • Contents viii
  • Preface x
  • Chapter 1- War and Childhood 1
  • Chapter 2- Fighting for Their Lives Jewish Child Soldiers of World War II 19
  • Chapter 3- Fighting for Diamonds the Child Soldiers of Sierra Leone 57
  • Chapter 4- Fighting for the Apocalypse Palestinian Child Soldiers 91
  • Chapter 5- The Politics of Age 132
  • Notes 159
  • Selected Bibliography 185
  • Index 193
  • About the Author 201
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