marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Cruel World

Cruel World:  The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web by Lynn H. Nichols

The title is a little misleading, since it has "children" all the way up to university attendance.  And it includes basically anywhere where children were affected by the Nazi regime.  (Including one page on American children in World War II -- Total War really did affect children all over.)

And many cases context needed to explain the adults, too.

A thorough and extensive treatment of a rather far reaching and distinctly grim subject.  It opens with the account of a four-year-old mentally retarded boy being euthanized by Nazi nurses -- two weeks after the surrender.

Then it goes through the German experiences before the war:  The promotion of couples having children and the Lebensborn homes that provided places for "suitable" unmarried pregnant women.  The education of children -- did you know that Cinderella is about how the prince's sound racial instincts led him to reject the alien blood of the stepmother and find the true bride? -- and how Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls deliberately set out to separate children from their parents.  Isolation of Jews.  The sterilization programs for the unfit.  In due course, the euthanization program -- the first systemic killings of the Holocaust -- in which Germany deliberately killed them for cost savings.  (They carefully started it after war broke out to claim they needed to save the money.  Alas, the complaints did not reach a serious level until after they had more than reached their quotas.  And then they had people trained to massacre large numbers of people.)

The fate of children in the Spanish Civil War and among the refugees after.  Smuggling Jewish children out of Europe.  The German search for "Germanizable" people in the conquered lands -- and the deliberate export of German ethnics from the Baltic states before the Soviet Union took them over.  The "Germanization" and adoption of those who qualified.  Children in war -- the efforts to hide Jewish children in the Netherlands -- refugees and hunger and slave labor.  The recruitment of children for the final battle -- boys as young as twelve were fighting the Allies forces in Germany.

And the ugly scenes of trying to repatriate children along with everyone else after the war.  And feed them.  "Unaccompanied children" -- talk about understated bureaucrat terms.  Trying to identify "Germanized" children who had been drilled so very hard not to be identified.  They had to send teams to prevent the other children from being drilled when others were questioned.  Even then, they needed such tricks as asking them for how long they had spoken German; when a nine-year-old admitted to speaking it for four years, the interlocutor got the child to admit to having spoken Polish before then.  And whether to send children back to lands under the Soviet Union's control. . . .

Not light reading.  I don't recommend it for just before bed time.
Tags: history reviews: world war ii era, secondary source

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