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Tara Zahra
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    World War II tore apart an unprecedented number of families. This is the heartbreaking story of the humanitarian organizations, governments, and refugees that tried to rehabilitate Europe’s lost children from the trauma of war, and in the process shaped Cold War ideology, ideals of democracy and human rights, and modern visions of the family.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06137-8
    Subjects: History, Philosophy, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Civilization in Disarray
    (pp. 1-23)

    In May of 1951, Ruth-Karin Davidowicz, age 13, was desperate to leave Germany. Ruth-Karin had the misfortune of being born in Berlin to Jewish parents in 1938. When she was still an infant, her family attempted to escape Nazi Germany to go to Palestine. They were caught and interned in Romania en route, and her father was deported to the Majdanek concentration camp, where he died. The rest of the family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, perished in Auschwitz. Ruth-Karin and her mother managed to remain in Romania, where they survived the war. After their liberation, they illegally traversed the...

  5. 1 The Quintessential Victims of War
    (pp. 24-58)

    In July of 1946, the American branch of the Unitarian Service Committee (USC) created a colony for Spanish refugee children in France. By the end of that year, over a hundred children between the ages of five and twelve had passed through the villa La Garde in Saint Goin, nestled in the Pyrenees close to the Spanish border. Some, mostly orphans, became permanent residents at La Garde. All of the children’s parents had fought against Franco during the brutal civil war in Spain (1936–1939) and since Franco won the war, returning to Spain would mean likely imprisonment or death for...

  6. 2 Saving the Children
    (pp. 59-87)

    Early in the morning on March 12, 1938, the German Wehrmacht marched into Austria. While the Spanish Republic went down in flames, the twenty year-old Austrian Republic was wiped off the map of Europe without a single shot being fired. As Nazi tanks rolled into Austria, they were showered with flowers and cheered on by jubilant crowds of Austrians waving swastika flags. Seven-year-old Ruth Kluger lay in bed with strep throat when the revelry reached Vienna. “Below the window men were yelling in chorus . . . During the next days the first German uniforms appeared on the street. These...

  7. 3 A “Psychological Marshall Plan”
    (pp. 88-117)

    In 1940, Howard Kershner, Director of European Relief for the American Friends Service Committee, was stationed in Vichy France, where Quakers were organizing relief for Jewish and Spanish refugees. He had seen any number of wartime atrocities in his years of service, including violence directed at civilians, bombings, starvation, and disease. Now he added a new item to the litany of civilian suffering: “One of the greatest tragedies of all times is the separation of families in Europe today: wives in one country, husbands in another . . . babies who have never seen their fathers; scattered fragments of families...

  8. 4 Renationalizing Displaced Children
    (pp. 118-145)

    In 1948 the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide equated the denationalization of children with genocide. The Convention officially condemned “forcibly transferring children of one group to another group” enacted “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” That same year, the “right to a nationality” was enshrined in Article 15 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, along with the principle that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”¹

    By the end of the...

  9. 5 Children as Spoils of War in France
    (pp. 146-172)

    In 1946, Pierre Pfimlin, representing the French Ministry of Public Health and Population, declared that displaced children in Germany represented a valuable “blood transfusion” who promised to counter the “menace of extinction” threatening the French nation. “During the war years Germany was an immense prison, where humans belonging to all of the nations of Europe rubbed shoulders . . . This mixing of humans without historical precedent has left human traces—children were born. A lot of children. A good number of them have French blood in their veins . . . From a demographic point of view the child...

  10. 6 Ethnic Cleansing and the Family in Czechoslovakia
    (pp. 173-197)

    On the morning of May 21, 1942, Reichsprotektor and Chief of the Reich Security Office Reinhard Heydrich was attacked in Prague by Czech partisans. He died from his wounds a few days later. In retaliation, on June 10, 1942, German soldiers rounded up all of the men in the small Bohemian village of Lidice and shot them into a mass grave. They burned and razed the village to the ground, intending to erase all traces of its existence. German soldiers meanwhile gathered the town’s women and children and drove them to a high school in Kladno. They immediately selected two...

  11. 7 Repatriation and the Cold War
    (pp. 198-221)

    In Yugoslavia in 1948, the Belgrade newspaper Tanjug publicized the tragic fate of Yugoslav children in postwar Austria. “In Austria at the present time there are large numbers of Yugoslav children who were taken by force from Yugoslavia during the war. Scattered throughout Austria, exposed to Germanization and education designed to make them hate their own country, these children are unscrupulously exploited as free manual labor,” the paper reported. “Efforts by the Yugoslav government and Red Cross to find these children and bring them back to their native country are blocked by the occupation authorities in the Western Zones ....

  12. 8 From Divided Families to a Divided Europe
    (pp. 222-246)

    In November of 1947, Else Prolsdorff located her long-lost son Hans-Joachim Freyschmidt after 16 years of separation. Hans-Joachim, a 17-year-old former Hitler Youth, turned up after the war in a home for displaced children in Czechoslovakia directed by the Czech Christian pacifist Přemysl Pitter. According to Revue, a West German tabloid, Else’s “Odyssey of Maternal Love” had begun with a violent domestic dispute in 1930: the night her husband Robert hit her for the first time—and the first time she felt her child move in her womb.

    Robert Prolsdorff allegedly came home drunk that night, and made advances at...

  13. Archival Sources and Abbreviations
    (pp. 247-250)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 251-302)
  15. Index
    (pp. 303-308)