War and Social Upheaval: Children


Figure 1.--The Vietnam War was perhaps the most photographed war in history. Children were everywhere, both as combatants and civilians. Like many developing countries, Vietnam witha high birthrate, had a populatiin with a large number of children and youth. and children often suffered in the fighting. The press caption here read, "Sad sanctuary: In a Saigon hospitalVietmamese children look at a girl who was seriouly wounded by grnade shrapnel duringbstreet fighting in Saigon Feb, 8 [1968]. The onlooking children fled their himes for the safety of the hospitalin Saigon's Chinese section."

Children and other civilians have always been affected by war. In ancient times armies often lived off the land. They would often pilage farms and towns to obtain provisions. Cities that were conquered would be looted and in many cases the men, women, and children sold into slavery. This is what happened to Carthage and may other city of the ancient world. European knights in the middle ages adopted a code of chilvary. This was rarely extended to the peasantry. In our moder age a code of behavior was adopted for conducting war, but was not often followed. The French Revolution changed European wars. Rather professional armies fighting wars, the French mobilized large citizen armies. Children were often drawn up in these armies. This concept resulted in larger and larger armies, eventually culminating in the two world wars. The Europeans adopted a code that civilians should be respected and protected by combatants. It became obvious in World War I, however, that civilians on the home front played a major role in the outcome of a war. Children were graetly affected, especially those living in or near the far-flung battlefields. The number of casualties also mean that millions of children grew up without fathers and or in poverty. It was this perhaps inevitable that civilians would be directly targeted in the next War. World War II indeed brought more horrors to children than any other modern war. Children were affected not only by the staggerings dimensions of the War, but by the tactics and strategies adopted by the combatatants. The Germans and Japanese used terror bombing of civilian populations as an offensive tactic in the early phases of the War. The Americans and British eventually adopted the same tactic as part of their strategic doctrine. Children as part of the civilain population were this affected. The Germans did even more than bomb civilains. First they targeted handicaped children for sterilization or death. Once the War began they targeted non Aryan populations for death or slavery in a new Europe. Children here were a special target as they had no value as workers and thus Jewish children were among the first to be killed. Some wre even used in diobolical medical experiments. Thousands of other non-Jewish children were kidnapped and assessed racially by SS and other doctors. Most that failed the racial testing or were uncooperative eventually died in concentration camps. Those that passed were brought to the Reich for Germiniztion by SS and other approved families.

Reader Comments

HBC has received a varierty of comments from readers on our war and crises pahes as well as other sections of HBC that deal with the imapct of war on children. These comments cover a wide range of view points. We thought it best to create a new page providing a focal point for these discussions. Here we have just begun to develop our assessment, so feel free to submit your ideas and insights. Some of the issues raised here are very difficult ones raising moral conumdrums. There are no patently right and wrong answers to these issues, but the issues raised require careful consideration and discussion.

Child Soldiers

Children were often drawn up in these armies. This is a problem even today, but children in the 18th and 19th centuries were often an important part of major armies. One example here is the American Civil War, called by one histoprian--"The Boys' War". this was not exceptional, we just know more about the Civil War than other 18th and 19th century wars. Major combatants beginning in the late 19th century became more strict about enforcing age limitations. An exception here was NAZI Germany in the later stages of World War II. The Hitler Youth was an important part of the Volksstrum--NAZI Hone Guard. The problem continues today in the developing world.

Geneva Convention

The Europeans adopted a code that civilians should be respected and protected by combatants. Major European countries concluded an agreement at two international conferences held in Geneva, Switzerland in 1864 and 68. The International Red Cross grew out of the first Geneva conference. The primary initial purpose was to improve care for sick and wounded soldiers in war time. A subsequent 1905 conference also held in Geneva revised the initial agreements and adopted an agreement now known as the Geneva Convention. The convention cotained detailed provisions concerning the care of prisinors of war, including the sick and wounded. There were also important provisions on the treatment of civilain populations. The Geneva Agreement was signed by all Eiropean countries, the United States as well as several Latin american and Asian countries. The Imperial Japanese Government did not sign the agreement.

Refugees

A refugee is a person who has become homeless because of a war or other conflict in their home country or because theyhave been targeted in their country becaue of their ethnicity, gender (meaning violation precived gender conduct), sexuality, race, religion, social class, speech, or other attribute or conduct. The largest numbers of refugees are created by wars or other violent clashes. Refugees also flee when governmens are over thron and new standards of conduct or belief are imposed on a population. Other refugees are creted when a Government begins to target specific groups. This was often the case when Europe was dominated by imperial power or in the 20th century totalitarian powers (Fascist and Communists) seize control of a cojuntry. Here the number of refugees is affected by geography. Many Russians after th Bolshevik Revolutuion were unavle to flee or Poles after the NAZIs and Soviers invaded nd occupied their country. Religion at times has been involved, such as the Jews expelled rom Spain and other Europen countries ot the Hugenots escping persecution in France or the Puritans escaping opression in England. Race has also been a factor, most notably groups targeted by the Germans and Japanese during World War II. In our modern age, individuals desiring civil liberties have fled generlly to the West which recognizes free speech and civil liberies. There is a tradition in the West, esocially Britain and France of granting asylum to refugees. Over time formal legal processes have developed as well as internationl agencies to care for refugees. Some of hese agncies include UNRAA, the American War Refuge Board WRB), United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Not all refugees have fleed their countries, there are also the internally displaced. Refugees are normally a small part of a population. Two countries today have populations largely composed of refugees or immigrants sharing some characterisrics of refugees the descendents of refugees. One interesting development concerning refugees is when second or third generatiins began to see the oppresive power thar drive their parents or grand parents in a favorable light. A related issues are thise fkeeing poverty and economic chaos, complicated by the fact that once in a new country they may upport policies that made their original country poor. Another important topic is the ue of refugees by certain groups. In the 21st century, Afghanistan was the largest source country of refugees, a position it has held sibce the Soviet invasion. Some one out of every four refugees in the world today is an Afghan, living in Pakistan and Iran. In recent years, amajor refugee problem has developed in Syria, although today most are still internally dsplacd.

Displaced Children

Displaced children were a special class of refugees. Their age made them an espcially vulnerable group, less able to casre for themselves than adults. They were a little different than just their age. Many while displaced from their hime and parents, were not ncesarily displaced from their home communities.

Displaced Children: Specific Conflicts


World War I

World War I caused mass slaughter on a basis never before exoerienced in Europe. The number of father killed in every country is difficult to fathom. The loss of life in all the major combatent countries was astromical, although smaller in America which entered the War in 1917 and did not commit troops in large numbers until 1918. The number of orphans was extremely high in Belgium and other areas where fighging took palace. ted. A friend tells me that early Life Magazine articles had some images of European children showing period clothes. I think in 1917-18 they ran a series of articles on French children who had lost their fathers in the War. The magazine I think was asking for donations to help these families. The series contained lots of pictures of these, sadly mostly young, fatherless children. If anyone has access to a good University library, these Life Magazine images should be available. There apparently was a variety of boys clothes pictured. Another problem was that while many children were not orphaned, there were millions without fathers. As the father in the 1910s was the principal, if not thde only, income earner, this meant that millions of children were reduced to poverty or very close to it. Many had extended familes to support or least help support them. Many dis not. The involvement of women in the workforce and the need for widowed mothers to suppot themselves and their family has been a significant factor contributing to emacipation of women in Europe and America. In America the participation of women in the workforce was mpre important than than the widow problem. Notably in America and much of Europe, the emancipation of women ocurred immeduately after World War I.

World War II

Children were a special category of displaced persons after the War, a heart wrenching one and difficult to deal with because so many children were sparanted from their parents. Often the parents were killed in the War. Others were seized and transported to the Reich for slave labor. No provision were made for any dependants left behind, both children and the elderly. As part of the NAZI Hunger Plan these people were to be left to starve. The Germans did not feed slave and forced workers adequately. They had no desire to feed 'non-workers'. Jewish childrern were a special category, but very few managed to survive. Children were especially vulnerable to the Holocaust. Children were also caught up in German anti-partisan campaigns. Many children were affected by the loss of their parents. This could be because their parents were killed in the fighting or caught up in NAZI sweeps to secure forced labor for the war industries. Some children were kidnapped by the NAZIs as part of the SS Lebensborn porogram. Other had fathers who were soldiers and killed in the War or held as POWs after the War. In Eastern Europe there were often no organized group to assist them. As the War turned against the Axis, we begin to see displaced children in those countries as well. Thry were, however, the most likely children to survive because Allied war policies were not genocidal in nature and there were programs in those countries to aid children both duing and after the War. American aid as in World War I played a key role in saving countless lives. Some mothers or other family members were unable or unwilling to care for them. Even if mothers did care for them, they often lacked the supervision and support supplied by a father. Schools all over Europe were destroyed. This was a major problem in Germany whose cities were reduced to piles of rubble. And there were also the war orphans, children who lost both parents and did not have reltives willing are able to adopt them. Orphanages and groip homes were opened in belligerant countries. The nature and extent of these institutions varied from country to country. Some fortunte children were adopted by people in fireign countries, primarily America.

Targets


Historical Trends


Ancient Conflicts

Children and other civilians have always been affected by war. In ancient times armies often lived off the land. They would often pilage farms and towns to obtain provisions. Cities that were conquered would be looted and in many cases the men, women, and children sold into slavery. HBC has not persued ancient history to any extent and thus we have little information here to offer at this time. Death or slavery, however, was the fate of many ancient civilizations. This is vidly described in many Old Testament Biblical accounts. "Then Joshua passed from Makkedah and all Isreal with him, unto Libnah, and fought against Linnah, an enamped against it, nd fought against it: And the Lord delivered Lachishinto the hand of Israel, which took it on the second day, and which smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein, according to all he had done in Libnah. [Joshua, 10: 31-32] Roman conquerors were more likely to enslave cities that dare to resist. This is what happened to Carthage and may other city of the ancient world. The conquest of the Messenian by Sparta who forced them into bondage as Helot laborers for centuries is another example.

Medieval Europe

European knights in the middle ages adopted a code of chivalry. This was rarely extended to the peasantry. In our moder age a code of behavior was adopted for conducting war, but was not often followed.

French Revolution

The French Revolution changed European wars. Rather professional armies fighting wars, the French mobilized large citizen armies. Citizen armies were a factor in stiring the passions of natioanlism. It should nit be forgotten in was the entry of the French Army in Spain that caused the firs guerilla war, the word itself based on the Spanish word for war-"guerra". It was thuis the French citizen army that fought the most vicious vampaign in the entire Napoleonic era--the Peninsula Campaign in Spain inflicting great cruelty ob civilians--including women and children. The concept of citizen armies also resulted in larger and larger armies after the Napoleonic Era--especially after the Franco-Prussian War. This eventually culminating in the two great world wars of the 20th century.

World War I

It became obvious in World War I, however, that civilians on the home front played a major role in the outcome of a war. Children were graetly affected, especially those living in or near the far-flung battlefields. The number of casualties also mean that millions of children grew up without fathers and or in poverty. The cause of Belgian war orphans became a major concern in America and had a significant impact on how Ameicans viewed the Germans before America actually entered the War. American food aid to Belgium during the War prevented mass starvation in that beleagered country. The War lasted 4 long years. In the end it became a War of endurence pitting two economies against each other. Giving the importance of civilians and the home front in World War I, it was this perhaps inevitable that civilians and the home front would be directly targeted in the next War.

Ukranian Famine

One of the greatest crimes of the Stalinist era was horific famine in the Ukraine. The famine area included both the Ukraine and the Soviet northern Caucasus, as well as Russian areas in the lower Volga River basin. Famines are historically primarily the results of natural events such as drought, heat, diseases, insect infestations, and other natural causes. The Ukranian famine was primarily caused by Stalin's program of collectiving Soviet agriculture, especially the forced collectivization of the Ukraine. The Ukraine had been the bread basket of Russia. It was the prize sought by the Germans in two world wars. The rich, well watered soil made the Ukraine the most productive agrivcultural area of the Soviet Union. Two issues merged which resulted in dissaster for the Ukranian people. Not only did the Ukranian peasantry resist collectivization, but there was a strong Ukranian national spirit, especially in the western Ukraine. Stalin was determined to both bring agicultural under central control, but to crush Ukrainian nationalism at the same time. Stalin not only used the famine to crush the spirit of the Ukranian peole, but he also purged the Ukrainian intelligentsia. Stalin even purged the Ukrainian Communist party. At the cost of millions of lives, many of them children, the famine succeedded in breaking any organized redsistance on the part of the peasantry to collectivization. Stalin's purges also succeeded in smashing the Ukranian national movement. Stalin's actions in the Ukraine were not without costs beyond the deaths of Ukranians. Agricultural production plummeted. Soviet agricultural became one of the most inefficent agricultural operations in the world. Stalin bought Ukranian agricultural under his control through collectivization, he also signicantly reduced the output of Soviet agriculture.

World War II

World War II indeed brought more horrors to children than any other modern war. The horrors inflicted on children virtually defy description. Children were affected not only by the staggerings dimensions of the War, but by the tactics and strategies adopted by the combatatants. The Germans and Japanese used terror bombing of civilian populations as an offensive tactic in the early phases of the War. The Americans and British eventually adopted the same tactic as part of their strategic doctrine. Children as part of the civilain population were this affected. The Germans did even more than bomb civilains. First they targeted handicaped children for sterilization or death. Once the War began they targeted non Aryan populations for death or slavery in a new Europe. Children here were a special target as they had no value as workers and thus Jewish children were among the first to be killed. Some wre even used in diobolical medical experiments. Thousands of other non-Jewish children were kidnapped and assessed racially by SS and other doctors. Most that failed the racial testing or were uncooperative eventually died in concentration camps. Those that passed were brought to the Reich for Germiniztion by SS and other approved families.

Chinese Great Cultural Revolution

Another major even more radical change occurred during the Cultural Revolutuion (1966-76), one of the most violent and tragic episodes in modern Chinese history. It was inspired by China's leader Mao Tse Tung and known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Mao thought that the Chinese people were losing their revolutionary zeal. He was also stung by criticism of his Great Leap Forward (1959) and declining influence in the Government. Mao conceived of a cutural revolution to destroy once and for all the culture of pre-Communist China and to gain absolute control of the Government. Major Chinese traditions such as respect for ones's elders and the value of scholarship in particular were attacked. Children were often forced to renounce their own parents. Mao sought to reinvigirate party cadre with a revolutionay commitment, to replace many in positions of rank and privilege who were no sufficently inspired, to punish the cadre for the criticisms that were lodged against Mao's disastrous Great Leap Forward experiment, and to continue attacks against the intelligentia who he thought were not sufficently committed to the Revolution. Important leaders including Peng Zhen to Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping who were not sufficently loyal to Mao suffered during the Cultural Revolution, now just as the intelligentia and those who hadn't embraced Mao's grand plan. Mao's power reached unprecedent levels during this period in a xenephobic and often irrational cult of personality, symbolized by a Little Red Book consisting of his quotations, ubiquitous buttons that bore his portrait, and statues virtually deifying him that were raised near any buildings of social significance throughout China. The attacks on people made during the Cultural Revolution were all done in Mao's name. The Cultural Revolution made individual thoughts a crime. Pople had to hide their thoughts and emotions. People were beaten by teams of Red Guards. Many were denounced, sometimes by their own children or former friends, and sent to brutal labor camps for education. Many do not survive the harsh regime at the camps. Many others were permanently injured from beatings and lack of medical care at the camps. Others suffer from the humiliations also inflicted on them by the Rd Guards and at the camps. Mao had initiated the Cultural Revolution in 1966 when he met thousands of cheering Red Guards (students) at Tian-An-Men Square wearing his military uniform, Mao suit, and armband. Girl students who saw him cut their long queues into two brushes. They put on military uniform, leather belts and Liberation Shoes, virtually the same as the boys were weraing. Military uniform were the most popular and considered suitably revolutionary. They were admired by everyone. Red Army style uniforms became very popualar for boys. Military uniforms became a symbol of revolution and as a result was the most popular style of clothing.

Afghanistan (1979- )


Desert Storm and Iraq

A French reader is concerned about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who have died as a result of the United Nations (U.N.) embargo on food and medicine. Here HBC does not disagree that Iraqi children have suffered and that some have some have died. We disagree that the embargo is the cause. We believe that the cause of these deaths is Sadam Husein and his evil regime. Food and medicine are not now embargoed by the U.N. In fact, the oil sales now allowed Iraq are adequate to import the food and medicine needed by the Iraqi people. The problem thatcivilians continue to experience is that the Iraqi Government continues to divert funds for massive military expenditures. The Iraqi Government finds the sufferings of the civilian population, in fact, a convenient tool to use in propaganda aimed at Arab and other international populations. While concerned about Iraqi children, HBC has in our mind the horendous scenes of Kurdish civilians, including mothers holding their children, after Iraqi poison gas attacks. We also remember the huge number of Iraqui and Iranian youths that died when Sadam invaded Iran as well as the suffering in Kuwait. Sadam has already shown that he is willing to use gas chemical weapons. There is every reason to believe that he also has biological weapons and is willing to use them. We wonder what is in store for the Iraq's neighbnors when Iraq acquires nuclear weapons.

Syria









CIH








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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 5:52 AM 4/16/2014