Children and War: World War II


Figure 1.--These English children were one of thousands of groups that were evacuated from the major cities to protect them from German air attacks. Their parents in the first few days of the War read about attacks on undefended Warsaw which Hitler called "Schrecklichkeit" (frightfulness) to force other countries to surrender.

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.

Global Impact

World War II indeed brought more horrors to children than any other modern war and the dimenwions of the War brought . The horrors inflicted on children virtually defy description. Children were affected not only by the staggerings dimensions of the War and the letality of weaponry, but by the tactics and strategies adopted by the combatatants. To this was added the racial and ethnic dimensions at the heart of the NAZI and Japanese war efforts and not absent from Soviet policies. Hitler slated whole populations for destruction. First and foremost were the Jews, but he also meant to sharply reduce the European Slavic population and convert those who survived into a slave labor force. This of course meant the children as well. Never since ancient times has so terrible a war plan put into motion and never by an indistrial power. The idea was not to change people or their beliefs, but physical, biological destruction. Jewish children were the children most in jepordy because adults were useful for a whilre as slave labor. Slavic children were for the most part not subjected to industrialized killing like Jewish children, forced population transfers, closing of schools, seizures of property, round ups of civlians for forced labor, food shortahes, intra-ethnic clashes, patisan suppression campaigns, all affected childre, many of who were separated from their parents. The German occupied East became a vast killing field with large numbers of children left to fend for themselves. Some older children joined military units or partisan bands. The Germans were reduced to press youths and elderly mnen inyo cobat as the Alloes entere the Reich. The situation in the West was better for children, except Jewish children who were hunted relentlessy by the Gestapo and their local allies. The situation was worst in Greece and at the end if the War, the Dutch, which suffered a terrible famine caused by the Germans. An event worse famine occurred in Asia, especially Chuina, the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), and India (Bengal). Large numbers of children in Britain and Germany were evacuated because of the stratehic bombing campaigns. The bombing focused on cities because this was where the industrial factories were located. Andcwith large numbers of youths and men in the service, the remaining city populations were the ekderly, women, and children. And the impact continued after the War ended because many large numbers of children had lost their parents or were being raised by one parent. This often meant the mother, ilequiped to support a household.

Aerial Campaign

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 also began bombing cities as part of their strategic doctrine. Children as part of the civilain population were thus affected. Thousands were killed in the aerial campaign including large numbers of children. The NAZIs initiated terror bombings at the beginning of the War. Some of the attacks on Warsaw, Rotterdam, Belgrade, and other cities were designed specifically as terror bombings on unprotected cities with no military objective other than to terrorize the helpless population into surrender. Hitler called it "Schrecklichkeit" (frightfulness). He called the bombing of Belgrade "Operation Punishment" Both America and Britain labeled German and Japanese bombings of cities as attrocities, but then unleased an even more horrific campaign. One problem in World War II of course was that there were no smart weapons. Given the instruments of war at the time, the RAF bombers at night was often lucky to hit the right city let alone an actual target. The Americans bombed during the day, but only a fraction of the bombs fell on the targets which were primarily in the major cities. While the Allies did not enunciate "Schrecklichkeit" as a policy, the Germans civilians concerned would be hard pressed to find a destinction. Here morality becomes very difficult to assess. If ever a war met the definition as a just war in Christian theology it was World War II. Certainly bombing cities full of civilians, including women and children, is a terrible act. But how does one fight an enemy mobilized for war producing weapons in those cities with civilian labor that is committed to the War effort--a War effort with evil objectives? Is a country morally right to respond to an enemy using terror bombing by terror bombings of their own? Is it not moraly acceptable to bomb cities to destroy a country's ability to conduct war when that country is engaged in the sytematic murder of millions and the enslavement of millions more? How many more Europeans, including Germans, would have died if the Allies had not forced the NAZIs to surrender in 1945? The Dutch, for example, were starving when the Allies reached them--including some HBC readers. May other Europeans were in similar circumstances.

Euthenasia

The NAZI Germans did even more than bomb civilains. First they targeted handicaped children for sterilization or death. NAZI hereditary courts were set up. Teachers and family doctors referred children to these courts. Some children were serilized. Others were taken from therir partents and killed in sanitoriums by doctors ans nurses. These were not Jewish children, but Aryan children.

The Holocaust

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. Others were targeted for killing murder in Polish death camps, especially gypsies. Most Jewish children were murdered within a fe hours of arriving at the camps. Others experienced more lingering deaths--the subject of diobolical medical experiments.

The Occupied East

The most horrific fate of Jewish children and adults is well documented. The future for other non-Aryan peoples in Eurpoe was a kind of brutal servitude to their Germanic masters presided over by the NAZI SS.

Eindeutschung

Thousands of other non-Jewish children were kidnapped and assessed racially by SS and other German doctors and medical staff. (The medical profession in Germany was one of the most compliant with the NAZIs and the New Order.) 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.

Food

Food became a major issue in World War II, as it commonly does in war. The length and dimensions of the War made food especially important in World War II. Except for Jewish children who were hunted relentlessly by the NAZIs, for most children it was just a matter of surviving until the war ended. They could do without many things, but food was not one of them. Many combatant countries ration food. Both Germany and Japan needed to import food to supplu their populartions. Hitler was molded by Germany's World War I experience. He was determined that food shortages not be allowed to undermine German home front morale. As a result, the economies of occupied countries were plundered to supply the Reich. Food was rationed in the occupied countries, often at low levels. Commonly workers got higer allocations. In the occuped East, only workers received ration allocations. The Germans denied food to 'non-producers'. Hitler envisioned the East as supplying the Reich with food it needed to procedute the War. As the War progressed, the East barely supplied the needs of the Wehermact fighting there. It proved to be food from the occupied West that supplied the Reich. Japan went to War primarily to secure raw materials, especially oil, but food was another item sought in the coveted Southern Resource Zone. Japanese policies caused a deadly famine in the Dutch East Undies. The American submarine campaign by 1943 was making it difficult to ship rice and other food the Home Islands. This and a poor harvest had Japan on the verge of famine by the time the country surrenderd to the Americans. Britain also imported food and unlike Germany was vulnerable to having its supply lines severed. Adequate food was availble to the Germans untill Allied Armies had driven the Wehrmacht out of the occupied countrues (especilly France) and were at the notders of the Reich (fall 1944). The U-boats threatened to force Britain out of the War. Both the Dominions and America produced huge quantities of food that coud supply Britain as long as the sea lanes could be kept open. Rationing meant that the British diet was boring, but no one went without adequate food.

Displaced Children

World War II left large numbers of people homeless are far removed from their homeland. Millions of homes had been destroyed. Whole populations had been removed. The Soviets transported large numbers of people from the Baltic Republics to Siberia. Poles were moved west. Chechens and other peoles were also transported. The NAZIs of course targeted the Jews for death camps. Many Poles were transported from the areas of Poland incorporated into the Reich. The Germans brought millions to the Reich for slave labor labor. Many were young people without children, but some had children which were left behind. Many parents were killed in the bombing and shelling. Among the displaced were huge numbers of children. The children were of course the least likely to survive. If separated from their parents their chances were not good. Jewish children were among the first to be killed by the NAZIs because they had no economic value which could be exploited. One can not forget the images of the starving Jewish children in the Warsaw Getto whose parents had been killed and they were left alone. Even non-Jewish children were unlikely to survive without their parents. But many did survive and at the end of the war there were hundreds of thousands of displaced children. Adding to the human tragedy were millions of Germans streaming back to the Reich to avoid the Red Army. After the War German populations in Poland and other countries were forcibly transported to occupied Germany.

Military Service

Children were not only victims of the War, but also active participants in the fighting. All World War II combatant countries had conscription and voluteer regulations with age limittions. These limits varied from country to country and at different stages of the War. The two countris in which children and youth were most extensively involved in regular military service was the Soviet Union after the German invasion (June 1941) and NAZI Germany in the final years of the war. The Soviet Union did not formally induct boys into the Red Army, but as the Whermacht drove into the Soviet Union, large numbers of orphaned and displced boys attached themselves to Red Army units. German actions against civilns rsulted in massive casualties. Many children were both killed and orphaned. Joined the military was often the only option available and many also had a burning desire for revenge. A Hitler Youth SS Panzer division was forned with older Hitler Youth boys--a present for Hitler's birthday (April 1944). Hitler as Soviet and allied armies were closing in on the Reich ordered the foration of an auxialry--the Volksstrum (October 1944). They were placed in the Whermachr order of battle. The Volksstrum was formed by conscripting of youth down to 16 years of age and older men up to 60 years of age. Reich Führer-SS Heinrich Himmler, as Replacement Army Commander, was charged with armament and training. In actuality they received little training and were poorly armed. Actually much younger chilren were thrown into battle. Hitler Youth boys were pressured to resist advancing eneneny forces. Boy below conscription age served in other combatant countries, but not in the masive numbers noted in the Soviet Union and Germany. Children were even more involved in the Resistance, because there was no legal conscription and this age limits. In addition children could be very useful for resistrance operations. Japan took a very diffrent aproachas the Americans prepard to invade. They adopted the Kesugo approach. They did not organize cvilians as a resiatce force, but rather to resist the Americans, with or without modern weapons. It was essentially a form of national suiside.

Country Trends

Children were terribly affected by World War II. This varied from country to country. In many countries children were not only the incidental casualties of War, but horrifingly a targeted group. The NAZIs in their campaign to kill Jews, put children at the top of their list because they were non workers. They were many of the first to ne murdered. This as far as we know was the most significnt assault on children in history since Biblical times when Pharoah ordered the murder of Jewish children. This affected all the countries occupied or controlled by NAZI Germny. Only Bulgaria and Denmark mnaged to save their Jews. In other countries children were affected by the overall war, the fighting and destruction. The most serious potential imact on children was food. Children are the most vulnerable group when it comes to food and nutrution. Thus the NAZI Hunger plan to starve people in occupied countries affected children the most. It was not only children in occupied countries that were affected. Children in China and the Soviet Union were terribly affected because huge areas of the food producing regions were occupied. Here America as in World War I was able to save tens of millions of children by providing food to Allied countries and after the War to liberated countries. Food was not the only issue. Children were affected by the fighting and the bombing. Millions of children were evacuated from the cities in Britain, Finland, Germany, and Japan. ll major belggerant countries asttempted to mobilze childrem for War. Probably no other country did this more effectively than NAZI Germany.







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Created: October 23, 2002
Last updated: 10:05 PM 10/9/2016