*** 20th century children in history

Children in History: The 20th Century

Children in the 20th century have not uncommonly been at the center of major events. These children have been an amazingly diverse group, from Puyi the last Chinese emperor to Ruby Bridges the little American black girl who led the way for the integration of schools in the South. Immigrant children killed in the Triangle Shirt Waist Fire or involved in the Larence Mill Strike played a major role in publicising appauling working and living conditions. Perhaps the boy to play the greatest role in the history if the 20th century was Gavrilo Princip who assasinated Austrian Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand which led to World War I. The children of the Holacaust were undountedly the most tragic children. of the century. Most like Ann Frank did not survive, but a few like Uri Orlev did survive. The most celebrated boy of the decade has to be the unknown British Scout. The final year of the century played out with the saga if the little Cuban boy, Elián González. As in past centuries children have both been caught up in the great events of the day and had some impact on thiose events. Some of the children listed here will be totaly unknown to many readers while others will be instantly recognizable. Taken together they show how children have taken part in thre great epic of the 20th century and in some instances actually played important roles in influening those events.

Puyi (China, 1908-11)

Puyi was born in 1906 and and on the death of his uncle Guangxu became the last emperor of China. We have noted various spellings, P'u-i, Puyi, Pu-Yi, and Buyi. Unlike his newphew, he did not have the Dowager Empress as regent. Pu Yi's father, Prince Ch'un, served as his son's regent. The prince, however, disliked politics and court officials conducted givernment affairs. Reformers in China demanded change and action aginst the Europeans. They considered Prince Ch'un weak and the imperial regime corrupt and backward--incapable of challenging the Europeans. Puyi was raised by court officials who taught him to leave a desolate life. A Scottish tutor, Reginald Johnston, was hired for him. Puyi was forced to abdiagate in 1912 after the 1911 Republican Revolution. He was permitted to live in the Forbidden City until 1924. He was courted by the Japanese who had acquired the former German concessions in Manchuria. Puyi took up residence in the Japanese concession at Tientsin. The Japanese gradually expanded their control of Manchuria. They installed him in 1933 as Emperor of the puppet state of Manchoukuo. He met with Emperor Hirohito. We do not know the nature of their discussions. Puyi was surprised to learn that he had no real authority. The Soviet invaded Manchuria in the final weeks of World War II and turned him over to the Chinese for trial as a war criminal. The Chinese pardoned him in 1959. He returned to Beijing where he worked in the mechanical repair shop of a botanical garden and died in 1967. Puyi's life was beautifully told in the film, "The Last Emperor".

the Unknown Scout
Figure 1.--American newspaperman Willian D. Boyce was in London returning from a hunting trip in East Africa (February 1909). He got lost during a terrible pea-soup fog in London's confusing streets. A uiformed British boy came to his assistrance. It was the beginning of American Scouting.

The Unknown Scout (England, 1909)

American newspaperman Willian D. Boyce was in London returning from a hunting trip in East Africa (February 1909). He got lost during a terrible pea-soup fog in London's confusing streets. The British capital lay in the grip of a dense "pea soup" fog. Even during the day it was hard to get around. Traffic slowed toma crawl. A boy saw that Boyce was lost and asked, "Can I help you, sir?". Boyce expalined he had an important business meeting. The Scout offered, "If you'll give me the address I'll take you there." Boyce offered the boy a tip, but it was declined. When he asked why, thevboy replied, "Because I'm a Scout!" The boy explained about being a Scout and later took Boyce to Scout Headquarters to meet Lieutenant-General Robert S.S. Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement. Boyce was so impressed that he proceeded to found the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The identity of the Scout was never determined. We suspect the reason is that a Scout in 1909 almost cerainly volunteered or was drafted in World War I (1914-18) and was proablu killed. Alhough we will never know who that unknown Scout was, the U.S. Boy Scout Association (BSA) in 1927 awarded him the Silver Buffalo, the highest award in American Scouting, for his role in bringing Scouting to America.

George Archer-Shee (England, 1910)

George Archer-Shee is better known to history as 'the Winslow boy'. His story touches on the English monarchy, te Rioyal Nvy, cadets, Osborne, and the Edwardwian era in general. There are a few cases in Anglo-American jurisprudence that should be known by all, Rex vs. Winslow is certainly one of them. George was a 13-year-old cadet at the Osbourne Naval College on the Isle of Wight. (The Naval College was established at Victoria and Albert's estate after the Queen's death.) School authorities accussed George stealing a 5 shilling postal note from another cadet's locker in 1908. Authorities charged that George signed his name to the postal order and cashed it. George claimed that he was innocent, but was expelled from the College. George came from a very conservative Catholic family. Unlike the situation presented in the 1999 film, there was no strong sufregette feeling in the family. The film also down play's the possible impact of the family's catholocism and the still strong prejudices against Catholics in England. George's father was Martin Archer-Shee, a respected Liverpool bank manager. He believed his son's professions of innosence and attempted to approach the school authorities. He failed to get satisfaction, first from the Commander of the College, and then from the Admiralty which refused to reopen the matter. Archer-Shee was constrained by the legal system in pursuing his son's case. He couldn't file a legal suit directly against the College, as it and the Admiralty were technically part of the King's domain. The King and therefore the Royal Navy was immune from such actions. The King could legally do no wrong. Many English people when they learned of the incident in the newspapers felt that George, as a Catholic, was a victim of religious prejudice. There still was a great deal of anti-Catholic sentiment in England. Catholics had for centuries been deprived of their civil rights which has only been fully restored in the late 19th century. The Royal Navy was not imune from the still string anti-Catholic sentiment. It became known that several cadets at Osborne had been suspected of the crime, while George, the only Catholic, was expelled and charged. George's father asked noted barrister Edward Carson to take his son's case. Carsom was known to about every newspaper reader in England. He was the man who opposed Oscar Wilde during Wilde's notorius libel suit against the Marquis of Queensberry. Carson agreed to take George's case. Carson's legal options were limited because of the Admiralty's immunity as part of the King's domain. It seemed impossible that a 13-year old boy could take on the most rspected institution in Britain--the Royal Navy. Carson's only option was to make use of a "Petition of Right", which if the Home Office and the Attorney General accepted, could be given to the King. The King then had the option, if he so desired, to grant the Petition. Only then could George's case go to court. King Edward VII in May 1909 received George's Petition and signed it, writing "Let Right be Done." This allowed George's case to proceed. The Admiralty was still opposed to reopening the case and challenged the petition. They won the first court test, but that ruling was subsequently overturned on appeal by Carson. The trial began on July 26, 1910. Sir Rufus Isaacs represented the Admiralty, but naval officials by this time realized the emense damage that was being done to the reputation of the Royal Navy by the publicity involved as well as the weakness of their case. Four days into the trial, Isaacs announced that on behalf of the Admiralty and the Crown, he accepted George's claim of innocence. Newspaper accounts of the trial reported that members of the jury literally climbed over barriers in an effort to congratulate the Archer-Shee family. George's case became the subject of heated political debate in England. It was widely held that the first Lord of the Admiralty, Reginald McKenna, tainted the image of British justice, by refusing to pay damages to the Archer-Shee family. George's brother, who had just been elected a Conservative and Unionist Member of Parliament, brought the issue to Parliament. The family was eventually paid £3,000 in addition to legal costs. The conclusion of the George Archer-Shee story is bittersweet. While cleared of the charges, the Admiralty and school officials never sent George a formal letter of apology or ever withdrew the charges. He was never able to reener the Navy. George Archer-Shee joined the Army on the outbreak of World War I. Like so many of his generation was killed in the fighting. He died at the beginning of the War in 1914, just a few years after the legal proceeding. He was killed in the disastrous Ypres offensivde--one of the great killing fields of the War. An order to retreat from an exposed position did not reach George's platoon in time.

Triangle Waist Factory Workers (US, 1911)

The Triangle Waist Company in New York employed mostly immmigrant girls and young women who had to work to help support their families. Some were as young as 14 years old. The company kept costs as the bare minimum, craming workers as close together as possible, paid low wages, and took no saftey measures. A fire in 1911 resulted in the death of 146 of the workers. Some their dresses on fire jumped out the windows, falling to their deaths on the pavement. The result was not only laws and regulations to create a more safe work force, but a major change in American politics with the Democratic Party begining to endorse urban liberalism.

Titanic Survivors (UK/US, 1912)

The Titanic dissaster is the best known maritime dissaster in hoistory. The suposedly unsinkable ship hit an iceberg at high speed on its maiden voyage and sunk within a few hours. Many died because of the insufficent number of like boats. Most but not all of the women and children on the Titanic in 1912 were saved. Frank Goldsmith was one of the boys who survived. He is one of the more famous of the child survivors. Frank Goldsmith was photographed when he was 4 wearing a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. He was about 9 years old in 1912 when the Titantic struck the iceberg. He was wearing knickers and a warm woollen jersey (sweater). Over this was a heavy coat, he would have had full length socks and boots on the night of the sinking. A photograph shows him with a happy mischieveous smile. Another child Titantic survivor was the American boy Douglas Spedden

The Children of Lawrence (US, 1912)

Massachusetts in 1912 was a heavily industrialized state. The industrial revolution in American began in America with the Massachusetts textitle mills. First in Lowell and then in Lawrence. By 1910, Lawrence was the greatest textile manufacturing center in the world. Working conditions in the mills as well as living conditions for the largely immigrant labor force was dreadfull. The Massachusetts Legislature reflecting social concerns of the Progressive era reduced the maximum working week from 56 to 54 hours (1911). The economy in 1911 had not been particularly good so mill owners in Massachusetts decided not to pay workers for 56 hours if they only worked 54 hours. So beginning in 1912, mill workers found their pay docked about 32 cents a week. The result was one of the most noted strikes in American history (January 12, 1912). It proved to be a dreadful strike which dragged on. The state militia was called out and violence perpetrated on both sides. The unsung heros of the strikes were the wives of the strikers who strongly backed their husbands. It was the children who played a key role in the strike. Mothers with striking husbands were unable to feed their children. The strike organizers decided to find temporary homes for children ourside of Lawrence. This was done not only because the children were hungary, but because it would generate sympathetic publicity. Ads were put in New York socialist newspapers for families willing to take in children from Lawrence. Over 700 families volunteered. A group of 150 children were given warm milk, registered, and tagged, and then marched two by two to the train station where they said their tearful good-byes (February 12). The event was prominently reported in newspapers around the country. Their was concern for their saftey. In fact they had the time of their lives. Others groups were sent to Vermont and Philadelpia. These events generated such adverse publicity that the city deployed the police and beat the women bringing their children to the train station. This generated even more adverse publicity and Congressional hearings where the children of Lawrence told their stories. [Watson]

Gavrilo Princip (Bosnia, 1895?-1918)

The Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia on June 28, 1914, their 14th wedding anniversary, by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. Gavrilo was a 19-year old teeager committed to the Young Bosnia Movement. As he was considered the least reliable, he was given a pistol rather than a bomb. The assasintion was to launch World War I. As Princip was a minor, he could not be executed under Austrian law and was instead sentenced to prison. He died a terrible death in prison, but the war he had helped launch though an act of terrorism had the desired effect. The great multi-ethnic empire empires were dismantled. Most were broken up into small states based on specific nationalities. As Pricipio had wanted, Serbia was expanded to include many Slavic populated areas of the Astro-Hungarian Empire and called Yugoslavia.

Alec William Cambell (Australia, 1899- )

Alec William Campbell was the son of a commercial traveller (salesman) and had a Scottish grandfather who had migrated to Australia. Alec was born in Launceston, Tasmania in 1899. He did his schooling at Scotch Oakburn College in Launceston from 1910-1915 where he was good at Aussie rules footy and cricket. He was a boyish looking 16 year old child when he lied about his age to join the Australian Infantry in June 1915. His mother farewelled the boy soldier at the dock but his dad was too upset to go and see his soldier boy off to a probable early death. Mrs. Campbell had lost a nephew in the same war. Alec was trained up and left with the 15th Battalion for the dreaded Gallipoli campaign.

World War I Orphans (1914-18)

The number of orphans was extremely high in Belgium and other areas where fighting took palace. Large numbers of orphanages were established to care for the children. Many were sponsored by religious orders. Funds were created in America, Britain, and other countries to support these orphanages. The Belgian and French orphanages received considerable publicity. They were also used in Allied war propaganda. 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 the 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 did not. Many of these children and their mothers lived in poverty. Some mothers in desperation abandoned theur children.

Pavlik Morozov
Figure 2.--Pavlik Morozov ws a boy hero of the Soviet Uion. He was lionized as the boy who betrayed his father to the NKVD. He was made a model for all Soviet school children.

Pavlik Morozov (Russia, 1918?-1932?)

The Young Pioneers in the Soviet Union were a state organ designed to instill a child's duty to the State and to help ensure his socialization was not contaminated by parents not committed to the Socialist ideal. the best example of this is Pavlik Morozov 1918(?)-1932(?), the mosdt famous pioneer of all time. Pavlik was supposedly killed by "kulak" (wealthy peasants who resisted collectivization) relatives for denouncing his father to Stalin's secret police (OGPU-NKVD). He was adopted as a patron saint by the "Young Pioneers". Some authoirs describe thge Young Pioneers as the Soviet version of the Boy Scouts. It is incoceivable of a British or American boy being so honored by the Scouts.

Herbert Norkus (Germany, 1920?-32)

Herbert Norkus, a Hitler Youth in the Berlin working-class district Beuselkietz. Norkus was kiled by communist assailants while distributing leaflets during the election of January 1932. The NAZIS quickly installed the boy as a Nazi martyr. He became the subject of impassioned editorials and inspirational public addresses. Memorial services for the boy occasioned elaborate marches and demonstrations throughout Germany. His death received annual consecration on January 24, a date which then became a ritual observance during the Third Reich for all fallen Hitler Youths. NAZI Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels. in 1933 order a fil made about Herbert, it was to be the first NAZI propaganda film--Hitler Youth Quex/Hitlerjunge Quex. Th Hitler Youth capturing the idealism and patriotism of German youth played an important role in Hitler's rize to power. The NAZIs through both the Hitler Youth and the educational system went in to poison the minds of an entire generation of German youth. The Hitler Youth is an inmportant lesson as to how youthful idealism can be used or good or evil.

Solomon (Solly) Perel (Germany, 1926- )

Solomon (Solly) Perel, a 13-year-old German-Jewish boy who is separated from his family during the period between the Hitler-Stalin pact (August 1939) which precipitated World War II and the German invasion of Russia (June 1941). After escaping Germany to Russian occupied Poland, he is placed in an orphanage operated by the Soviet Government. He joins the Komsomol, the Communist youth organization. When Hitler invades Russia he is captured by the German Army. To save his life he convinces them that he is an ethnic German. Solly is now fluent in Russian and is used by the German Army as an interpreter. As a reward for heroism, he is sent to an exclusive Adolf Hitler Schulen in Germany, where he continues to pose as an ethnic German. Placed back into the German Army at the end of the War, he surrenders to Russian troops. Solly's brother searches for him and survives internment in a concentration camp. The brothers are reunited at the end of the War. His experiences were made into an acclaimed film, Europa, Europa.

Uri Orlev (Germany, 1931?- )

It was rhe children who suffered most in the Holocaust. They were targeted by the NAZIs during World War II and were the first to be killed because they could not work and were of no value to the NAZIs. A few children survived to tell thor stories, one was Uri Orlev. He had to survive on his own in the Warsaw ghetto after it has been cleared by the NAZIs. His father is sent to a concentration camp. He has told the boy to wait for his return and the boy learns to be quite resourceful in doing so, living in bombed out apartment building and surviving (mostly) on his own, along with his pet mouse. He doesn't have much, but he does have books. He drew inspiration from his favorite novel, Robinson Crusoe, while hiding and evading the NAZIs. His true story was made into film, The Island on Bird Street.

Ann Frank (Netherlands, 1931?-44)

One of the great ironies of history is the diary written by this little Dutch girl is one of the most widely read books ever published. Hitler and the NAZIs thought they could murder and destroy on traces of the Jews. Ironivally it is Adolf Hitler's memoirs, Mein Kampf that today lies unread and largely forgotten--a distasteful footnote in history. The ideas expressed in it are now rejected and despised, while the book of the little girl they murdered continues to be read an inspire young people today--six decades after she was murdered by the NAZIs. The NAZIs in the Netherlands were more sucessful in killing Jews than in most other countries. This was in large measure because Dutch Jews were so law abiding. They did not full recognize the danger. Most obeyed instructions and reported for deportation as ordered. German refugees in the Netherlands had a higher survival rate because they understood the danger better. Anne's father was German and almost managed to save him family. The NAZIs found them only about a month before the Allies reached Amsterdam.

Armand Walter Lehman (Germany, 1932?- )

Armand briefly described his experiences in a television interview. Thus I only have a few notes I took down. Hitler like all German boys his age was inscribed into the Hitler Youth when he turned 10. He did not explain his pre-war experiences, except to describe that he was very enthusiastic about joining as a boy. He had two reasons. First was to belong and fit in. Second was the uniform. He desperately wanted to wear the uniform. Armand described his World War II experiences in more detail. but did describe his war time exploits. He performed bravely I think in a Volkstrum unit and with two other boys was awarded the iron cross.

Tsvi Nussbaum
Figure 3.--Most people have never heard of Tsvi Nussbaum, virtually everyone has seen his photograph. It is one of the iconic images of the 20th century. He was the little Jewish boy arrested in Warsaw during 1943 and told to raise his hands as he and a group of other Jews were marched away to almost certain death. Miraculously he managed to survive. The other children in the photograph with him did not.

Tsvi Nussbaum (Poland, 1936?- )

Most people have never heard of Tsvi Nussbaum, vurtually veryone has seen his photograph. It is one of the iconic images of the 20th century. He was the little Jewish boy arrested in Warsaw during 1943 and told to raise his hands as he and a group of other Jews were marched away to almost certain death. By this time, most Polish Jews had already been murdered by the NAZIs, including most of his family. Somehow Tsvi managed to survive. This was unusual as children and the eldely were the first ones the Germans killed. The photograph of Tsvi, more than any other, has come to symbolize the Holocaust and how children were targetted by the NAZIs. Amazingly, Tsvi survived.

Tomiko Higa (Japan, 1937?- )

One of the most moving persoinal accounts from the Pacific War comes from a little 7-year old Okinawan girl -- Tomiko Higa. Tomiko was the youngest of nine children in a samurai family. She lived on a farm near Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa and the central point of the Japanese defene of the island. At the time, Okinawa was the most dangerous place in the world and Suri was the most dangerous place in Okinawa. The Amnericans spent more than amonth trying to crack through the Suri Line and throwing all of the massive fire power at their disposal at the deeply entrenched Japanese forces. And little Tomiko waa all alone and in the middle of it. Tomiko's mother has died when she was only 3 years old. Her father raised her amd her sisters alone. The children are on their own after their father doesn't return home from work. Her brother was killed beside her while they slept one night on the beach where they had dug holes in the sand for refuge. She then she becomes separated from her and sisters in the confusion and horror of Battle for Okinawa. Tomiko struggles to survive on the battlefield amist some of the fiercest fighting of the Pacific War.

Alojsy Twardecki (Poland, 1939- )

Alojsy Twardecki was a Polish boy whose father was killed in the 1939 German invasion. He was taken I think from a Polish orphanage. Polish and other children, especially in Eastern Europe were taken from orphanages or kidnapped from their parents. Several hundered thousand children were swept up by the Germans. The children were subjected to racial examinaions and those found to "racially valuable" or "acceptable" were selected for Eindeutschung. Childrn who passed the vaious examinations were given to adoptive German families are sent to boarding schools. Alojsy was given to a NAZI Party official in Koblenz named Hartmann. Many other childrn went to SS families. He was raised in a NAZI family to believe that he was a German boy. He remembers having fervent NAZI beliefs. Record were destroyed at the end of the War making it difficult to trace the children for repatriation. His mother did not find him until 1950. This was an exception. Only a relative small number of the children were evere returned to their parents. [Huber]

Linda Brown (US, 1954)

Linda Brown became the nost famous school girl in American history. She had to travel some distance to an all-black school in Topeka, Knsa. Her father wanted her to attend a much closer school, but it was all-white. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund wanted to challenge schoo desegregation. Linda became the lead plantiff in the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Board of Education Topeka which in 1954 declared racial segraegation in the public schools inherehntly unqual and therefore unconstitutional. There were other plantiffs cojoined with Linda's case, but it is Linda Brown, the little girl from Topeka, that became the symbol of the unanimous Supreme Court decission.

Emmitt Till (United States, 1955)

Most Americans during the 1950s were not particularly interested in the Civil Rights movement. They were also for the most part not aware of the vilolence and brutalization of Blacks in the South. It was a Chicago teenager, Emmet Till and his mother that began the process of educating America. Emmett was a 14 year old boy endearingly called Bobo by his mother. Emmett was from Chicago and had gone to Mississippi for a short period to visit relatives during the summer school break. He was barbarically killed by two Mississppi men on August 28, 1955 a few days before he was to return to Chicago to begin the new school year. His muder was grusome. His mother bravely decided to keep the casket open to expose to the nation what was happening to Black people, even boys as young as Emmett, in Mississippi and other Southern states.

Ruby Bridges (United States, 1954?- )

The can think of quite a number of children who played an important role in the Civil Rights movement in America. Many were victims like Emmet Till or the three little girls in the Birmingham Sunday School. Large numbers of children, however, were also actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the South. The were the force behind the sit ins and the mass demonstrations for voting rights and refusal to obey laws segregating public accomodations. Thousands were arrested. Some were targeted by the Klan, such as the little girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing. The youngest children were those involved in the first test desegragation of Southern schools. It is difficult to mention just one child--but a good example is Ruby Bridges. Ruby in 1960 was the first black child to enter an all-white school in the American South. She was escorted by Federal marshalls past parents screaming terrible threats. Charles Burks, one of those U.S. Marshals escorted Bridges and her mother into the school building, remembers the little girl who became a hero. "She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn't whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier. And we're all very proud of her." The school which had been forced by the courts to accept her, put in her in a class by herself. White parents boycotted the school. She became very close to her teacher Barbara Henry. She never missed a day and often studdied with jeering crowds outside the school. The school had hoped that her academic performance would prove that black children should not be educated with white children. In fact she did so well that the enbarassed school principal reduced her grades. The name Linda Brown is probably more assiciated with desegreagation, because her parents took the Topeka School Board to court resulting in the land mark Brown vs Topeka (Board of Education) Supreme Court decession. We chose Ruby to highlight here as she was the little girl that for an entire year braved ugly mobs to crack segregated Southern schools.

Luis Haza (Cuba, 1950- )

Cuba has produced many heroes in the long struggle for freedom. The Children which came to America as part of Operation Peter Pan are all examples of those heroes (1960-62). One brave little Cuban boy stands out for special mention--Luiz Haza. President Donald Trump delivered an address in Miami (June 16, 2017) to highlight yet another of President Obama's failed foreign policy actiomns. President Trump sed the occassion to honor those who who have bravely suffered in Castro's fetid prisons. At the end of the address the President yielded the platform to Luis Haza, an accomplished violinist, educator, and human rights advocate who has played with the National Symphony Orchestra for decades. Haza’s story is an uplifiting saga in the history of freedom. Haza’s father was the the police chief of the eastern regional capital Santiago de Cuba. He was a poet and human-rights activist and chief of the national police department in that city. He criticized dictator Fulgencio Batista and supported a democratic regime. He and 71 others were executed by firing squad of course without any trial at the orders of Fidel Castro. Luis was pmly 8 years old at the time. Little Luis nine months later and only 9 years old took up the violin and through himself into music and his violin. Haza tells us "I had so much emotion pent up that music became my obsession. Since I could not express my feelings verbally, violin became my way of expression." President Trump explained that the Communist authorities 'saw his gift and wanted to use him for propaganda purposes.' Luis rejected offers to study music in the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. When Communist authorities demanded that 12-year old Luis, give a performnce, he dis--providing them a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Those of us who have grown up in America with all is treedoms can not imagine the bravery that it took for a 12-year old boy to defy Cuba's totalitarian Communist establishment. Luis follow the trail of many other of his countrymen. His mother go the family out of Cub. They escaped to Spain and eventually reaching America (1964).

The Red Guards (China)

The first Red Guards were armed factory workers in Russia during the Revolution. The term Red Guards or hong wei bing is more commonly used for the groups of militant young people mobilized by Mao to drive his Cultural Revolution. The Red Guards were mostly young people in the teens or early 20s (mostly 15-25 years of age). The Red Guards were first active in schools, but soon exhausting the possibilities within the schools the Guards moved out of the schools into the neigborhood as a whole. Many schools were closed. And then large numbers began moving in groujps to Beijing and other large cities. Mao "summoned" them to guard the Revolution from "evil forces" including imperialism and corruption and this included individuals within the Party that were not sufficntly loyal. Red Guard detachments were formed in every sector of Chinese society, including government agencies. Armed with their little red books they terrorized individuals in authority or with prpfesional prestige like teachers, factory managers, scholars, artists, scientists, and others including Party cadre who using Mao's quotations in their little red books, they labeled "deviationists" or "closet capitalists". An especially serious crime was putting "technical expertise" over "correct political thinking". A Red Guard detachment in the Foreign Ministry even seized contol from Foreign Minister Chen Yi. 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. Much of this was conducted out of ideolgical fervor. Some Red Guards used their position to conduct personal vendettas. Many of those targeted by the Red Guards did 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 Red Guards and at the camps. Besides the damage done to China, the young people involved essentually received no secondary or university education. The Chinese now refer to them the "lost generation".

Maria Pepe (United States, 1972)

Maria Pepe was a little Hoboken girl who loved to play baseball. She joined a Hoboken Little League team in 1972. She was a goold player, in fact she was a very good player. Other teams complained. After a few games she was thrown off the team because she was a girl. The incident received considerable publicity at the time. The New York Civil Rights office filed a case to support Maria. It took some gtime, but the League lost and could no longer exclude girls. It was too late for Maria, she had outgrown the age limit for Little League. But because of Maria, other little girls can now play Little League.

Nadia Comanrci (Romania, 1976)

Nadia Comanrci was a 14year old pixie-like 4 ft 11 in, 86-lb Romanian gymnast. Her performance on July 19, 1976 at the Montral Games made Olympic history. She was the first gymnast on the uneven bars to earn a perfect score. She completed her routein with a backwards half-ptwist dismount which she hit solidly. Nadia's performance launched a torrent of interest in gynastics. Perhaps even more importantly, it marked a turning point in how many girls looked on sports. Other factors were at play, but before Nadia most girls wanted to be cheer leaders and view sports as somehow unbecoming and boyish. After Nadia girls still wanted to be cheerleaders, but the stigma of girls playing sports rapidly disapated.

Ryan White (United States, 1971-90)

Ryan White was a victim of the AIDs epidemic in Americca. He was not, however, just a victim but rather became an important force in the fight against AIDs. Ryan was born on December 6, 1971. A mere 3 days after Ryan was born, doctors informed his disdraught parents that he was a hemopheliac. Until recently few hemopheliac survived childhood. Often only rich children whose families could affiord intensive care, like the Russian Tsarevitch, survived. A new medical product by the time Ryan was born was available that contained the clotting agents found in blood. The product was called Factor VIII and was manufactured from whole human blood. Ryan grew up having many hemorages and received injections of Factor VIII twice a week. He also requited many blood trandfussions. This was at a time before the time that proper screening and testing procedures were developed to protect the American blood supply. Ryan's fight with hemophelis left him vulnerable to other diseases. He contracted pneumonia and in 1984 had to 2 inches of his left lung removed. Doctors 2 hours after the surgery had to inform his mother that her son had contracted AIDS. They gave him only 6 months to live. But 12-year old Ryan was not about to give up. He had already been through more medical procedures than most people experience in alife time. He insisted on continuing school and living as normally as possible. At the time the AIDs epedemic in America was in full swing. Most Americans were terrified of it not only concerning themselbes, but their children as well. If the disease itself was not enough, Ryan faced severe discrimination. Many parents did not want him in the school their children attended. And these parental attitudes affected how the children in the school treated Ryan. School authorities tried to keep him from attending. Ryan and his mother fought a protracted legal battle. Finally the school readmitted him, but insisted on separate restrooms and disposable silverware for the cafeteria. Many of the other children, however, were very cruel. They vandalized his locker with the word "FAG". (At the time many people thought that AIDs was a homosexual disease.) Restaurants in town threw his dishes away after he left. Some one fired into home with a gun. Finally Ryan's family moved to Cicero, Indiana, a community which welcomed them. People in Cicero were educated about the disease. Ryan was able to attend school and lead a normal life. He got a learner's driving permit--an important moment in the life of any American teenagers. While science was working on a cure for the dusease, Ryan played a major role in educating Americans about the disease, so that other children contracting the disease fid not have to go through what he experienced. ABC showed a TV-movie about him--"The Ryan White Story". Ryan even appeared in it, playing his friend Chad. Ryan died in 1990 just as the new drug treatments that have made such a difference were appearing.

Walter Polovchak
Figure 4.-- Ukranian boy Walter Polovchak at the age of 12 years became an internationally known figure in the Cold War (1980). Here is Walter in 1980 after he ran away from his parents. The American press pictured him as 'the Littlist Defector," a juvenile voice for freedom. Soviet authorities depicted American officials as child stealers.

Walter Polovchak (Ukranine, 1980)

Ukranian boy Walter Polovchak at the age of 12 years became an internationally known figure in the Cold War (1980). The The Polovchak family emigrated to the United states (January 1980). Michael and Anna Polovchak had three children. They settled in Chicago which has a substantial Ukranian ethnic community. America proved to be a disappointmnt to the parents, especially the father. Unlike the Soviet Union there was no guaranteed job and it was not the paradise he had expected. The two oldest children, Nataly (then aged 17), and Walter (12) had different opinions. They very much liked their new country. They did not want to go back to the Soviet Union. As a result they left there parents home and moved in with a cousin (July 1980). Their parents wanted them back and went to the police. The police contacted the Federal Government because of the interntional ramifications. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the State Department recommended that the police not intervene and to allow the courts to adjudicate the matter. The parents initiated custody proceedings in an Illinois court. The issue was rather clear cut with Nataly because of her age. As Walter was much youngder, it proved to be much more controiversial. The Ukranian community attemoted to assist Walter. They helpe him get a lawyer and Walter On July 19, 1980, Walter Polovchak, with the help of his lawyer, filed an application for asylum with the INS, on the grounds of potentially being disadvantaged and persecuted in the USSR as being a defector. The application was granted. Subsequently his legal status was adjusted to that of a lawful permanent resident (October 1981). Soviet authorities used the Polovchak case to try to prove that not only was life in the United States no what may believed, but that American authorites would steal children. The Reagan Administration which took power (January 1981) was sympathetic to Walter and helped drag out the continuing court procedures until Walter turned 18 and was no longer a minor over which his parents could exert custody. Walter after the fall of the Soviet Union (1991) restablished relations with his parents and regularly visits them in the now independent Ukraine.

South African School Children

The fall of Apartheid in South Africa began with demonsrations by Black children, objecting to being taught in Afrikaans. We do not know the names of any specific children which should be specified here, but perhaps our South African readers will provide us some information here.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (Tibet, 1989)

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima born in was born in Lhari County, Tibet (1989). This was the same year that the Panchen Lama died in mysterious circumstances. The Dalai Lama declared Gedhun the boy the 11th Panchen Lama (1995). The Panchen Lama ( པཎ་ཆེན་བླ་མ། , ) is a tulku meaning 'reincarnate custodian' of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Panchen Lama is one of the most important figures in the Gelug tradition, with its spiritual authority second only to that of the Dalai Lama. "Panchen" is an abbreviation of 'Pandita' and 'Chenpo', meaning 'Great scholar'. The expectation is that he would one day become Tibet's spiritual leader. Three days ately after he was declared Panchen Lama, Chinese authorities assembled a carefully selected search, appointed by the State Council of the People's Republic of China. Communist authoritie took the 6-year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family into what they PRC Government described as 'protective custody', essentially kidnapping him. The Chinese were taking no chances that he might esacpe their clutches and flee into mIndia like the Dalai Llama. He has not been seen in public since May 17, 1995. No one knows where he is or what the Chinese have done with him. He may not even be alive. On his 30th birthday, the issue of Chinese occupation of Tibet made headlines. Age enhanced renderings of what the boy might look like today swirled through the media. The Chinese harshly criticized 'foreign medlings in their domestic affairs'. The Chinese cliam that he attended school and is living a normal, life. Only no one has seen his since his kidnapping. Little wonder that Hong Kong people are so concerned about being extridited to China.

Stuart Lockwood (England, 1990)

Sadam after invading Kuwait, decided to use Westerners there as hostages. He had his security forces rund up the Westernrs and then he staged a media event. The had a group of the hostages brought to him. Among them was a little British boy, Stuart Lockwood. With the cameras rolling he beckoned the trrified boy to him and stroked hs head while asking if h was getting his milk. Stuart as a young teenager gave aan interview describing how terrifie he was when Sadam held and stroked him. It was clear what he meant. Western audiences were horrified. Sadam had, hwever, miscalculted. It was a public relatiins dissaster and in the end he allowed Stuart and his family as well as the other Western hostages go.

Tippi Benjamine Okanti Degré (Namibia/France, 1990- )

Tippi Benjamine Okanti Degré was a Frenchb girl born in Windhoek, Namibia (1990- ). Her parents were French wildlife photogrphers who decided to raise thir daughterv growing up with animals and the tribal people of Africas. She spent her first 10 yars in Namibia ans beginning as an infant was allowed to interact with relativekly little supervisiion with the animals, including the large cats and elephants. The cats were orphaned animals raised by farmers. Many of the other animals were wild, including an elephant herd whuich literaly adopted her. The wildlife photographer-filmmaker parents was raised Tipopinin the bush. She was named after the American actress Tippi Hedren as well as friend of her parents Gert Benjamin Jordaan, a guide they knew in Namibia. Tippi befriended animals she lived among and not just the animals see as cute or beautiful. Sge was especially close to a 28-year old elephant Abu and a leopard nicknamed J&B. Her friends included lions, giraffes, a banded mongoose, an ostrich, meerkats, a cheetah, a caracal, snakes, a giant bullfrog, and chameleons. Tiopi had an almost mistical ability to connect with animals. She had an instictive ability to commuicate with the animals and be accepted by them. It was not something taught by her parents. She enjoyed playing wuith the monkies, but as a baby didn't like how they tried to steal her bottle.

Elián González (Cuba, 1994?- )

Elizabet Broton was one of many Cubans who decided to make a dangerous gamble and flee the opression and povery of Cuba. As in most countries where political and economic freedom is stifiled, Cuba is and continues to be an economic disaster. Elizabet wanting a better life for herself and her son Elián in November 1999 on a rickety 6-meter boat to escape Castro's Cuba. The Florida Straits are trecherous and a short way into their journey, the engine died, and the the boat flooded with seawater and capsized. Elizabet and her companions, like so many before her, drowned. Miraculoisly, Elián, strapped to an intertune, survived. He was resuced by the U.S. Coast Guard and vecame the center of a intenselly followed international incident. Castro and the boy's father demanded he be returned to Cuba. It is in fact, standard practice around the world to transfer the custody of children to the surviving parent when the other dies. Castro claiming this widely accepted precedent made Elián into an international cause celebre. What Castro did not mention and was not well explained at the time was that the Casrto Government commonly refuses to transfer reunite children with emigree parents.

Social Concern

A HBC reader writes, "In the modern era I think several children have played a prominent role by displaying a social concern. There are stories of boys starting soup kitchens for down and out in New York. Andy Prior a 12 year old singer has been to orphanages in Eastern Euope to sing to the children. He is collecting toys to take to Bulgarian orphans. While there might be media somewhere in the back ground. These activities motivate adults to act. Also children have played notable roles in the Balkans. A reporter, encouraged by CARE workers, brought out a child they believed deserved a better life than she could have in the orphanage. This might have been the focus point for other adults to seek adopting these children."


Brooks, E.S. Historic Boys (1913/14). This interesting book sketches the lives of 12 historic boys that have impacted history.

Hoose, Philip. We Were There, Too!.

Huber, Karl-Heinz. Jugend untern Hakenkreuz (Ullstein: Berlin, 1982).

Watson, Bruce. Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants & the Struggle for the American Dream (2005).


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Created: September 5, 2002
Last updated: 2:04 AM 9/15/2023