War and Social Upheaval and Children: Country Trends (1939-45)


Figure 1.--It was not just European and Asian children that were impacted by World War II. Although not separated from their patents, Japanese-Americans in Pacific coast states were interned in concentration or relocation camps as they were called. Italian and German families wre also interned, but only those who parents have been involved in subversive activites. These two San Francisco boys, one with strip "Remember Pearl Harbor" on his hat, wave good-bye while awaiting the bus. Notice how the older boy is holding on to his little brother.

The experience of children during World War II dependened on where they lived and to a significant exent, their ethnicity. Racial animus is oftren most associated with the Germans. It was, however, very important in asia because of Japanese racial attitudes. For American and Canadian children, their primary problem was that they were separated from their their fathers and brothers. The experience in Europe was far different. Britain was not occupied, but large numbers of children were evacuated to the countryside and separated from their families. Even so many civilians, including children, were killed during the Blitz and later V-1 and V-2 attacks. Rationing was very strict. In NAZI occupied Europe, the situtation was far bleaker. The situation of displaced children and the situation concerning children generally varied greatly from country to country. This was primarily because of the radically different policies that the Germans persued in different countries. Race or actually a perception of race was a factor which strongly affected German attitudes. It was the Jews that the NAZIs targeted with a vengence, but large numbers of other children were also killed, especially Slavic childern in the East. After America entered the War and the strategic bombing campaign intensified, large numbers of German civilians, including children, were also killed. Massive number of displaced persons, many of them children, after the War were left in desperate circumstance.

America, North


America

American children were not affected by World War II like children in Europe and Asia. The Atlantic and Pacicfic Oceans acted as an effective barrier to the Germans and Japanese. Many American children lost their fathers, but unlike European children were not orphaned or displaced. American children, however, did particiapte in a variety of war-time activities to support the war effort. Children studied current events. Air raid drills and alerts were common. Both children and their families were involved with conservation and recycling of goods. The Scouts and other youth groups were actively involved in may home-front activities. Children often worked in sponsored rallies, parades and cultural events (such as dances) to raise money to buy war stamps and bonds to finance the war. Some children were more adversely affected by the war. Although not separated from their patents, Japanese Americans in Pacific coast states were interned in concentration or relocation camps as they were called. Italian and German families wre also interned, but only those who parents have been involved in subversive activites.

Canada

The Canadian mainland like America was untouched by the War. The Canadian war experience was a little different than the American experience. This was primarily because Canada went to war with Britain in 1939. War was automatic in 1914 when Britain went to war against Germany. Constitutional changes after the War gave the Dominions the right to decide. Canada and the other dominions loyally followed Britain to war with Germany in 1939. Canada like America had been adversely affected by the Depression, but with the increase in military spending even before te War began, there was a return to propsperity. The draft of men for the military meant a shortage of labor, quite a shift from the Depression years. In America many women and teenagers entered the workforce. We have no details about Canada, but assume the same took place there as well. At this time we have no detailed information about Canadian children during the War. The principal adverse impact to children was the absence of their fathers who were stationed abroad and for some the loss of teie fathers. Canadian soldiers were mostly stationed in England and them after D-Day in France and the Low Countries before entering Germany in 1945. There were plans to evacuate British children to Canada and the other Dominions, but after ships with evacuee children were torpeoded, these plans were cancelled.

Asia


China


Japan


Europe

The experience of war in Europe for children was for millios of children a desperate struggle fo life and all too often it was a struggle they faced alon. This varied over time and from country to country. Ethnicity became a centrl matter in NAZI-occuped Europe. Britain was not occupied, except for the Channel Islands, but large numbers of children were evacuated to the countryside and separated from their families. Even so many civilians, including children, were killed during the Blitz and later V-1 and V-2 attacks. Rationing was very strict. In NAZI occupied Europe, the situtation was far bleaker. The situation of displaced children and the situation concerning children generally varied greatly from country to country. This was primarily because of the radically different policies that the Germans persued in different countries. Race or actually a perception of race was a factor which strongly affected German attitudes. It was the Jews that the NAZIs targeted with a vengence, but large numbers of other children were also killed, especially Slavic childern in the East. The Germans rounded up millions of slave laborrs. This left many children on their own with no way to survive. The Germans in the ast only issued ration cupons to workers and their famikies. After America entered the War and the strategic bombing campaign intensified, large numbers of German civilians, including children, were also killed. Massive number of displaced persons, many of them children, after the War were left in desperate circumstance. Clidren were killed in early wats, but primarily as the result of collateral damage. The Germans made children not only a target, but a priority target because if your goal is to ertimate a people, it is necessay to kill the children as well as the adults. Not only did the Germams begin killing children, but they also began kidnapping children judged to have racial value from their parents.

Oceania


Australia

We do not know much about Australian children during World War II. A few Australian children along with English, American, and Dutch children were interned by the Japanese in concentration camps. The death rates in these camps through mistreatment, starvation diets, and disease were apauling--especially among the children. Children were kept with their mothers until about 12-13 years of age when they were moved in with their fathers or ther men. The movie "Three Came Home" (1950) was I believe based on the experiences of an Australian family. Had the Japanese not been forced to surender in September 1945 very few of the surviving internees and POWs would have lived. Japanese operations against Australia itself were limited to a few incidents such as the bombing of Darwin. This could have been different had a small American carrier task force not turned the Japanese back at Coral Sea (April 1942). (At the time Australia was virtually defenseless. Most of the Australian Army was in North Africa fighting Rommel.) As a consequence of Coral Sea and the later American victory at Midway (June 1942), Australia became a rear area of the War where an influx of American soldiers equipped with a tidal wave of supplies prepared for the offensive against the Japanese. Australian children were involved in a variety of home front activities.

Sources

Rhodes, Richard. Masters of Death (Knopf, 2002).

Stueck, Rudi. E-mail message, Aoril 22, 2003.

Tara Zahra, The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe's Families after World War II (Harvard, 2011).






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Created: February 7, 2002
Last updated: 10:26 PM 3/2/2015