Friday, May 6, 2005

Deutsche Welle Second World War site (English)

The German news service Deutsche Welle has an English-language site on the Second World War providing information to observe on the 60th anniversary of the war's end: World War II: 60 Years Later.

Following are samples from various pages of the site.

The Big Picture:  World War II started in Europe when German soldiers invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. A war subsequently developed that involved states and peoples from all continents. By the end of the war, in 1945, 27 million of 110 million soldiers and around 25 million civilians had died. ...

One of the worst catastrophes during World War II was Germany's ideological, racist campaign to eliminate the European Jews, resulting in the deaths of six million people.

A chronology follows at that page.

War isn't glamorous or sentimental "It is surprising that the generation of children, who were born during the war and spent a large part of their childhood in the war, have until recently been remarkably silent about their biographies and appeared unaffected," said Dr. Michael Ermann, head of the War Childhood Project at Munich's Ludwig Maximilian University. ...

Dr. Hartmut Radebold, a former professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kassel and the founder of Germany's geriatric psychotherapy, said these children were subject to suffering in three major areas.

"They faced violence, they had to deal with separation and loss of loved ones, and they had to come to terms with losing their homes, safety and security," said Radebold.

Psychiatrist Helga Spranger, one of the founding members of the war child association and herself a war child, described the lives of children during the war in The International Journal of Evacuee and War Child Studies.

"Children were separated from their parents, orphaned, evacuated by force, displaced, kidnapped, shot at, bombed, wounded, mutilated, raped, expropriated, blackmailed, adopted by force, drafted at an early age and forced into labor," Spranger wrote. "In short, they suffered from stress for months or years and were basically robbed of their childhood."

The horrors these children experienced continued to brew under the surface. "It costs endless energy to keep it inside for decades," said Ermann.

But good Republicans in the US sneer at the Europeans for not wanting to rush into wars of choice.

A creepy version of temple prostitutionIn order to propagate their "master race," the Nazis established the Lebensborn program: maternity homes where women who met certain racial criteria could give birth to the future elite of the Third Reich.

Lebensborn means "spring of life," and when Nazi SS head Heinrich Himmler established the program in 1935, he intended the series of homes in Germany, and later across occupied Europe, to literally be a spring from which his desired legions of "Aryan" babies would flow.

But, just as the "Thousand-Year Reich" ended up in ashes and ruin after 13 years, the Lebensborn program, one of the Nazis' most daring social experiments, left behind no army of blond-haired, blue-eyed people. Instead, its legacy is thousands of destroyed lives, broken families and stories of personal shame.

Fraternization Three out of four GIs had sexual encounters overseas, and by late 1945, one in five German babies was born out of wedlock. By 1955, up to 67,700 illegitimate children had been fathered by US soldiers -- some 5,000 of whom were Afro-American.

The "occupation children" were a thorn in the side of Adenauer's Germany -- especially the high percentage of mixed-race children, many of whom were sent to the US for adoption in the ensuing years. Not least, they were a huge financial burden on the country. US soldiers were exempt from having to pay child support unless they acknowledged paternity, and taxpayers had to bear the costs of the nation's illegitimate children of GI fathers.

Life was hard both for both the children and their abandoned mothers. Their lovers had made promises -- marriage, a new life in the States -- that were cruelly broken. Many belatedly found out their boyfriends had wives back home. Ostracized by society, these women and their children became the pariahs of postwar Germany.

It does note that some of these stories had a happier ending.  Gott sei Dank!

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