A war child refers to a child born to a native parent and a parent belonging to a foreign military force (usually an occupying force, but also soldiers stationed at military bases on foreign soil). It also refers to children of parents collaborating with an occupying force. Having a child with a member of a foreign military force has historically been regarded as an unforgiving act. It is common for the native parent to be disowned by family, friends and the society at large.
For the mass evacuation of children from Finland during the Continuation War, see Finnish war children
For children used as soldiers, see Military use of children
Children whose either parent was part of an occupying force or whose parent(s) collaborated with enemy forces were innocent of any war crimes committed by their parents. Yet these children have felt condemned by the crimes uncovered in the subsequent prosecution of their parents acts. As they grew to adolescence and adulthood in the 1960s, many of them harbored the feelings of guilt and shame which their parents rejected.
One example is children born to WWII soldiers. These children claim they lived with their identity in an inner exile until the 1980s, when some of them presented themselves officially. In 1987 Bente Blehr refused anonymity when an interview with her was published in "Born Guilty", a collection of 12 interviews with children whose parent(s) collaborated with German forces in occupied Norway. The first autobiography by a Nazi child, dedicated to all of them, was published in Norway: "The Boy from Gimle" (1993) by Eystein Eggen.
Children of U.S. servicemen in Asia (Amerasian)
Main article: Amerasian
Probably more than 100.000 children has been born to an Asian parent and a U.S. serviceman in Asia. The main events are WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as well as several US military bases in the region post-WWII. These children are known as Amerasians, a term coined by the author Pearl S. Buck.
World War II war children
The WWII European war children probably are in the several hundred thousand range, born to both German and Allied soldiers. The most well-known group is the Norwegian war children, as the majority of them were registered by Germans as part of the Lebensborn program and their records are virtually intact.
General fate of the mothers and the war children
Having a relationship with a soldier of an occupying force has historically been frowned upon. Women who became pregnant would often take measures to conceal the fact that the father was a foreign soldier, if possible. The choices available to them usually were:
*Arrange a marriage with a local man, who would take responsibility for the child
*Claim the father was unknown, bring up the child as a single mother
*Acknowledge the relation, bring up the child as a single mother
*Acknowledge the relation, accept welfare from the occupying force (see the German Lebensborn)
*Place the child in an orphanage or give the child up for adoption
*Have an (illegal) abortion
After the war it was common for both mother and child to suffer repercussions from the local population. Such repercussions were widespread throughout Europe. While some women and children experienced acts considered horrendous, including torture and deportation, most acts fell into one or several of the following categories:
*Name calling, German whore and German kid were common lables
*Isolation or harassment from the local community and at schools
*Loss of work
*Shaving the head of the mothers, an act not uncommon in the immediate aftermath of the war
*Temporary placement in confinement or interim camps
While repercussions were most widespread immediately after the war, sentiments against the women and their children could linger into the 1950s and 60s.
Children of German soldiers in Norway
German forces invaded Norway in 1940 and occupied the country until 1945. At the end of the war the German presence stood at 372,000. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 children were born by a German father and a Norwegian mother during the occupation. Additionally, several thousand Norwegians collaborated with German forces.
Nazi ideology considered Norwegians to be pure Aryans and German authorities didn't prohibit soldiers from pursuing relationships with Norwegian women. In other occupied territories like Eastern Europe, such relationships were forbidden because of Nazi views that Slavs were an inferior race.
= The Lebensborn program
=Lebensborn was one of several programs initiated by Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler to secure the racial heredity of the Third Reich. The program mainly served as a welfare institution for racially valuable parents and children (see the article Lebensborn for more details).
In Norway a local Lebensborn office, Abteilung Lebensborn, was established in 1941 with the task of supporting children of German soldiers and their Norwegian mothers, pursuant to German law (Hitlers Verordnung, July 28, 1942). The organization ran several homes where pregnant women could give birth. Facilities also served as permanent homes for eligible women until the end of the war. Additionally, the organization paid child support on behalf of the father, and covered other expenses, including medical bills, dental treatment and transportation.
In total, between 9 and 15 Lebensborn homes were established. Of the estimated 10,000 - 12,000 children born by a German father and a Norwegian mother during the war, 8,000 were registered by Abteilung Lebensborn. In 4,000 of these cases the father is known.
During and after the war, the Norwegians commonly referred to these children as tyskerunger, translating as "German-kids" or "Kraut kids", a derogatory term. (As a result of later recognition of their post-war mistreatment, the more diplomatic term krigsbarn (war-children) came into use and is now the generally accepted form).
= The post-war years
=As the war ended the children and their mothers were viewed as outcasts by many among the general populace who felt antagonized by the war and everything that had to do with Germany. The children and their mothers experienced isolation and many children were bullied by other kids, and sometimes by adults, due to their origin. For a short period after the war, several thousand women were kept in temporary confinement, some losing their jobs.
In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Affairs in 1945, the local government in one third of the counties expressed an unfavorable view of the war children. The same year the Ministry of Social Affairs briefly explored the possibility of reuniting the children and their mothers with surviving fathers in post-war Germany, but decided not to.
500 children who were still living in Lebensborn homes at the end of the war had to leave as homes were closed down. Some children were left to state custody during a time when such care was marked by strict rules, insufficient education, and, in some cases, even abuse. Approximately 20 children ended up in a mental institution in 1946 due to lack of space in other institutions and unsuccessful adoption attempts, where some remained past their 18th birthday.
= Financial and legal issues
=In 1950, diplomatic relations made it possible for the Norwegian government to collect child support from those fathers living in West-Germany and Austria, and as of 1953 such payments were made. Child support from fathers living in East-Germany was kept in locked accounts by the DDR regime until diplomatic relations between the two countries was established in 1975.
Some of the war children have tried to obtain official recognition for past mistreatment, which some claim equates to an attempt at genocide. In December 1999, 122 war children brought a claim before the courts (only 7 signed the claim, which was a case to test the boundaries of the law). The courts have found any claims void due to the statute of limitations.
However, an arrangement in Norway allows citizens who have experienced neglect or mistreatment by failure of the state to apply for "simple compensation" (this arrangement is not subject to the statute of limitations). In July 2004 the government expanded this compensation program to include war children who had experienced only minor difficulties. The compensation rate is set to 20,000 - 200,000 NOK (up to 25,000 € / $30,000).
= Allegation of medical experiments on war children
=In conjunction with the claim brought before the courts by the war children in 1999, a motion was filed in September 2000 to national headlines alleging 10 war children had unknowingly and involuntarily been subjected to medical experiments with LSD during the 1950s and 1960s. It was further claimed that these experiments were approved by the government and financed by CIA, the american intelligence agency.Article: War babies died in LSD experiments, Aftenposten, September 4, 2000 Article: Norwegian government sued over children Nazis left behind, Telegraph (UK), February 25, 2001
The motion didn't cite evidence for the allegation, rather the attorney referred to four sources whom she at the time refused to identify. It was already known that certain hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD, had been considered possibly valuable in psychotherapeutic treatment (see Psychedelic psychotherapy) in the 1960s, so the Norwegian government appointed an independent commission to investigate the allegation in October 2001. Following two years of work the Commission concluded in a final report that the allegations all originated from a single source who neither mentioned the war children specifically nor LSD experiments on humans, but rather animals. The Commission also concluded that they were unable to find any other evidence in local, national and international archives which could support the allegation.Final report by Commission: NOU 2003:33 - Granskning av påstander om uetisk medisinsk forskning på mennesker (Warning: PDF-file, in Norwegian), December 17, 2003
The Norwegian Defence Research Establishment conducted their own investigation into the allegation in 2001 and found it unsupported by evidence, though the complete report remains classified. Later the Ministry of Defence vacated the obligation of professional secrecy for current and previous employees in regard to information about the matter. This move did not yield any new information.Article: Krigsbarna til rettssak uten LSD-beviser (in Norwegian), Aftenposten, October 22, 2001
It should be noted that medical staff in several European countries as well as the US conducted clinical trials or experimental treatment involving LSD, most them at some point between 1950 and 1970. In Norway trials involved volunteer patients where traditional medical treatments had proved unsuccessful.
=Since the mid-80s the fate of the war children has become well known and the government has admitted neglect. The Prime Minister of Norway apologized publicly in his New Years Eve speech in 2000.
Children of German soldiers in Denmark
German forces occupied Denmark between 1940 and 1945. German soldiers were allowed to have contact with Danish girls. It is estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 children were born by a German father and a Danish mother during the occupation or just after the occupation. The Danish government has 5,579 such children in their files.Summary: 'German-Girls during Occupation and Post War Purge' , Anette Warring, date and format unknown
In 1999 Danish government allowed this group access to parenthood archives, exempting them from the country's normal secrecy periode of 80 years for such records.
Newspaper reports also claim children were born to Soviet, American and British soldiers following Germany's withdrawal. The number is unknown.
Children of German soldiers in France
The number of war children born in France is uncertain, estimates range fram 80,000 to 200,000. There are 26,000 known cases of women being punished in the aftermath of the war for having relationships with German soldiers. German soldiers were forbidden from having relationships with French women by the Nazi regime.Article: Book gives 'Boche babies' a voice, BBC, June 1, 2004
Children of German soldiers in the Netherlands
One of the few countries occupied by Germany where soldiers were allowed to have relationships with local women. The Dutch Institute for War Documentation originally estimated that around 10,000 children were born to a German father during the occupation. However, recent figures based on records at the archives of the German Wehrmacht (name of the German armed forces from 1935-45) indicate that the real number could be 50,000.Article: German soldiers 'fathered 50,000 Dutch children', Expatica , May 28, 2004
Children of Allied soldiers in Germany
The Allied forces maintained a presence in Germany for several years after World War II. The book GIs and Fräuleins, by Maria Hohn, lists 66,000 children as born to soldiers of Allied forces in the period 1945-55:
*American parent: 36,334
*French parent: 10,188
*British parent: 8,397
*Soviet parent: 3,105
*Belgian parent: 1,767
Children of Canadian soldiers in Europe
Canada declared war on Germany in 1939, following Britain's war declaration the week before. During the war Canadian forces participated in the allied invasions of both Italy and Normandy. Prior to the invasion of continental Europe significant Canadian forces were stationed in Britain. In total over eleven million Canadians served during the war, in Europe and in the Pacific.
An estimated 22,000 children were born by Canadian soldiers stationed in Britain. In continental Europe it's estimated that 6,000 were born in the Netherlands, with smaller numbers born in Belgium and other places where Candian forces were station during and after the war..Article: Where's Daddy, Vancouver Courier, August 5, 2004
* Organised persecution of ethnic Germans
* Anni-Frid Lyngstad, a member of the music group ABBA
* Eric Clapton, the renowned musician.
* Walk on Water, an 2004 Israeli film dealing with the relationship between a war criminal's grandchildren and the man assigned to assassinate him
*Jean-Paul Picaper: Enfants Maudits (2004) ISBN 2845450885 (about French war children, in French)
*Olga Rains, Lloyd Rains, Melynda Jarratt: Voices of the Left Behind (2006) ISBN 1550025856 (about Canadian war children)
*Maria Hohn: GIs and Fräuleins: The German-American Encounter in 1950s West Germany (2001) ISBN 0807853755
*Norbert und Stephan Lebert: Denn Du trägst meinen Namen. Das schwere Erbe der prominenten Nazi-Kinder (2000) ISBN 3896671057
* Kare Olsen: Vater: Deutscher. - Das Schicksal der norwegischen Lebensbornkinder und ihrer Mütter von 1940 bis heute. Published 2002. (the authoritative resource on Lebensborn in Norway and available in Norwegian as: Krigens barn: De norske krigsbarna og deres mødre. Published: Aschehoug 1998. ISBN 8203290906)
* Eystein Eggen The Boy from Gimle, 1993 french tranlslation.
*The NS Children in Norway - A war child's personal story of growing up and living in Norway (with pictures)
*War and Children Identity Project - Organization raising awareness on war children world wide
*Norwegian war children's association - Norwegian group of children fathered by German occupying soldiers, founded 1986
*The Organization of norwegian NS-children - founded 1991
*Children of Members of the National Unification (NS) in Norway - Norwegian group of NS children founded 1996
*Children of War - Denmark - Danish group founded 1996
*The children of collaborators in the Netherlands - Dutch group of NS children founded 1982