The history of children and teenagers in the First World War is still largely unwritten, even though the world of the younger generation was by no means unaffected by the events of the war. In fact, the comprehensive militarization of state and society ensured that children were the focus of intensive mobilization efforts. The boundaries between the adult world and the ‘sheltered environment’ of childhood became blurred and began to dissolve. Even before the war became tangible for children in the shape of hunger and cold, shortages and privation or concern for friends and relatives at the front or even direct experience of violence and death, they were confronted unceasingly with the course of events. They were also exhorted to contribute to the war effort via the medium of regulations, decrees and appeals. The war became a topic studied at school, the subject-matter of books, games and songs, claiming a place in children’s lives early on in the conflict. However, over the years some children and young people turned their backs on the subject of war, resisting the blandishments of official propaganda.
Translation: Sophie Kidd