The War for Little Hearts and Minds – Literature for Children and Teenagers during the First World War
Literature for children and teenagers boomed during the First World War. Like literature for adults, it reflected two things: on the one hand, it expressed the content that the authors wished to communicate and was a targeted propaganda instrument that depicted the public consciousness. On the other hand, it also created that consciousness. Yet this literature was not aimed at children alone. In fact, it attempted simultaneously, and sometimes even primarily, to reach the adults who were reading with and to those children – particularly in the case of war-themed picture books that seemed, or claimed, to be aimed at young children.
War propaganda infiltrated every literary genre. In this way, literary classics, as well as fairytales, stories, poems and picture books were rewritten; series like Nesthäkchen were given their very own war-themed volumes, and old tales of heroism were provided with new content and transposed into the present. One thing is common to all of these genres: they are an initiation into war, sometimes subtle, but also frequently extremely brutal.
Translation: Aimee Linekar