The War of Our Childhood
Memories of World War II
Accounts that bear witness to the unutterable horrors German children endured during World War II
One survivor tells of the fire-bombing of Dresden. Another survivor recounts the pervasive fear of marauding Russian and Czech bandits raping and killing. Children recall fathers who were only photographs and mothers who were saviors and heroes.
These are typical in the stories collected in The War of Our Childhood: Memories of World War II. For this book Wolfgang W. E. Samuel, a childhood refugee himself after the fall of Nazi Germany, interviewed twenty-seven men and women who as children—by chance and sheer resilience—survived Allied bombs, invading armies, hunger, and chaos.
“Our eyes carried no hate, only recognition of what was,” Samuel writes of his childhood. “Peace was an abstraction. The world we Kinder knew nearly always had the word ‘war’ appended to it. ”
Samuel's heartfelt narratives from these innocent survivors are invariably riveting and often terrifying. Each engrossing story has perilous and tragic moments—school children in Leuna who are sent home during an air raid but are strafed as moving targets; fathers who exist only as distant figures, returning to their families long after the war—or not at all; mothers who are raped and tortured; families who are forced into a seemingly endless relocation that replicates the terrors of war itself. In capturing such experiences from nearly every region of Germany and involving people of every socio-economic class, this is a collection of unique memories, but each account contributes to a cumulative understanding of the war that is more personal than strategic surveys and histories.
For Samuel and the survivors he interviewed, agony and fright were part of everyday life, just as were play, wondrous experience, and above all perseverance.
“My focus,” Samuel writes, “is on the astounding ability of a generation of German children to emerge from debilitating circumstances as sane and productive human beings. ”
"The strength of The War of Our Childhood is that it is a reminder, if one is needed, that the effects of conflict on the next generation are deeply and permanently felt. For that reason it should be read, lest we forget. "- Washington Post Book World
"All these years later the stories of the twenty-seven children, now in their senior years, ring with a truth and simplicity that contrast with the horror of what they say--seeing fathers for the last time; watching the fire-bombing of Dresden; dodging marauding Russian and Czech bandits robbing, raping, and killing; being strafed during air raids and endless relocations. "- The Tulsa World