International Conference: "Childhood at War and Genocide: Children’s experiences of conflict in the 20th and 21st century – Agency, Survival, Memory and Representation"
Location: Center for Holocaust Studies at the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ), Munich, Germany
Children are the primary victims of wars, armed conflicts, and genocides. They perish first and in disproportionately large numbers. Wars and genocides also destroy the family and family bonds, and that is so strikingly visible in the case of child survivors who are impacted for life with painful memories of the loss of parents, childhood, and community, and of displacement. Thanks to the last two decades of historical, sociological, anthropological, literary, and ethnographic research, scholars now know much more about the world of thinking, being, and feeling of Jewish and non-Jewish European children and youth, alongside their daily experiences, both during and in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The mass of scholarly works on Jewish and non-Jewish child survivors and youth of the Nazi era, and the studies of the ways young survivors were treated by relatives, adoptive parents, social workers, medical staff, and respective states in the aftermath of the Second World War, is constantly growing. However, large research gaps remain, especially concerning the German war in the East. Similarly, specific histories of child survivors of other genocides in the twenty century and beyond are lacking. But thanks to the recent endorsement of child-centered historical methods and interdisciplinary approaches, the experiences and memories of child survivors of the post-1945 wars and genocides have also begun to be investigated. This offers us a new and vital opportunity for systematic and focused comparative studies of timely topics such as the role of a child’s gender and agency as well as different social groups and resources that enabled the children to survive; family status, gender, and adoption of orphaned children in the aftermath of war and genocide; and the child survivors’ official state status, rehabilitation, education, and displacement, among others.
One of the main goals of the two-and-a-half-day international conference is to shed light on those topics and others, through comparative and transnational lenses. Our aim is not only to seek similarities and differences among cases but also to use one set of phenomena to understand the other. The conference organisers are interested in innovative contributions which tackle various historical and contemporary case studies of children and war and genocide. The organisers have three objectives. First, while the initial focus is on the Holocaust and the occupied European territories during the Second World War, we are also interested in taking a more global outlook at the experiences and representations of children who experienced, witnessed, and survived war and genocide during the twentieth and twenty-first century. Second, to explore similarities and differences in the experiences and life stories of displaced, orphaned, and also physically and mentally disabled young survivors of the Holocaust, and the genocides in Armenian, Rwandan, Cambodian, and Bosnian, among others. And third to examine the effect of war and genocide on children and childhood: on children’s emotions, needs and social identities; children’s social relations within family and friendship and long-life ties; and their role in the reconstruction of family in the aftermath of war and genocide.
The spectrum of possible topics is deliberately broad to allow room for newer approaches and new questions.
We especially welcome papers that relate to the following four thematic blocks: