Children at War and Revolution - Panel description

Children at War and Revolution

Panel Organizer: Petra Svoljšak University of Nova Gorica; Milko Kos Historical Institute, RC SASA
Panel Chair: Lisa A. Kirschenbaum West Chester University
Panel Discussant: Rok Stergar University of Ljubljana

The panel seeks to problematize childhood in the contexts created by wars and revolutions. Three different cases will be presented, which try to reveal inter- and post-war position of children in some parts of Central and Southeastern Europe during the periods and processes, when their life was turned up-side-down, because of national, ideological and other issues. We are interested also in relations and strategies of the State towards childhood. Children can be instrumentalized as a cause for war, on one hand they can be represented as a national treasure, a nation’s future, something that must be preserved, nursed and protected. On the other hand, the State can threaten their lives by exposing them to dangerous situations, uncertainty, fear and horror, they suffer because of loss or death of their parents and other family members, they must endure hardship and starvation. Their education is interrupted or limited due to various reasons. Children can be (ab)-used for the “Work for the war” (Maureen Healey) in war propaganda, or they are attributed an active role in the ideological disputes between East and West. All these issues raise the question about the meaning and realizability of the concept of the “Century of a child” (Ellen Key), which was the main stream concept in education and upbringing at the beginning of the 20th Century. Because of wars and revolutions the past century seems more like a Century of "lost children" (Tara Zahra) than Century of a Child.


Petra Svoljšak: Austro-Hungarian and Slovenian Children in the Great War

The paper would treat the thematic of childhood in a violent war circumstances, with special regard to the First World War and its influence on the concept of childhood.  The roles, attributed to children during the war were mainly concentrated on the political and economic exploitation for the home front. The patriotic calls mobilized children for sacrifice, which led to the physical sacrifice of Austrian children in the second half of the war, due to wrong and devastating social and economic decisions of the Government. “Austrian children” borrowed to the State the image of hope and enthrallment in the future, thus in the prospective of Ellen Key’s “Century of a Child” they represented the future of the Nation, and in the case of the Habsburg Monarchy its fate.

Kaja Širok: Explaining Historical Violence through Comics: Slovene Children in Italian Concentration Camps

Events and places connected with the internment of Slovenes in Italy during the Second World War are in the domain of oblivion in today's Italian collective memory. They are a source of manipulation by which every authority conceals the shame and the atrocities that the Italian army committed before and during the war. The text analyses how the Italian author of comics DavideToffolo describes in his book Italian Winter the life of children in the Italian concentration camp Gonars. It should be stressed that Toffolo wrote the comic on the initiative of the former mayor of the municipality, IvanaCignole, for the purpose of informing and educating the population so that it is not forgotten that a concentration camp once stood there. It functioned until the capitulation of Italy in 1943. At the conference, both the historical and consequent social-moral value of comics and their function as a teaching aid in schools in dealing with the themes of intolerance and racial hatred will be presented.

Jure Gombač: Deca begalci (Children Refugees from Greece) in Slovenia 1948–1950

The contribution explores the events, concerning children-refugees from Greece, namely Aegean Macedonia, who between 1948 and 1952 found sanctuary from Greece civil war in Slovenia with the help of the Yugoslav Red Cross. On one side the care for the body of the children -refugees because of the perils of war is explored but on the other side the battle for their minds is also discussed. Informbiro namely created a phisical and ideological gap between refugee-children in Jugoslavia, who were made to belive in Tito and their parents in Greece and other socialist countries, who opted for Stalin. How does this postwar episode answer "The lost Children" framework?

This research draws on the resources held by the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia (Slovenian Red Cross), literature, documentaries, discussions on forums and interviews.