Congress “Childhood during World War II – a Comparative Perspective” (deadline – April 1st, 2015)

Feb 2nd, 2015 | By | Category: Journals & Publications

Congress “Childhood during World War II – a Comparative Perspective”

childhoodBy the congress “Childhood during World War II – a Comparative Perspective” the Hannah-Arendt-Institute and the Chair for History Didactics of the University of Leipzig deal with a multi-faceted and promising topical complex. Increasingly since the 1990s – by applying methods of qualitative research, among others – historians, psycho-analysts, sociologists, educationalists and literary scientists have been dealing with the reports and experiences of the generation of war children. This holds for almost all states in Europe. The congress is meant to discuss and, most of all, bring together newly gained insights on the topic. This way an attempt is made to internationalise the history of children during World War II which, for the time being, has mainly been told from the point of view of the respective national states.

During World War II, children on all sides became victims. However, it is important – and requires much sensitivity – to distinguish between survival in a ghetto, in a forced labour or concentration camp, in an occupied zone, at the “home front”, in a city or in the countryside, in an air shelter or at the front. Depending on the group one belonged to, the generation of children in Europe experienced violence, hardship and misery in different ways. However, children must primarily be understood as actors. Purposefully, there has been the decision for a wide range of possible topics, to include recent studies and new scientific questions.

The first section will be dedicated to the manifold history of childhood during World War II. The contributions are supposed to focus particularly on comparisons of realms of experience. Consequently, those spaces are supposed to be particularly considered from which there developed contradicting or even common influences. Of crucial importance for all topical contributions is the perception of the end of the war: the shock felt by one person given the violent collapse of a certainty of conviction was contrasted by another person´s feeling of newly gained freedom after years of traumatising suffering and persecution. However, are there also common patterns of experience of this generation, beyond this dichotomy?

The second section will focus on topics covering a trans-national dimension. In the course of World War II national borders were violently crossed, practically dissolved and redrawn, after all. Families were separated, children torn out of their familiar lifeworlds. The contributions will discuss deportation, flight and expulsion, but also trans-national initiatives after the end of the war – for example family reunification.

The third section will deal with the effects of war experience. The contributions are supposed to discuss the question if, when and in which ways the experiences of the youngest generation influenced post-war societies. After 1945, and possibly particularly in the period of reconstruction, there were effects of collective suppression, and the older generation did not take serious how much the children and young people were influenced by violence, loss and destruction. The congress is supposed to discuss the ways in which the war children were dealt with in the states of the Eastern and Western Blocs and if there were differences between East and West. On the other hand, it is well possible that traumata even worked as catalysts for upheaval and change. Do, as one might ask further, certain developments or events in the societies of Europe result from the experiences of this generation?

The fourth section will deal with the ways in which the media covered childhood after this war. Exemplary case examples from film, broadcast or literature are supposed to be presented, analysed and discussed. By way of a media-historical approach common grounds will be discussed, but also differences of historical evaluation and remembrance in individual post-war societies in Europe.

The congress will be concluded by an evening panel debate. Historians who at the same time are capable of acting as contemporary witnesses will tell about their childhood experiences as well as about their experiences in the post-war period. On this occasion, crucial issues of the congress are supposed to be raised once more: how the former war children were dealt with in the time after 1945, the issue of this generation possibly being influenced by their war experience, the issue of long-term processes of social change, or also the question if – despite different national horizons of remembrance – something like a European remembrance of childhood during war is developing.

2015 will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. On that occasion, the Hannah-Arendt-Institute and the Chair of History Didactics of the University of Leipzig intend the above described congress, to which we invite colleagues who would like to present (recent) research results and currently running studies. The congress will provide the opportunity to present ideas for new projects on comparative international or national issues. The congress language will be German, but lectures may also be given in English.

The contributions to the workshop will be brought together by a compilation which is supposed to be published in 2016. The congress will happen from November 12th to 14th, 2015, in the Lecture Hall of the Albertina in Leipzig. Lectures are supposed to be no longer than 20 minutes. The lecturers will be paid a fee for their lectures as well as 15 pages of manuscript; travel expenses and accommodation will be taken over by the HAIT. Interested researchers are invited to digitally hand in an exposé (max. 2,000 char.) as well as a short overview of their scientific career at the following addresses: kenkmann@rz.uni-leipzig.de,  Andre.Postert@mailbox.tu-dresden.de,  Francesca.Weil@mailbox.tu-dresden.de

The deadline is April 1st, 2015.

Kontakt: André Postert

Hannah-Arendt-Institut für Totalitarismusforschung e.V. an der TU Dresden

01062 Dresden

Andre.Postert@mailbox.tu-dresden.de

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