A war child refers to a child born to a native parent and a parent belonging to a foreign military force (usually an occupying force, but also soldiers stationed at military bases on foreign soil). It also refers to children of parents collaborating with an occupying force. Having a child with a member of a belligerent foreign military, throughout history and across cultures, is often considered a grave betrayal of social values. Commonly, the native parent to be disowned by family, friends and the society at large.
Children whose either parent was part of an occupying force or whose parent(s) collaborated with enemy forces were innocent of any war crimes committed by their parents. Yet these children have felt condemned by the crimes uncovered in the subsequent prosecution of their parents' acts. As they grew to adolescence and adulthood, many of them harbored the feelings of guilt and shame.
One example is children born to WWII soldiers. These children claim they lived with their identity in an inner exile until the 1980s, when some of them presented themselves officially. In 1987 Bente Blehr refused anonymity when an interview with her was published in "Born Guilty", a collection of 12 interviews with children whose parent(s) collaborated with German forces in occupied Norway. The first autobiography by a Nazi child, dedicated to all of them, was published in Norway: "The Boy from Gimle" (1993) by Eystein Eggen.
Having a relationship with a soldier of an occupying force has historically been censured. Women who became pregnant would often take measures to conceal the fact that the father was a foreign soldier, if possible. The choices available to them usually were:
After the war it was common for both mother and child to suffer repercussions from the local population. Such repercussions were widespread throughout Europe. While some women and children experienced acts considered horrendous, including torture and deportation, most acts fell into one or several of the following categories:
While repercussions were most widespread immediately after the war, sentiments against the women and their children would linger into the 1950s, 60s, and beyond.
Nazi ideology considered Germans to be pure Aryans and German authorities didn't prohibit soldiers from pursuing relationships with Norwegian women. In other occupied territories like Eastern Europe, such relationships were forbidden because of Nazi views that Slavs were an inferior race.
In Norway a local Lebensborn office, Abteilung Lebensborn, was established in 1941 with the task of supporting children of German soldiers and their Norwegian mothers, pursuant to German law (Hitlers Verordnung, July 28, 1942). The organization ran several homes where pregnant women could give birth. Facilities also served as permanent homes for eligible women until the end of the war. Additionally, the organization paid child support on behalf of the father, and covered other expenses, including medical bills, dental treatment and transportation.
In total, between 9 and 15 Lebensborn homes were established. Of the estimated 10,000 - 12,000 children born by German fathers and Norwegian mothers during the war, 8,000 were registered by Abteilung Lebensborn. In 4,000 of these cases the father is known.
During and after the war, the Norwegians commonly referred to these children as tyskerunger, translating as "German-kids" or "Kraut kids", a derogatory term. (As a result of later recognition of their post-war mistreatment, the more diplomatic term krigsbarn (war-children) came into use and is now the generally accepted form).
In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Affairs in 1945, the local government in one third of the counties expressed an unfavorable view of the war children. The same year the Ministry of Social Affairs briefly explored the possibility of reuniting the children and their mothers with surviving fathers in post-war Germany, but decided not to.
500 children who were still living in Lebensborn homes at the end of the war had to leave as homes were closed down. Some children were left to state custody during a time when such care was marked by strict rules, insufficient education and abuse. Approximately 20 children ended up in a mental institution in 1946 due to lack of space in other institutions and unsuccessful adoption attempts, where some remained past their 18th birthday.
The Norwegian government also made plans to forcibly deport 8000 children and their mothers to Australia.
Some of the war children have tried to obtain official recognition for past mistreatment, which some claim equates to an attempt at genocide. In December 1999, 122 war children brought a claim before the courts (only 7 signed the claim, which was a case to test the boundaries of the law). The courts have found any claims void due to the statute of limitations.
However, an arrangement in Norway allows citizens who have experienced neglect or mistreatment by failure of the state to apply for "simple compensation" (an arrangement is not subject to the statute of limitations). In July 2004 the government expanded this compensation program to include war children who had experienced only minor difficulties. The basic compensation rate is set to 20,000 NOK (€2,500 / $3,000) for what Norwegian government terms "mobbing" (bullying). Those who are able to produce evidence of abuse can receive up to 200,000 NOK (25,000 € / $30,000).
On 2007-03-08 158 of the warchildren will have their case heard at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. They are demanding reparations of between 500,000 SEK (≈ 431,272 NOK) and 2,000,000 SEK (≈ 1,725,088 NOK) each for systematic abuse. The Norwegian government contests the claim that the children were mistreated.
The motion didn't cite evidence for the allegation, rather the attorney referred to four sources whom she at the time refused to identify. It was already known that certain hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD, had been considered possibly valuable in psychotherapeutic treatment (see Psychedelic psychotherapy) in the 1960s, so the Norwegian government appointed an independent commission to investigate the allegation in October 2001. Following two years of work the Commission concluded in a final report that the allegations all originated from a single source who neither mentioned the war children specifically nor LSD experiments on humans, but rather animals. The Commission also concluded that they were unable to find any other evidence in local, national and international archives which could support the allegation.
The Norwegian Defence Research Establishment conducted their own investigation into the allegation in 2001 and found it unsupported by evidence, though the complete report remains classified. Later the Ministry of Defence vacated the obligation of professional secrecy for current and previous employees in regard to information about the matter. This move did not yield any new information.
It should be noted that medical staff in several European countries as well as the US conducted clinical trials or experimental treatment involving LSD, most them at some point between 1950 and 1970. In Norway trials involved volunteer patients where traditional medical treatments had proved unsuccessful.
The most famous one of Norway's war children is former ABBA singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
German forces occupied Denmark between 1940 and 1945. German soldiers were allowed to have contact with Danish women. It is estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 children were born to German fathers and Danish mothers during the occupation or just after the occupation. The Danish government has 5,579 such children in their files.
In 1999 Danish government allowed this group access to parenthood archives, exempting them from the country's normal secrecy period of 80 years for such records.
Newspaper reports also claim children were born to Soviet, American and British soldiers following Germany's withdrawal. The number is unknown.
The number of war children born in France is uncertain, with estimates ranging from 80,000 to 200,000. There are 26,000 known cases of women being punished in the aftermath of the war for having relationships with German soldiers. German soldiers were forbidden from having relationships with French women by the Nazi regime at the beginning of the Occupation, but, due to difficulties of enforcement, it became tolerated — an intermediate situation between the encouragement of similar relationships in Denmark and Norway, and strict prohibition in Eastern Europe, the different regulations stemming from racial ideology.
The Netherlands was one of the few countries occupied by Germany where soldiers were allowed to have relationships with local women. The Dutch Institute for War Documentation originally estimated that around 10,000 children were born to German fathers during the occupation. However, recent figures based on records at the archives of the German Wehrmacht (name of the German armed forces from 1935-45) indicate that the real number could be as high as 50,000.
The Allied forces maintained a presence in Germany for several years after World War II. The book GIs and Fräuleins, by Maria Hohn, lists 66,000 children as born to soldiers of Allied forces in the period 1945-55:
Tens of thousands of "Russian Babies" were born as a result of the rapes of possibly up to 2,000,000 women at the end of the war and early occupation (see Soviet war crimes), convenience relationships for food and protection from rapists, and also from real love stories during the occupation (the number is an estimate by Norman Naimark). The children were despised in German society, and many of them are still searching for their real fathers, whether they be rapists or not.
The Soviet approach to these children was to ensure that no mother of these children would be able to claim alimony, already in 1944 Soviet authorities issued a decree that "illegitimate children were not related to the men who had fathered them, therefore no one had to pay anything." Between 1946 and 1953 it was illegal for Soviet citizens to marry foreigners. Those who tried to break this law were punished harshly.
According to Perry Biddiscombe more than 37,000 illegitimate children were born to American fathers in the 10 years following the German surrender. Relations between the occupation forces and German and Austrian women were seen with suspicion by the locals, who feared that the Americans would impregnate their women and then leave the children to be cared for by the local communities. Those fears were borne out in at least in part, as a majority of the 37,000 illegitimate children ended up as wards of the social services for at least some time. Many of the children remained wards of the state for a long time, especially children with African-American fathers who were never adopted.
The food situation in occupied Germany was initially very dire (see Eisenhower and German POWs). By the spring of 1946 the official ration in the U.S. zone was no more than 1275 calories per day (much less than the minimum required to maintain health), with some areas probably receiving as little as 700. Some U.S. soldiers used this desperate situation to their advantage, exploiting their ample supply of food and cigarettes (the currency of the black market) as what became known as "fra bait"(The New York Times, 25 June 1945). Some Americans still felt the girls were the enemy, but used them for sex nevertheless.
The often destitute mothers of the resulting children usually received no alimony.
Between 1950 and 1955 the Allied High Commission for Germany prohibited "proceedings to establish paternity or liability for maintenance of children." Even after the lifting of the ban West German courts had little power over American soldiers.
The children of black American soldiers, commonly called "Negermischlinge" ("Negro half-breeds"), were particularly disadvantaged, since even in the cases where the soldier was willing to take responsibility he was prohibited from doing so by the U.S. Army which until 1948 prohibited interracial marriages.
In the earliest stages of the occupation, U.S. soldiers were not allowed to pay maintenance for a child they admitted having fathered, since to do so was considered as "aiding the enemy". Marriages between white U.S. soldiers and Austrian women were not permitted until January 1946, and with German women until December 1946.
The official U.S. policy on war children was summed up in the Stars and Stripes in 8 April 1946, in the article "Pregnant Frauleins Are Warned!":
Canada declared war on Germany in 1939, following Britain's war declaration the week before. During the war Canadian forces participated in the allied invasions of both Italy and Normandy. Prior to the invasion of continental Europe significant Canadian forces were stationed in Britain.
An estimated 22,000 children were born of Canadian soldiers and British mothers stationed in Britain. In continental Europe it has been estimated that 6,000 were born in the Netherlands, with smaller numbers born in Belgium and other places where Canadian forces were stationed during and after the war.
Probably more than 100,000 children have been born to Asian parents and U.S. servicemen in Asia. This chiefly occurred during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, though it has occurred during times of peace on the several U.S. military bases in the region since World War II. These children are known as Amerasians, a term coined by the author Pearl S. Buck.