The Children’s War: Germany 1939-1949
Peter Bodo Gawenda
Brown Books Publishing Group (2010)
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views (2/11)
The physical and psychological devastation of adults caught up in wars has been increasingly well documented in recent years. But, the effects of war on children, psychologically unique because they are in their childhood, has not been as comprehensively examined, particularly from a child’s perspective.
It is a child’s perspective, albeit recollected by an adult from their own experiences, that provides an intriguing point of difference for “The Children’s War: Germany 1939-1949.” Author Peter Bodo Gawenda’s book clearly establishes, through the memories of him and his three siblings, their very different perception of war than that of their adult family members.
“Children experience war on a very different level than adults. For the grown-ups, war was an ordeal. It was for us children as well, but it was also a series of adventures, beautiful and sometimes horrible.” The book reads much like a journal, and it is important to note that because the geographic location of the town in which the Gawendas lived avoided significant combat and destruction, the ways in which most of the residents were affected was more psychological than physical. But, while young Peter and his siblings were aware of occurrences of death and destruction, the book is an account that is more uplifting than unpleasant.
Mr. Gawenda does an admirable job of avoiding adult interpretations in telling this children’s tale. He also skillfully models a child’s inclination to abruptly jump from something scary, to something mundane, to something adventurous and exciting. But, despite a distinct and consistent style and the creation of strong mental imagery, the overall slow pacing of the book never really drew in this reviewer.
However, given the magnitude and sheer numbers of violent conflicts occurring globally, the child’s perspective that is the main point of difference for Mr. Gawenda’s book is also the strength of “The Children’s War: Germany 1939-1949.” For those who have an interest in the effects of war on children, as well as the subject of the dynamics of family support in crises, the book should prove to be an interesting read.