A Forgotten Legacy of the Second World War: GI children in post-war Britain and Germany
Abstract: Whether in war, occupation or peacekeeping, whenever foreign soldiers are in contact with the local population, and in particular with local women, some of these contacts are intimate. Between 1942 and 1945, US soldiers fathered more than 22,000 children in Britain, and during the first decade of post-war US presence in West Germany more than 37,000 children were fathered by American occupation soldiers. Many of these children were raised in their mothers’ families, not knowing about their biological roots and often suffering stigmatisation and discrimination. The question of how these children were treated is discussed in the context of wider social and political debates about national and individual identity. Furthermore, the effect on the children of living outside the normal boundaries of family and nation is discussed.
Summary (1 min read)
- Like wartime Britain, post-war Germany was faced with a sizeable presence of US troops and in 1945 around 1.6 million GIs were stationed on German soil.
- These largely negative images of the women who had had intimate relations with US soldiers were as pronounced within Germany as in the United States, and they were projected onto the children.
- Ironically, in most cases it was impossible for the soldiers to adopt their own children in order to pave the way for providing for them.
- A clear recognition of political responsibility, arising out of the National Socialist legacy, guided sociological and political discussions of the subject.
- Inevitably, any attempt to engage in a historical evaluation will have elements of a top-down exercise, heavily reliant on published and unpublished governmental and administrative records and secondary analyses which are supplemented by accounts from the affected children that provide anecdotal rather than qualitatively and quantitatively comprehensive or even representative evidence.
- By and large it was expected that the children fathered by foreign soldiers would be absorbed into their mothers' families and the local communities with the expectation that, where applicable, the mothers' husbands would adopt the children or act as their guardian.
- The Second World War with mass displacements and record numbers of homeless and orphaned children throughout Europe, skilfully explored in Tara Zahra's exposition of 'lost children' 124 at the post-war intersection of redefinition of family and nation, led to a concerted effort to rehabilitate those children beyond the provision of material goods by way of 'amelioration of psychological suffering'.
- In Britain, little public and open political debate took place.
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Cites result from "A Forgotten Legacy of the Second Wo..."
...Hence there are no other samples to compare with, but overall the quantitative findings are in line with historical research and case reports (e.g. Lee, 2011; Mochmann et al., 2009) and thereby add to knowledge about long-term effects of growing up as a child born of occupation....
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