The University of Southampton

HIST2224 Children in Europe 1933-1950: Holocaust, War, Displacement and Survival

Module Overview

From the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933 to the dismantling of the post-war Displaced Persons camps, the lives of European children of all nationalities were thrown into upheaval by war, persecution and displacement. The plight and fate of Jewish children, over a million of whom were murdered in the Holocaust, will comprise a significant part of this module as we examine their discrimination under Nazi rule and their experiences as refugees, in hiding, and in ghettos and camps. The Nazi regime also victimised thousands of other children including Roma and Sinti, the mentally and physically disabled and Poles who were kidnapped for the Lebensborn programme. Children in the greater Reich, in the occupied countries and in Great Britain also suffered the disruptions of war. German children were subject to intensive propagandising and the strictures of a coercive state apparatus that included participation in Nazi youth movements, while children in Britain underwent mass evacuation from the cities. Children throughout the war zones suffered food deprivations, the terrors of bombing, forced evacuation and other traumas. Through an examination of children’s own writings, their post-war testimonies, documentary evidence, films and literature and the burgeoning historiography of both the history of childhood and children in war we will explore the varied experiences of European children during the period 1933-1950 and consider the uniqueness of their perspectives. This examination will incorporate a comparative analysis of children’s lives in Eastern and Western Europe, an investigation of the modern notions of childhood that were challenged by wartime conditions, a consideration of wartime trauma in the transmission of testimony and memory, and an evaluation of the ways in which children’s experiences in war have been portrayed in literature and film.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Develop an awareness of concepts of childhood in 20th century Europe and historiographies of childhood and consider how these shape interpretations of children’s experiences during the Second World War. • Gain an understanding of the varied experiences of European children during the period 1933-1950 and consider how differences in nationality, ethnicity, geography, age and wartime chronology shaped those experiences. • Consider how the experiences of wartime trauma affect memory and its transmission • Analyse and interpret children’s writings about their wartime experiences and evaluate the ways in which children’s experiences have been portrayed in literature and film.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The variety of European children’s experiences in the period 1933-50 and the factors determining those variations
  • The historiographies of childhood and children in war
  • The primary sources and testimonies that provide historical evidence for children’s experiences during the Second World War
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate differences in historiographical understandings of childhood in the modern era
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the experiences of European children during the Second World War
  • Make analytical connections between different areas under Nazi rule, and between the various groups of children whose lives were affected by the events of the Second World War
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • develop orally and in writing sound and well supported arguments.
  • elaborate and express your ideas and critical reflections in essays, using primary and secondary sources.
  • gather and digest relevant primary and secondary source materials including via electronic and web resources
  • put forward your ideas and arguments in group discussions, and consider the arguments put forward by your fellow students
  • engage in independent study and research.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate and compare different genres of source text
  • Work confidently with library, archival and virtual sources as appropriate


This course will cover topics including: • Children and Family in early 20th Century Europe • Persecution and Propaganda aimed at children in Germany 1933-39 • Unaccompanied Child Refugees from Nazi Germany • Children in Wartime Britain: Evacuation, Work and Displacement • Children in Nazi Europe- Nazi Youth, the Disabled, The Lebensborn Programme • Persecution in Occupied Europe: Flight and Deportation • Persecution in Occupied Europe: Hidden Children • Persecution in Occupied Europe: Children in Ghettos • Persecution in Occupied Europe: Children in Camps • Survival, Traumatic memory and Testimony • Children’s wartime experiences in literature and film

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will include: • weekly one-hour lecture and one-hour seminar • directed individual and group activities around primary sources • short presentations given by students on the module • group discussions including feedback from the tutor Lectures are designed to introduce you to key themes, historical debates and historians' approaches. Further reading and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material are designed to consolidate your knowledge and understanding. In seminar discussions you will be expected to engage in critical analysis of primary sources and to formulate and articulate arguments. And you will be encouraged to express your own ideas about a topic. Learning activities will include: • independent study, reading and research in preparation for each seminar • putting together and delivering short presentations as directed by the lecturer • in-depth study of textual and visual primary sources • participation in small group and whole seminar discussions This module, like all of the 15 credit History modules offered to second year students, will be research led and it will focus heavily on primary sources. You will study an individual source in depth each week. As such, this module will provide you with a sound preparation for the source-based work undertaken in year 3 during the Special Subject and the dissertation.

Preparation for scheduled sessions36
Wider reading or practice12
Completion of assessment task54
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Heywood, Colin (2001). A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times. 

Zapruder, Alexandra (2015). Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust. 

Baumel-Schwartz, Judith T. (2012). Never Look Back: The Jewish Refugee Children in Great Britain 1938-1944. 

Fogelman, Eva, Sharon Kangisser Cohen and Dali Ofer (2017). Children in the Holocaust and its Aftermath: Historical and Psychological Studies of the Kestenberg Archive,. 

Gigiotti, Simone and Monica Tempman (2016). The Young Victims of the Nazi Regime: Migration, the Holocaust and Postwar Displacement. 

Safier, Elaine and Phyllis Lassner (2013). Out of Chaos: Hidden Children Remember the Holocaust. 

Laquer, Walter (2004). Generation Exodus : The Fate of Young Jewish Refugees from Nazi Germany. 

Heberer, Patricia (2011). Children during the Holocaust, [Documenting Life and Destruction: Holocaust Sources in Context Book 2]. 

Stargardt, Nicholas (2006). Witnesses of War: Children’s Lives under the Nazis. 

Smith, Lyn (2007). Young Voices: British Children Remember the Second World War. 

Dwork, Deborah (1991). Children of the Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi Europe. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Exam  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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