Even in this most murderous of European wars, children were not merely passive victims of genocide, bombing, mechanised warfare, starvation policies and mass flight. They were also active participants, going out to smuggle food, ply the black market, and care for sick parents and siblings. As they absorbed the brutal new realities of German occupation, Polish boys played at being Gestapo interrogators, and Jewish children at being ghetto guards or the SS. Within days of Germany's own surrender, German children were playing at being Russian soldiers. As they imagined themselves in the roles of their enemies, children expressed their hopes, fears and envy in their play. Drawing on a wide range of new sources, from welfare and medical files to private diaries, letters and drawings, Nicholas Stargardt evokes the individual voices of children under Nazi rule. In re-creating their wartime experiences, he has produced a challenging new historical interpretation of the Second World War.
Nicholas Stargardt, the son of a German-Jewish father and Australian mother, was born in Melbourne and brought up in Australia, Japan and Britain. He teaches modern European history at Magdalen College, Oxford.