Books on children born of war

For our German-speaking followers, check out these two books, still available to buy, on children born of war…

Flavia Guerrini

Vom Feind ein Kind. Nachkommen alliierter Soldaten erzählen.

“From the enemy a child. Descendants of Allied Soldiers Narrate.”

Recent estimates suggest that in the first years after World War II, 30.000 children were born fathered by members of the Allied forces stationed in Austria. Nevertheless, public as well as academic interest in the situation and life stories of so-called “occupation children” in Germany and Austria was low for a long time. Voids remained both in the collective historical memory as well as in the individual life stories. For many of these “children”, who are now in their 70ies, numerous questions about their origins have remained unanswered to this day.

Flavia Guerrini, an educational and social scientist from Innsbruck, invited nine former “children born of war” for interviews. The result of these narrative interviews are detailed biographical accounts that form the core of this book. They show the difficult family and social circumstances, marked by silence, stigmatization and exclusion, but also the strength of the individuals in their ways of dealing with their heritage. The author embeds the biographies in their historical context and illustrates the social and political background. A detailed picture section complements the book.

Recently, Flavia’s book was presented at the Volkskundemuseum Wien at an event in cooperation with Wiener Wiesenthal Institut für Holocaust-Studien. You can buy the book in German, here.


Rafaela Schmid

Vaterdezentrierungen. Psychoanalytische Entgegnungen zum Fachdiskurs über ›Besatzungskinder‹

Decentering of the Father. Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Research Discourse on ‘Occupation Children'”.

In ‘war child’ research, the absence of the biological father and growing up only with the biological mother is postulated as a problem for the psychological development of children. The absent biological father moves to the centre, and the child’s mental health stands and falls with him.

 Rafaela Schmid establishes a new level of reflection in the research discourse on (war-related) ‘fatherlessness’. She approaches the problem exemplarily by means of a hermeneutic reading and interpretation of the research literature on so-called ‘occupation children’. Through this reading, Schmid is able to identify a dominant narrative, which she conceptualises as the ‘discourse on fatherlessness’ of ‘occupation children’. The main aspects of this discourse are the centering on the absent biological father and the pathologisation of ‘fatherlessness’. The biological father is considered essential for the psychological development of the ‘occupation child’: Without him, the ‘occupation children’ would suffer from ‘identity crises’. Only more knowledge about the biological father or getting to know him could help the ‘occupation children’ to overcome this crisis-like state and to perceive themselves as whole and complete. According to Schmid, that focus on the biological father is based on an argumentation based on trivialised (developmental) psychological and psychoanalytical concepts, which identify the triad father-mother-child as the ‘adequate constellation’ for a ‘successful’ (identity) development of the child. The trivialised psychoanalytical concepts contained in the ‘discourse on fatherlessness’ are made visible by Schmid through an examination of the position of the father in Freud’s theory. Moreover, Freudian theory enables her to decenter the biological father.

Schmid’s approach not only makes it possible to question the common one-dimensional narrative of ‘fatherlessness’ as a ‘state of deficiency’, which is determined by patriarchal structures. It also challenges common concepts of identity that link identity with postulates of completeness and identity development with biological origin.

You can buy the book in German here and read a review here.