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Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web

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In this riveting, powerful narrative, Lynn Nicholas shows how children under the Nazis became mere objects available for use in the service of the totalitarian state. Nicholas recounts the euthanasia and eugenic selection, racist indoctrination, kidnapping and “Germanization,” mass executions, and slave labor to which the Nazis subjected Europe’s children. She also capture In this riveting, powerful narrative, Lynn Nicholas shows how children under the Nazis became mere objects available for use in the service of the totalitarian state. Nicholas recounts the euthanasia and eugenic selection, racist indoctrination, kidnapping and “Germanization,” mass executions, and slave labor to which the Nazis subjected Europe’s children. She also captures the uprooted children’s search for their families in the aftermath of the war. A disturbing and absolutely necessary work, Cruel World opens a new chapter in World War II studies.


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In this riveting, powerful narrative, Lynn Nicholas shows how children under the Nazis became mere objects available for use in the service of the totalitarian state. Nicholas recounts the euthanasia and eugenic selection, racist indoctrination, kidnapping and “Germanization,” mass executions, and slave labor to which the Nazis subjected Europe’s children. She also capture In this riveting, powerful narrative, Lynn Nicholas shows how children under the Nazis became mere objects available for use in the service of the totalitarian state. Nicholas recounts the euthanasia and eugenic selection, racist indoctrination, kidnapping and “Germanization,” mass executions, and slave labor to which the Nazis subjected Europe’s children. She also captures the uprooted children’s search for their families in the aftermath of the war. A disturbing and absolutely necessary work, Cruel World opens a new chapter in World War II studies.

30 review for Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie G

    It usually takes me 2-3 days to finish a book - this one took over a month. It had a lot of really good information, but it was so dry! I wanted to like it a lot more than I did, but I did learn a lot about WWII and what the children went through. This book barely touches on the concentration camps, but really focuses on German chidren and displaced children. Very scholarly, but hard to get through at times.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Far more readable than Nicholas, Rape of Europa. This book traces the impact that the Nazi in particular, and the War in general had upon children. Nicholas doesn't focus only on the camps, but deals with issues like food, the various eugenic programs, the work programs, as well as the general impact of war. She also gives a section on hidden children. A though picture of the war and its impact on the young.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    The title is a little misleading, since it has "children" all the way up to university attendance. And it includes basically anywhere where children were affected by the Nazi regime. (Including one page on American children in World War II -- Total War really did affect children all over.) And many cases context needed to explain the adults, too. A thorough and extensive treatment of a rather far reaching and distinctly grim subject. It opens with the account of a four-year-old mentally retarded b The title is a little misleading, since it has "children" all the way up to university attendance. And it includes basically anywhere where children were affected by the Nazi regime. (Including one page on American children in World War II -- Total War really did affect children all over.) And many cases context needed to explain the adults, too. A thorough and extensive treatment of a rather far reaching and distinctly grim subject. It opens with the account of a four-year-old mentally retarded boy being euthanized by Nazi nurses -- two weeks after the surrender. Then it goes through the German experiences before the war: The promotion of couples having children and the Lebensborn homes that provided places for "suitable" unmarried pregnant women. The education of children -- did you know that Cinderella is about how the prince's sound racial instincts led him to reject the alien blood of the stepmother and find the true bride? -- and how Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls deliberately set out to separate children from their parents. Isolation of Jews. The sterilization programs for the unfit. In due course, the euthanization program -- the first systemic killings of the Holocaust -- in which Germany deliberately killed them for cost savings. (They carefully started it after war broke out to claim they needed to save the money. Alas, the complaints did not reach a serious level until after they had more than reached their quotas. And then they had people trained to massacre large numbers of people.) The fate of children in the Spanish Civil War and among the refugees after. Smuggling Jewish children out of Europe. The German search for "Germanizable" people in the conquered lands -- and the deliberate export of German ethnics from the Baltic states before the Soviet Union took them over. The "Germanization" and adoption of those who qualified. Children in war -- the efforts to hide Jewish children in the Netherlands -- refugees and hunger and slave labor. The recruitment of children for the final battle -- boys as young as twelve were fighting the Allies forces in Germany. And the ugly scenes of trying to repatriate children along with everyone else after the war. And feed them. "Unaccompanied children" -- talk about understated bureaucrat terms. Trying to identify "Germanized" children who had been drilled so very hard not to be identified. They had to send teams to prevent the other children from being drilled when others were questioned. Even then, they needed such tricks as asking them for how long they had spoken German; when a nine-year-old admitted to speaking it for four years, the interlocutor got the child to admit to having spoken Polish before then. And whether to send children back to lands under the Soviet Union's control. . . . Not light reading. I don't recommend it for just before bed time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Any book about the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Second World War is difficult to read, but all the more so when that book concerns children. So many young lives torn apart by the Nazi war machine, homes, families and futures destroyed, their innocent blighted, their minds warped and corrupted, forced the endure horrors no adult could stand, let alone a child. It's painful reading. Most histories of the children of the war tend to focus on the evacuees or the lives of children in t Any book about the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Second World War is difficult to read, but all the more so when that book concerns children. So many young lives torn apart by the Nazi war machine, homes, families and futures destroyed, their innocent blighted, their minds warped and corrupted, forced the endure horrors no adult could stand, let alone a child. It's painful reading. Most histories of the children of the war tend to focus on the evacuees or the lives of children in the concentration camps. Nicholas focuses on these, of course, in exhaustive and painful detail. But this history starts earlier than that, right at the beginning of Hitler's reign of terror in Germany. She charts the way in which children formed part of the Nazi's terrible concept of racial purity from the beginning, from the euthanasia programmes which weeded out those deemed impure or 'life unworthy of life' to the indoctrination embedded in schools and youth activities. In their blitzkrieg across Europe, the Nazis kidnapped 'racially valuable' children of Aryan and Nordic blood and set out to 'Germanize' them, set up SS Lebensborn homes to raise the illegitimate children of SS officers, shuffled entire communities of ethnic Germans around the map of Europe like chess-pieces. The children of Germany were also victims of Hitler's madness. And of course many of these children, raised in 1930s Germany, grew up to be the storm troops of the Wehrmacht and SS. And if he could do such things to his own people, consider them little more than racially superior ciphers and use them en masse accordingly, what could he not to do those deemed racially impure? Whilst at times even the occasional Nazi drew the line at cold-blooded murder of children, many many thousands more did not - children were deemed no more deserving of life than their parents, less deserving in many cases since they could not be used as labour slaves in the same way as their adult relatives. Through these pages, on every page, are the most painful and heart-rending stories of children in hiding, children fleeing for their lives, children stunned into silence and despair, children forgetting their own names and language, children brainwashed across their families and countries, children hunted down and executed, children fighting with the partisans, children lost to the gas chambers, children abandoned and alone. It's painful. It should be painful. And it's a chapter of Second World War history that has rarely been told in this detail, which alone would make it a must-read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    William

    Five hundred plus pages of gripping narrative on the fate of children in war(WWII)-torn Europe. Well researched but never pedantic. The horrors are still hard to imagine.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    An essential addition to the canon of Shoah histories. Nicholas focuses her attention upon the children swept up by not only the Holocaust, but the war in general. Her book is exhaustive, focusing upon the Jewish children but also upon those of the Volkdeutsch, forced to migrate into Slavic lands overrun by the Germans and designed to be colonies for the Master Race. None of these plans worked, although the leadership (mainly Himmler) kept them going until almost the end of the war. Nicholas doe An essential addition to the canon of Shoah histories. Nicholas focuses her attention upon the children swept up by not only the Holocaust, but the war in general. Her book is exhaustive, focusing upon the Jewish children but also upon those of the Volkdeutsch, forced to migrate into Slavic lands overrun by the Germans and designed to be colonies for the Master Race. None of these plans worked, although the leadership (mainly Himmler) kept them going until almost the end of the war. Nicholas doesn't forget to cover the members of the BdM and HJ who were sent out to assist the colonists. They were frequently unwanted even if they could be understood by the colonists, most of whom had only rudimentary knowledge of their supposed mother tongue. Nevertheless, the young Nazis kept plugging away at bringing them Reichkultur until the boys, at least, were pulled home to supplement and then replace failing divisions of the Wehrmacht. There is less focus upon the horrors of the actual concentration camps than the roundup processes, and Nicholas provides needed correctives to the view of history that says no one helped. In fact, the citizens of the conquered nations of Europe did what they could to protect children. Highest marks go to the Danes, who saved almost all of their Jews (and to the Swedes, who accepted them as refugees). But the Dutch also did what they could. Nicholas is particularly affecting when she is describing how Dutch children were smuggled past Nazis by a wild variety of methods Had those engaged in the operations been discovered, they would have been killed. It is impossible to read these stories without being moved by the courage of both the rescuers and the rescued; small children were mature enough to endure great suffering rather than betray what was happening. Of course not everyone, or even most, were heroic. But in a world that once again makes the mistake of denying political asylum to suffering refugees, Cruel World offers a vivid illustration of the perils inherent in such intolerance. Recommended without reservation.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Lynn has done one outstanding read in capturing of the hate, fear, turmoil, and total asinine make-up of the Third Reich. Now that the total picture has been brought forward in this captivating read, let the world know that children are the back bone for any nation thus prize citizens and culture for any nation on earth. Mass hysteria and following of sadistic leaders only lead to total destruction of it's young through racism, killings and mass murder. Never has this reader read a more disgusti Lynn has done one outstanding read in capturing of the hate, fear, turmoil, and total asinine make-up of the Third Reich. Now that the total picture has been brought forward in this captivating read, let the world know that children are the back bone for any nation thus prize citizens and culture for any nation on earth. Mass hysteria and following of sadistic leaders only lead to total destruction of it's young through racism, killings and mass murder. Never has this reader read a more disgusting factual account of uncivilized actions by a demonic state. Never again and beware for civilizaitons across our globe.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zygarde 22

    An interesting look into how the Nazi's systematically and without any shed of mercy murdered not only six million Jews, but another five million non-Jewish people as well and how this was perpetuated on a societal scale from the ground up.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Enigmaticblue

    I found this book fascinating, and it really offered a unique perspective and focus for WWII.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    NAZIism can be considered a religion but that is not why I put this book on the religion shelf. Like a religious cult NAZIism had its holy book -Mein Kampf- and had its youth groups in which the new generation was indoctrinated. Organizations also existed for the adults. Its members considered themselves, as the master race, to be a 'chosen' people. This book concentrates on the effects this 'religion' had on youth though other aspects of World War II filter in on occasion. The young Germans wer NAZIism can be considered a religion but that is not why I put this book on the religion shelf. Like a religious cult NAZIism had its holy book -Mein Kampf- and had its youth groups in which the new generation was indoctrinated. Organizations also existed for the adults. Its members considered themselves, as the master race, to be a 'chosen' people. This book concentrates on the effects this 'religion' had on youth though other aspects of World War II filter in on occasion. The young Germans were fed a steady stream of propaganda touting the superiority of Aryans and inferiority of everyone else. Many in these groups were utilized during the early war years in helping those of German blood in conquered countries become re-Germanized. Others were used in groups to denigrate the Jews and conquered peoples. At the end many were formed into fighting units. In the conquered territories children that looked Aryan were often taken from their parents and taken to Germany to be made into Germans. Though some Jewish children were hidden and thus saved by "Christian" families and organizations many followed their parents to the extermination camps. Children of the conquered people shared the fate of their parents. An interesting point brought out in the book is the inaction of Conservative Jews who felt that sacrificing a few would save the many which was helpful to the NAZIs in keeping a lid on the population crowed into ghettos. Religion played a part in placing orphaned and unaccompanied children after the war. Zionists wanted all children, some catholic organizations wanted boys for the priesthood. Countries wanted the children that were allegedly their nationals. Secular organizations wanted to unite families. This rather long book, 558 pages, is a depressing read at times. Perhaps most depressing is the thought expressed by the author in his conclusion "One might have thought that the events of the Nazi era and the forty million dead would open every eye to the evils of intolerance and extremisism and would cause people to fall into each other's arms in common sorrow, but they did not.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    This book is meant as a resource book. It's not a sit-down-and enjoy book. The author does a masterful job of showing the reader how the children of Europe suffered before, during and after WW2. This book has a ton of information for the reader so it can be a bit dry, but if you're truly interested in the subject, you simply can't find a better book on the topic. The author does include a few photographs to go along with the chapter topics. A great book to show readers how truly cruel we can be This book is meant as a resource book. It's not a sit-down-and enjoy book. The author does a masterful job of showing the reader how the children of Europe suffered before, during and after WW2. This book has a ton of information for the reader so it can be a bit dry, but if you're truly interested in the subject, you simply can't find a better book on the topic. The author does include a few photographs to go along with the chapter topics. A great book to show readers how truly cruel we can be when we think we're better than others.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    Very comprehensive. This is not just about about the children of the Nazi years. It's a pretty good book about what led up to the Holocaust and the aftermath of it. Germany is not the only one to blame for the Holocaust. The entire world is to blame. We are also to blame for the chaotic mess after the Holocaust that prevented many of the victims from reuniting with their families. A must read. Should be required reading for all college history majors.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Teri

    It was an eye opening book. I learned things about the United States part in WWII that I was ignorantly unaware of. I do admit that the book became rather dry at times because of the extensive statistics but otherwise it was very educational. At points I became overwhelmed with emotion.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jodi Tooke

    A difficult read on an important topic. The impacts to children are still felt today, and Nicholas does a very thorough job of explains how and why.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Addison

    Nicholas provides, among other things, a sad, patient, and thorough explanation of why the Jews "didn't just leave." Other countries wouldn't let them in.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Short

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carter Nicholas

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Mencarini

  19. 5 out of 5

    James

  20. 5 out of 5

    Beverley Chalmers

  21. 5 out of 5

    Idgiesmom Shotsky

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eduardo Murillo Bay

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rivven

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sheikh Tajamul

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lara

  27. 4 out of 5

    Edani

  28. 5 out of 5

    aek2356

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gwendolyn Arral

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