Social and Psychological issues surrounding the “Lost Children”

Tara Zahra’s book, The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II, describes the psychological impacts and social problems of war on displaced children. The psychological problems that occurred with children being separated from their families arose after the First World War, but became more of an issue after World War II. There was complete chaos in Europe with the children being in the center of social and political upheaval.

After World War I, families were separated and there were a lack of resources. Campaigns were created to protect children. These campaigns focused on getting enough food and water, and having shelter for the children to rest in. Many children, during the war, were sent to live with a foster family in a neighboring country where they were well nourished and supported by their foster parents. After the war there was a movement to reunite families, but this created an issue. Children were sent to their home state to be reunited with their families, but their families lacked adequate resources, including food, housing, and income. Another issue that arose was that families had been separated for such a long period of time that they didn’t reconnect, so children wanted to be sent home to their host families. “Children were central objects of population politics, nation building projects, and new forms of humanitarian intervention in the twentieth century, as they represented the biological and political future of national communities.” (Zahra 20).

After World War II, Germany divided into four zones by the Allies. Many organizations, including social workers, German foster parents, and Jewish agencies, fought for the “lost children” to determine their fates.  This became the social problem: “The lost identity of individual children is the Social Problem of the day on the continent of Europe.” (Zahra 3). The psychological problems came about because of Europe being in ruins after World War II.  “They linked the physical ruin of European cities to the psychological disorientation of their residents.” (Zahra 3).

The psychological problem with the children being uprooted all of the time was that they would never forget what happened to them during the war. During war, children were starving, put in concentration camps, and forced into labor. The government believed that it was better when the children were reunited with their families because it was in their best interest and their psychological problems would diminish if they were safe and sound.

Much of what is stated in Zahra’s book can be compared to Hoffman’s articles on social welfare and the modern state. In Hoffman’s modern state article, he argues that using social science is key to eradicate problems that are occurring in a nation. The social science will tell the public statistics about a certain issue, such as how many children were displaced during and after the war. These statistics helped the government to see how many children were reunited with their families after being displaced. Hoffman’s social welfare article is extremely relevant to Zahra’s introduction and first chapter of her book. His thesis in this article is that social welfare is for the betterment of the country and not the people. In Zahra’s article she refers that the governments force children to return to their families, when in actuality their host family was a better psychological environment for them. The government is more concerned about the state because it wants maximum production, so sending a child back to his or her home country will help the output of that country.

One thought on “Social and Psychological issues surrounding the “Lost Children”

  1. This post does a nice job of splitting the summary part and relating it to Hoffman’s text. The author manages to balance the use of quotes and summary in order to inform the reader about Children in the Inter-war period. Word choice is fairly concise, but the text is a little too long. The author should attempt to consolidate the important information to a much shorter length.

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