Children in Wartime
What was it like to be a child during World War II? How much could children understand? And what influence did the war have on their everyday lives?
Answers to all these questions can be found in stories, objects, photos, film clips and documents contributed by 34 celebrities and ordinary people who were children when the war broke out. They show treasured belongings that they value chiefly for the stories and memories associated with them.
Willem Nijholt was seven when the war reached the Dutch East Indies and he was interned by the Japanese forces occupying the colony. When he arrived at the concentration camp after a long journey in a baking hot freight train, his photo-album was immediately torn up by a guard. By some miracle, parts of it have survived and can be seen in the exhibition.
Jan Montyn was fifteen when the war broke out. In the exhibition, he tells how he fought on the German side at the Eastern Front, when he first heard about the fate of the Jews, and how he eventually changed his mind about Nazism. In the trenches, at temperatures as low as minus 25, he used a stick and charcoal to make drawings that he gave to his mother when he went on leave in 1945. They are on show in the exhibition.
Fia Polak was fourteen when she was sent with her parents to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. She talks about the number tattooed on her arm, the fourteen-hour working days, the beatings, dog bites, diseases, deprivations, medical experiments and – above all – the hunger.
To put the personal stories and objects in context, factual information about World War II is supplied in a display that looks like an archive. It contains a wealth of materials, including audio-fragments, filing cabinets full of documents and folders of newspaper cuttings, as well as objects and computer programmes. The materials throw light on subjects like the Nazi youth movement in the Netherlands, the ‘hunger winter’ famine of 1944-45, the persecution of Dutch Jews and the war’s impact on education. The photographs and drawings can be found in this archive, together with objects and accounts provided by celebrities and ordinary people. By presenting both the objective facts and the subjective accounts of people who were themselves children during World War II (and of children in present-day conflict situations), the exhibition gives an extraordinarily clear impression of the powerful impact of war on children’s lives.
Children’s memorial in the Museon
A plaque in the 'Children in Wartime' exhibition area commemorates the catastrophe of 1942, when the children of The Hague’s Jewish community were deported. The vast majority of them would never return. The plaque is designed by Hague sculptor Theo van der Nahmer and was donated to the Museon following the demolition of the Jewish primary school in the city’s Bezemstraat.
After the war, children’s author Kitty Coster made great efforts to recover the names of the children who were deported. She discovered the names of 1691 children, aged between 4 months and 20 years, murdered by the Nazi regime. In 2012 further research was done to determine the names of missing Jewish children and dozens of names of Roma and Sinti children were added to the list. The plaque now lists a total of 2061 names.
Kindermonument in het Museon
Een plaquette in de tentoonstelling herinnert aan het rampjaar 1942, waarin de joodse kinderen uit Den Haag werden weggevoerd. Het overgrote deel van die kinderen kwam nooit terug. Het ontwerp is van de Haagse beeldhouwer Theo van der Nahmer. Na de afbraak van de Joodse lagere school in de Bezemstraat in Den Haag is deze plaquette aan het Museon geschonken.
Kinderboekenschrijfster Kitty Coster heeft zich na de oorlog ingezet om de namen van de weggevoerde kinderen te redden. Ze achterhaalde de namen van 1691 kinderen tussen 4 maanden en 20 jaar oud, die door het nazi regime werden vermoord. In 2012 werd verder onderzoek gedaan naar de namen van de verdwenen joodse kinderen en werd de lijst aangevuld met tientallen namen van Roma en Sinti kinderen. In totaal staan nu 2061 namen vermeld.