When looking at Hitler’s use of children in the WW2 a pattern eventually emerges. As Hitler became more desperate, the Hitler Youth became more involved. By the end of the war boys as young a…
Earlier this month, we featured Marcel Marceau, surely the most famous mime ever to live, performing the progression of human life, from birth to death, in four minutes. In the video above, you can watch him using his hands to act out something equally elemental: the battle between good and evil. If we think about the times evil has most notably reared its head, many of our minds go right to the Holocaust — as, no doubt, did Marceau’s, especially since he had first-hand experience with the horror of the Nazis, having lost his father in Auschwitz, and even used the art of mime against it.
The Jewish Marceau (née Mangel) got his first exposure to mime from a Charlie Chaplin film, which he saw at the age of five. Later, when France entered the Second World War, he and his family moved around the country to flee the Nazis, from whom…
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I sometimes find in my research that there is a wall that prevents us seeing the whole panorama of history stretching off into the distance. One of them is that of the English family, as shown by Victoria and Dickens, which were far from typical through time. Most English people had to wait for someone to die for them to get somewhere to live so could marry, so extended families were rare. This also explains why there was a population explosion after epidemics – cleared out the housing stock.
But there is another wall here – that of the discovery of the contraceptive pill, which for the first time liberated women from the constant danger of pregnancy. We assume that a marriage involves sex. Adultery, ie the breach of the marriage contract, is based on physical intimacy with another person. But there were marriages with no children. In my research…
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Originally posted on History And Other Thoughts.
Marie Antoinette loved children. She couldn’t wait to have a bunch of her own, and the lack of intimacy, and therefore children, in her marriage must have been very hard for her to bear. But she found other ways to be a “mother”. When she first arrived at Versailles, she often asked her ladies-in-waiting to bring their children with them. The 15-year-old dauphine grew particularly close to a 5-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister, the children of Madame de Misery, chief femme de chambre.
The children, and Marie Antoinette’s pets, livened up her apartments and life. They played noisy games, breaking furniture and tearing clothes in the mayhem. Not everyone was a fan. Count Mercy, the Austrian ambassador at the French court certainly wasn’t. He believed Marie Antoinette should occupy herself with more important and seemly matters. Never mind that Marie Antoinette was still a child herself, and one whose education had been seriously neglected and who now found herself out of her depth when talking to most adults at court. No wonder she enjoyed the company of children more, but their fun and games were eventually put an end to.
A few years later, she decided to adopt less fortunate children. The first was called…
At the outbreak of the Second World War, a massive civilian evacuation programme in the UK was set in motion to transport children out of the cities to the safety of the countryside.
I’ve already heard from a couple of readers who have wondered why the sickly young heroine of my new book, A Sinful Deception, was sent all the way from India, where she was born, to relatives she’d never met in London. Considering the perils (shipwreck, pirates, war) of a voyage that took the better part of a year in the 18th c., wouldn’t it have been safer for her to remain in India?
Perhaps. But India, too, was an unhealthy place for Europeans, and it was notoriously true that many failed to survive two monsoons, or two years. Yet for English parents of means living in India, the strongest reason for sending their children half a world away was an almost desperate desire that they be raised as English, attending English schools with English customs and friends.
This was a serious (and costly) step. Often the parents never saw their children again, or at least not for many years. But despite how deeply my heroine’s father had embraced India, he still wished her to return to London and ultimately marry an English gentleman.
One of the saddest (to me, anyway) examples of a family torn asunder in this way is described in…
Re-blogged from The History Girls
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Foundling Museum, in Coram’s Fields, London. It is also the 275th anniversary of the Foundling Hospital, started by Thomas Coram to care for London’s abandoned children. There are going to be lots of celebrations throughout the summer and if you haven’t been, I would very much recommend going in the next few months.
In 1722, Thomas Coram was fifty-four and had led a hard life at sea. On his return to London, he went to work in the City but chose to live in Rotherhithe, ‘the common Residence of Seafaring People’. Naturally inclined to hard work, he walked to and from the City at dawn and dusk, and was shocked to see so many ‘young Children exposed, sometimes alive, sometimes dead, and sometimes dying’. It took until 1739 for him to raise the money to open the hospital.
Coram’s success lay in petitioning London’s aristocracy and making philanthropy fashionable. William Hogarth and Handel were both governors and the Messiah was performed there for the benefit of the hospital. The first children were admitted on 25 March 1741. There to supervise their admission were the Duke of Richmond and William Hogarth. A crowd had gathered outside, and the porter struggled to close the door on those wanting to get in. Thirty children were admitted, made up of eighteen boys and twelve girls, and ‘the Expressions of Grief of the Women whose Children could not be admitted were Scarcely more observable than those of some of the Women who parted with their Children, so that a more moving Scene can’t well be imagined’.
On 19th May this year, Sir Nicholas Winton turned 105.
Nicholas Winton was born Nicholas Wertheimer on May 19, 1909, in West Hampstead, England, and baptized as a member of the Anglican Church by decision of his parents who were of German Jewish ancestry. He was a stockbroker by profession. Nicholas Winton organized a rescue operation that brought approximately 669 children, mostly Jewish, from Czechoslovakia to safety in Great Britain before the outbreak of World War II. In December 1938, Martin Blake, a friend and an instructional master at the Westminster School in London, asked Winton to forego his planned ski vacation and visit him in Czechoslovakia, where he had traveled in his capacity as an associate of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia. This committee had been established in October 1938 to provide assistance for refugees created by the German annexation of the Sudeten regions under the terms of the Munich Pact. Convinced that a European war was imminent, Winton decided to go.
In Prague, Blake introduced Winton to his colleague, Doreen Wariner, and arranged for him to visit refugee camps filled to capacity with Jews and political opponents from the Sudetenland. After Munich, Winton had been certain that the Germans would occupy the rest of Bohemia and Moravia before long. He had been alarmed further by the violence against the Jewish community in Germany and Austria during the Kristallnacht riots in November 1938. When he heard of subsequent efforts of Jewish agencies in Britain to rescue German and Austrian Jewish children on the so-called Kindertransport, an effort that eventually brought about 10,000 unaccompanied children to safety in Great Britain, Winton summoned a small group of people to organize a similar rescue operation for children imperiled by the impending German dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in March 1939…