'World War II "von unten": Childhood and Youth in Lisa Tetzner's Ist Paul schuldig? (1945)

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Abstract

Literary presentations of children in war tend to depict them exclusively as innocent victims. Indeed, even those texts featuring children who have been subjected to, and have ostensibly absorbed, Nazi indoctrination continue to insist on a Romantic myth of childhood as the embodiment of a prelapsarian past and redemptive potential for the future. This essay, however, focuses on the way the exiled author Lisa Tetzner (1894–1963) uses images of childhood to negotiate concepts of guilt and responsibility in her novel for younger readers, Ist Paul schuldig? (1945), the seventh volume of her series Die Kinder aus Nr. 67. It will argue that the novel anticipates debates about German guilt first fully articulated in Karl Jaspers's Die Schuldfrage (1946), as well as later debates about German wartime suffering. It will further suggest that by focusing on the moral guilt of an individual adolescent whose childhood backstory is very familiar to the reader, the novel creates a challenging and yet sympathetic space where not only youthful German readers might have explored the extent of their personal responsibility for the Third Reich in 1945.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-502
Number of pages18
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Volume69
Issue number4
Early online date7 Sep 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016

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