Lost Children: Displacement and the Family in Twentieth-Century Europe


ACLS Fellowship Program , Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships


At the end of the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of children were missing. Whether through bombings, military service, evacuation, deportation, forced labor, ethnic cleansing, or murder, an unprecedented number of children were separated from their parents during the war. This project traces the efforts of international humanitarian and political activists to rescue, rehabilitate, and repatriate displaced children from 1918-1951. These children came to be the objects of bitter custody disputes, as psychologists, social workers, Communists, Catholics, Jewish agencies, military officials, relatives, and refugees themselves competed to determine their fate. The rehabilitation and reunification of displaced families was ultimately central to the process of postwar reconstruction in Europe, to the emergence of new psychological and psychoanalytic theories, and to the development of new ideals of nation, family, and human rights in post-fascist Europe.