A Childhood Shaped By World War II charts the childhood of Mrs. Ilse Ludewig in Germany during World War II. The thesis chronicles her early years from her childhood perspective. Her personal story, obtained through extensive oral interviews, is located in the larger context of the German home front and the experiences of children during wartime. Mrs. Ludewig was born in 1930 and raised in Hildesheim, Germany and Osterwald, Germany.
Her childhood was experienced during the German Nazi regime. Though sheltered from the worst, the actual war and anti-Semitism, the regime's actions gradually became more visible and a disruptive force on what was important to her as a child: family, shelter, food, schooling. Mrs. Ludewig's vivid childhood recollections provide the core of the thesis and is presented in a chronological order. Relevant context, woven into her childhood experiences, is provided.
While the thesis focuses on Mrs. Ludewig, her parents, who were not politically active or members of the military, and a younger brother are naturally an integral part of her childhood story.
To summarize, Mrs. Ludewig and her family lived a life of privilege, afforded by her father's position in a family run business, in the city of Hildesheim. With the onset of World War II, Mrs. Ludewig's father relocated the family to the nearby village of Osterwald where he owned an estate. He felt this was a necessary wartime precaution. Previously the estate had only been used as a weekend retreat. Ultimately, neither wealth nor leaving Hildesheim sheltered the family from the Nazi regime and the turbulence of World War II.
The highlight of the thesis is Mrs. Ludewig's first hand account of American troops marching into Osterwald on April 7, 1945. They would occupy the village for approximately one month. Fluent in English, Mrs. Ludewig's mother served as an unofficial translator for the American officers, adding interest to her childhood experience.
The thesis includes a discussion of post World War II Germany. The source for this is Mrs. Ludewig's recollections of the harsh times that would linger well past war's end.