The 'War Children' Photograph Collection

The 'War Children' Photograph Collection

  • Access and consultation : The collection can be consulted in digital form on the computers of the reading room of via Pallas. Its content is freely available (for the photographs).
  • Reproduction : The contents of the fonds may not be reproduced.  

Collection description :

The CegeSoma holds the biggest European collection of interviews with “War Children”, that is children born of relationships between a Belgian mother and a German father during the Second World War, as well as more than 1,000 photographs that belonged to these children.

The German occupation during the Second World War inevitably led to relations between soldiers of the occupying army and Belgian women. According to conservative estimates, 20,000 children were born from these relationships, not counting aborted children. Gerlinda Swillen, an associated researcher at CegeSoma, has been investigating their fate since 2007, trying to answer several questions that had not yet been explored. Namely, who were the mothers but also the fathers concerned? What was their experience of pregnancy and childbirth? What was the fate of the children? In addition to archival documents, Gerlinda Swillen has also compiled numerous accounts of mothers, children, doctors, nurses, family members, neighbors and, acquaintances. Furthermore, she also devoted her doctoral thesis to them, which she defended at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels in 2016.

Several dozen accounts collected by the researcher were deposited in digital form at CegeSoma. They will not be accessible for several years due to privacy protection reasons, but they already constitute a new trace for the study of this period. During the various encounters with her interviewees, Gerlinda Swillen also collected several hundred photographs related to her research. These now form the “War Children” collection and are directly accessible online via Pallas.

For more information :

  • Swillen Gerlinda, La valise oubliée. Enfants de guerre (1940-1945), Mémoire d'Auschwitz ASBL, 2018
  • Swillen Gerlinda, Koekoekskind. Door de vijand verwerkt (1940-1945) , Antwerpen/Amsterdam, Meulenhoff-Manteau, 2009
  • Swillen Gerlinda, De wieg van de Tweede Wereldoorlog - Oorlogskinderen op de as Brussel-Berlijn, Bruxelles, VUBPress, 2016