Deutschland, Österreich, Osteuropa, England, Belgien und Frankreich
Edited By Hans-Heino Ewers
From the school desk to the front. German ‘Kriegsprimaner’ (wartime sixth-formers) in selected youth novels written during the First World War and the Weimar Republic
The fact that large numbers of male young adults started to volunteer for military service from August 1914 on is celebrated as heroic deed in Young Adult Fiction during the war years. A special role is dedicated to high school students whose service at the front was facilitated by an early Abitur. Only Young Adult Fiction of the late 1920s, first and foremost Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front, reveals the disillusionment, demoralisation and traumatisation of these young soldiers.
Many novels about the First World War deal with the experiences of young soldiers who had reported from the school room to the front. As early as 1915, a book was published in the city of Würzburg with the title Von der Schulbank in den Schützengraben [From the School Desk to the Trenches] with Feldberichte kriegsfreiwilliger Schüler [Field Reports of War Volunteer Schoolboys] from one of the city’s grammar schools. These youths can only have been pupils from higher types of school, and the majority of them came from the higher middle classes. In most of the warring countries the recruiting age was 18, which means that the youngest recruits in 1914 were born in 1896. In virtually all countries, however, youths under 18 also reported for military service, concealing their true age (van Emden 2006). These were probably mostly youths from the lower classes who had long since left school and were already in employment. Due...
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