After the official end of World War II, the societies involved had to take up the challenge of building peace. The surviving population, combatants and millions of displaced persons, mostly women and children, some of them orphans, were torn between the longing to return home and the determination to start anew in places far away from the trauma and their countries of origin. UNRRA and later the IRO (International Refugee Organization) assumed responsibility for the relief and repatriation of millions of Europeans in a context of devastation, facing diplomatic tensions and a general shortage of resources.

Humanitarian activities played a crucial role in post-war recovery, while awareness of the rights of children and civilians was strengthened through agreements and treaties, such as the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949). Our reflection, however, is to critically consider the Pax Europea concept and the enormous relevance of the children’s experiences we have shared today.

A group of repatriated women with children born in concentration camps (Belgium, 1945). © Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de Nantes (A108894)
Children in the Fossoli refugee camp in the post-war community of Nomadelfia. © Fondazione Fossoli

The story of the European peace must not overlook the fact that in the post-WWII period more conflicts were unleashed worldwide than in any previous period. Many of these conflicts involved European countries, whether in the context of the Cold War or in the process of decolonization. For this reason, this exhibition seeks not only to capture the history of children in conflict from a global perspective, but also to highlight the values of solidarity and protection as crucial elements of advocacy and learning. Since the beginning of this century, according to Save The Children, one in six children worldwide, approximately 449 million children, have been living in war zones. Moreover, in the last twenty years, according to UNICEF, thirty million have been forcibly displaced, becoming victims of trafficking and facing the consequences of being deprived of access to education.

Every day we are confronted with images in the media documenting the destruction caused by wars, the plight of refugees and the persistent perpetration of crimes. Their testimonial value is undeniable, however, it is essential to question how overexposure contributes to the normalization of these situations and also to ask ourselves about the agency of the protagonists in consenting. The iconic photograph of the Napalm bombing in the context of the Vietnam War depicting a nine-year-old girl, Kim Phuc Phan Thi, whose identity became known over the years, is a case in point. The snapshot, which won the Pulitzer Prize, showed Kim Phuc in the centre of the scene, naked, running away, while numerous photographers portrayed her without, apparently, rendering any help. Years later, the protagonist said: “I just wanted to get away from that picture… I wanted to forget it ever happened, but they wanted everyone to remember it”. Nevertheless, according to The New York Times, the image had a high impact on US public opinion, stoking anti-war sentiment. Two contrasting realities about the same image raise a debate between information and the right to privacy. Similarly, Holocaust survivors have criticized the massive use of images showing naked corpses or moments of liberation from the camps.

Boy with bicycle in front of the Sturmgeschütz III Column passing through the village of Eeklo (Belgium), in May of 1944. © Bundesarchiv (Bild 101I-297-1733-13/ photographer: Bernhard Kurth)
Portrait of Avram (5 years old) and Emanuel Rosenthal (2 years old) in the Kovno ghetto (1944). Deported during the "Children's Action" of March 1944, they did not survive. In this case we know the context of the photograph, which was taken at the request of their uncle, recovered by him after the war and donated to the © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Shraga Wainer, 06546)
Another outstanding example is the photograph entitled “Mother with her children”, captured by the journalist Dorothea Lange. In 1936, Florence Owens Thompson, standing in the centre of the image with her children, became the visual symbol of poverty and hardship during the Great Depression. This snapshot, due to its lack of consent and wide circulation, had a devastating impact on the life of the subject and her family, who, years later, expressed their unease about the situation. © Library of Congress (201776289)

With this reality in mind, this exhibition has immersed itself in a profound ethical reflection on the use of images captured in situations of conflict and vulnerability, especially those involving minors and colonial contexts. Therefore, non-offensive material has been carefully selected to avoid showing identifiable faces or perpetuating racial stereotypes, while adding a critical context to their reproduction.



REMEMCHILD- Remembering childhood in European wartimes (Ref.:101091194 CERV-2022-CITIZENS-REM, European Comission, Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV), European Remembrance), Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
Grupo de Investigación “Migraciones y exilios en el mundo contemporáneo” (MIGRABELCON, Ref.: 335)
Departamento de Historia Contemporánea, UNED
Biblioteca de la UNED


European Association of History Educators (EuroClio, Holanda)
European Observatory on Memories (EUROM), Fundació Solidaritat, Universitat de Barcelona (UB, España)
Maison d’Izieu, Mémorial des enfants juifs exterminés (Francia)
Fundación Museo de la Paz de Gernika (España)
Fondazione Fossoli (Italia)
ICMEMO-International Committee of Memorial Museums in Remembrance of the Victims of Public Crimes (Francia)
Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (URJC)


European Comission, Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV), European Remembrance: Proyecto REMEMCHILD- Remembering childhood in European wartimes, (Ref.:101091194 CERV-2022-CITIZENS-REM)



Marc Riu Giralt

(Universitat Pompeu Fabra)


Brande Comunicación


Brande Comunicación


Brande Comunicación


Fundación Museo de la Paz de Gernika
Fondazione Fossoli
Maison D'Izieu
Universidad Rey Juan Carlos
UNED Biblioteca
Cofinanciado por la Unión Europea
Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme
Rememchild - Migraid
Legal deposit: M-3864-2024