Children are civilians too

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Children are civilians too is a short story by the German writer Heinrich Böll (1917–1985). It was first published in 1950 in the short story collection Wanderer, come you come to Spa ... , published by Friedrich Middelhauve . Children are civilians too is one of the author's best-known short stories and is a typical example of rubble literature .

It tells the story of a wounded soldier in a military hospital during World War II . Although actually prohibited by the regulations, the encounter with a girl who sells cakes is a brief ray of hope in everyday life during the war.


A makeshift Lazeratt in a gym in Russia, June 1941

A war wounded man is in a makeshift hospital that was set up in a Russian school during the German-Soviet War . He reports that he looks like Theodor Körner with his head bandage . When a Russian girl tries to sell cakes, the guard refuses the wounded man the exit and the girl entry because civilians are not allowed to enter the hospital. In response to the wounded man's objection that he was dealing with a child, the guard insists that children are civilians too. There is a brief argument between the two men, until the wounded man gives in. When he is about to turn away in resignation, he notices a sign from the child to follow it. Because the dutiful guard does not leave his gate, the wounded man can talk to the child unnoticed at a hole in the wall. This offers him some pieces of cake to try. Finally the soldier buys the whole basket full of cakes from the girl for 200 marks. But when he wants to ask the child to come back later, it has already disappeared and the soldier feels lonely again in the desolation of the war.


The wounded Theodor Körner with a head bandage in a painting by Otto Heichert, ca.1910

The short story Children are civilians too is not reported from the aloof attitude of an authorial narrator , but from a personal narrator . According to Manfred Durzak, this narrative perspective is typical of Böll's early short stories from the post-war period, in which he often uses the first-person perspective to show remnants of humanity in the sadness of contemporary history.

The first-person narrator from Children are civilians too is a young, idealistic soldier whose naive delusion becomes visible in his invocation of the poet Theodor Körner . Körner, who was wounded in the Wars of Liberation , was later stylized as a patriotic model by the National Socialists, among others . The young soldier strives after him while he is still wounded. For him, the young girl embodies the missing home and becomes a symbol of humanity and home. According to JH Reid, such a function is typical of the female characters in Böll's early prose, which in the purely male society of war take on the function of an epiphany .

In the purchase of the girl's whole cake by the first-person narrator, there is at the same time an attempted act of humanity and the hope of being able to buy back the lost homeland. All the more sobering in the end is the fall into reality, where it stinks and the cold snow covers the pieces of cake. As a result of this disillusionment, the soldier loses his footing and recognizes the senselessness and forlornness of his situation into which his own delusion has led him, the contradiction of his longing for humanity to the inhuman reality of war.


  • Heinrich Böll: Children are civilians too . In: Ders .: Hikers come to Spa ... stories . 40th edition Dtv, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-423-00437-1 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Manfred Durzak: The German short story of the present . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2002, ISBN 3-8260-2074-X , p. 127.
  2. JH Reid: "My actual area ..." Heinrich Böll's war literature . In: Hans Wagener (Ed.): From Böll to Buchheim: German war prose after 1945 . Rodopi, Amsterdam 1997, ISBN 90-420-0292-1 , p. 93.