German Youth Expressing Outrage About Iraqi War | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.03.2003
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German Youth Expressing Outrage About Iraqi War

On the streets and in the Internet, German children and teenagers have little good to say about the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein. And they are willing to skip school to make their voices heard.


Flag-waving protesters: Students demonstrate outside a U.S. Army base in Heidelberg on Friday.

The 13-year-old girl stood alone in the entrance of the Berlin department store on the wet and chilly morning. In her gloved hand, she held a piece of notebook paper. "No war," it said.

Since the U.S.-led coalition launched its attack on Iraq early Thursday, teenagers and children across Germany have been swept up by feelings of fear and worry as they view the events being broadcast 24 hours a day on the country's television and radio stations. The pictures that they have seen and the reports they have heard have driven the country's youthful generation onto the streets by the thousands and into the Internet by the hundreds as they attempt to articulate their worries.

In Frankfurt, hundreds of students left school on Friday in defiance of their principals and descended on a city square to launch a second day of demonstrations. Scattered throughout the sea of students were signs that bore such messages as: "Stop Bush's Madness," "Disarm Bush" and "Peace."

Fears about World War III

That protest followed the initial outpouring of protest on Thursday, the opening day of the war.

"We are really scared because we are being told that World War III is about to begin," a young student told DW-RADIO. "And that is no good because everyone will be affected then, even though some countries have nothing to do with it. I think we should work this out with something else than war."

In the eyes of the Zurich psychologist Allan Guggenbühl, such protests offer youths the opportunity to get their hands on a concrete event in the often complicated and abstract world of politics. The issues that have grown out the conflict could lead in turn to an increased interest in politics, Guggenbühl told Associated Press.

For those still not really interested in politics, he said the protests offered something else -- they satisfy young people's desire to join in a performance.

Children turn to the Internet

But the war also has made an impression on youths who are not so concerned about performance. Such expressions of worry are being recorded on the Internet site of the German television show for children called logo!

"The (Iraqi) children must be taking thousands of thoughts to school every day," wrote a girl named Diana. "Will I be alive tomorrow or not? Will my mother be alive tomorrow?"

The director of the program, Michael Stumpf, said nearly 500 comments were written in the program's Internet guest book in the first 36 hours of the war. "Only 2 percent of the children favor the war," Stumpf said.

Some of those who have criticized the war have questioned the need for the conflict. "If the story about Adam and Eve is true, then we are all brothers and sisters," a girl named Lisa wrote.

Parents urged to be candid

The German psychology professor Rainer Silbereisen urged parents to help their children talk about the realities of the war. To a child who asks what is war, he suggested that the parents should respond: "War happens when people can no longer talk to each other, when they get angry and start hitting each other, and when both sides think they are right."

But for youths 12 and older, Silbereisen suggested a different strategy: "War then becomes a chance for the family to talk about politics, the causes, the manipulations by the leaders and the suffering of the victims."

The war might give parents one other issue to talk to their children about. In at least one German state, students who skip school to participate in anti-war protests are subject to fines of up to €173 ($183).

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