Annual Holocaust Lecture features David Rosen on the problem of child soldiers

Memorial lecture alternately features topics relating to the Jewish Holocaust and to other crimes against humanity

Children have participated in military combat and political insurgencies throughout history. In fact, the practice of recruiting or accepting youth for combat was common in pre-industrial warrior societies.


Yet in today’s culture, when one envisions a child soldier, it usually is in the context of recent African uprisings with young boys engaging in horrific atrocities.

David Rosen, JD, PhD, professor of anthropology and of law at Fairleigh Dickinson University and author of Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism, doesn’t dispute this perception but considers it a far too simplistic view of the problem, resulting in uninformed and ineffective child protectionist policies.

Rosen will present his perspective on “The Moral Complexity of the Child Soldier ‘Problem’” for the Assembly Series Holocaust Memorial Lecture at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, in Graham Chapel. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Many humanitarian organizations today, Rosen argues, do not take into account the prevailing culture of the region, nor its history. He debunks the notion that the youth of Sierra Leone are being robbed of their childhood because of conscription when in fact the life of a child in wartime is little changed from peaceful times.

Furthermore, Rosen’s study of youth involvement in World War II’s resistance movement against the Nazis in Eastern Europe shows that child combatants willingly took up the cause as a matter of honor and moral duty, a depiction that bears no resemblance to the current humanitarian narrative.

Rosen earned a juris doctorate from Pace University School of Law and a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Holocaust Memorial Lecture is supported by a gift from alumnus Michael Senter, a 1978 graduate who sponsors the lecture to help promote education about the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity, with the hope that awareness and understanding will help prevent these horrors from occurring in the future.

For information on this or other Assembly Series programs, visit or call (314) 935-4620.