FunAstrology"The Children's Crusade" (ZDFinfo): You can find something better...

"The Children's Crusade" (ZDFinfo): You can find something better than death everywhere

Created: 07/23/2022, 11:09 am

„Der Kreuzzug der Kinder“ geht der Frage nach den Motiven und der Herkunft der Jugendlichen nach, aber auch den historischen Belegen einer Episode, die womöglich auch ein Mythos sein kann.
“The Children’s Crusade” explores the question of the motives and origins of the young people, but also the historical evidence of an episode that may also be a myth. © Martin Papirowski/ZDF

Myth or Truth? The elaborately made two-part series explores why thousands of young people moved to Jerusalem in 1212.

Youth movements are considered a phenomenon of modern times. In 1967 and 1968 it was West German students who set democratic processes in motion, from which society has benefited to this day. A good forty years later, it was schoolchildren who – inspired by Greta Thunberg – went on strike for the climate; that was the birth of Fridays for Future.

However, something similar happened a good 800 years ago. It was neither about democratization nor about environmental protection, but the parallels are still amazing: here a dissatisfied youth, there charismatic leaders like Rudi Dutschke or recently Greta Thunberg, and thousands of children from Germany and France were encouraged to take to the streets walk. Their goal: Jerusalem, their motive: to liberate the city from the Muslim occupiers.

Between myth and history: Elaborate documentation on ZDFinfo

“The Children’s Crusade” explores the questions of what drove the young people back then, where they came from, how successful their venture was, and above all: Is that true at all or is it just a myth? Stylistically and conceptually, the documentation of the ZDF channel ZDFinfo is reminiscent of the typical “Terra X” handwriting, especially thanks to many game scenes that make the two-parter look very elaborate.

The sometimes spectacular reconstructions that were created specifically for this production – including the parting of the sea – are for illustration purposes only. The centerpiece are the statements of the experts, including historians, a philologist, a theologian, a psychologist and a pathologist. Supported by the pictures, they all give an insight into a time when the existence of most children was not remotely comparable to today’s living conditions. Childhood as we understood it simply did not exist; whoever wanted to eat had to work.

Documentation “The Children’s Crusade” on ZDFinfo: rural exodus of the children

In fact, this secondary level of Martin Papirowski’s documentary is at least as fascinating as the actual topic, because the author can allow himself a few digressions thanks to the total broadcast time of almost ninety minutes. He uses the Grimm fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, among other things, as visual aids. Against this background, the rural exodus of many children and young people is understandable: in cities like Cologne, they hoped there would be work; or alms.

Perhaps it wasn’t difficult to get them excited about the crusade in the spring of 1212 according to the motto “You can find something better than death everywhere”. At least it is apparently guaranteed that a boy named Nikolaus was able to gather a large number of children around him in order to go up the Rhine with them. The fact that something very similar happened in France at the same time is at least a curiosity: a young man there had the same visions. According to contemporary writings, both were able to motivate tens of thousands to join their crusade.

Historical documentary “The Children’s Crusade”: reconstruction of a myth

So Papirowski was confronted with two tasks: He wanted to get to the bottom of the truth of this incredible story and reconstruct the hike to the south. The Children’s Crusade, there was no doubt about it, actually existed; but how exaggerated were the descriptions? This alone could have been answered in 45 minutes, but as with most historical research, each finding led to the next question: Both young men spoke in the name of God, but the Vatican has never had much use for people outside the church as mouthpiece of the Lord appeared. So how did the Pope react?

“The Children’s Crusade”

Saturday, July 23, 2022, 6:45 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., ZDFinfo. Available in advance in the ZDF media library.

The references to the present are particularly interesting. One historian sees clear parallels between the Children’s Crusade and Fridays for Future: because the adults’ attempts at military liberation failed, the youth took matters into their own hands. The psychologist explains that the young starvation refugees had no place in society and were therefore quite grateful for the task. However, the action turned out to be a suicide mission at the latest when attempting to cross the Alps: the childish crusaders had neither provisions nor suitable clothing, and hundreds probably fell by the wayside. Upon arrival in Genoa, it was revealed anyway that the prophecy was lies and deceit: the sea has not parted, of course. (Tilman P. Gangloff)

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