Growing up in the USSR, I was raised on the conventional WW2 propaganda which included lots of “hero pioneers” as example. Soviet pioneers were an organization loosely based on Boy Scouts but more analogous to Hitlerjugend in its ultimate form. Most kids aged 10 to 15 were a part of it. The kid below was supposedly 15 (the actual existence of characters written out by the Soviets tended to be as uncertain as those from Minitrue of “1984”), but drawn much younger. The propaganda effort worked just fine, if my perception of it back then was any indication.
When I first saw MP40 and PPSh submachine guns in museums, I started wondering about all the images which depicted underfed 10 year old kids handling full size weapons. As the photo of my friend’s 11 year old daughter shows, that was only sometimes possible. Both the MP40 and the PPSh — 9.5 to 10 lbs loaded — too heavy and long in the stock for her to fire effectively.
Czech vz58, though more powerful, actually has a shorter stock and weighs less than the open bolt submachine guns of WW2. My friend’s 10 year old could run it easily, but he’s also been shooting since age 3, unlike the kids from the USSR.
German kids at the end of World War II were mostly just as underfed as Soviet kids during the darkest days of the Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad sieges, and yet not only they handled Mp40s, VG1s, Mp44s, but did so at gunpoint. So I see it totally possible.
Soviet propaganda doesn’t have high credibility with me, but it is possible that the ones written about in those stories (assuming there was a grain of truth) were simply the ones that survived long enough to figure out how to use those weapons. There were probably another 90-99% that didn’t (survive or figure out how to handle the weapons) and were just part of the body count of those battles.
I would think that back then, on BOTH sides of that war, by 1944-1945 there were FAR more adults telling 10-year-olds they COULD pick up that weapon and fight than there were telling them NOT to try- especially when both sides knew what the other had in store for whomever lost, regardless of age or gender. The amazing part is that as many of them survived the war and its aftermath as they did, more than those who picked up whatever was lying around and tried to use it. Because by that point, I’m sure most of those kids had seen their older brothers, friends, fathers, neighbors, and soldiers in general using them first-hand to have a general idea of how to make one go “bang” at one another, and those who couldn’t lift them could load magazines for the ones who could (or scavage them off the dead who had no further need of them).
Don’t discount the power of incentive.
What a well-fed, secure child raised in an intact family, even if highly trained, can do; might be different than what a starving orphan who has seen his family slaughtered, and has been hunted until his back is against the wall, can accomplish.
Even if the stock is too long/heavy, I imagine the kid could rest it on something to shoot, or just shoot with vague marksmanship to keep the enemy’s head down. Running BB gun shoots, I noticed a lot of little kids first put the stock on top of their shoulder before I correct them. A kid not knowing how to aim, but knowing you can pull the trigger, or just in extremity, might do any of these.
There is a photo taken during the Warsaw uprising. Its a girl about 12 or 13. She has a German helmet and SS camo smock with a Mauser 98A carbine, grenades and captured webgear. She is among her friends, smiling, and laughing, as they walk toward whatever awaited them. I have often wondered if she survived. Yes children can and do use weapons in war. Any weapon they can capture. The “child soldier” is nothing new. Because in war there are no children. Only the living and the dead. Look up the origin of the word “Infantry”, it says it all.