It is historically unprecedented: In 1212, thousands of children in Central Europe joined a crusade. What religious fervour drove them to undertake a journey which for many ended in death? An historical investigation.

The "Children's Crusade" is one of the big myths of the Middle Ages. In the year 1212, thousands of children in Central Europe set off for Jerusalem. Their aim was to "liberate the Holy City from the Saracens", without weapons, "merely with the power of their faith". The undertaking ended in chaos, and those who did not starve to death or die of exhaustion while crossing the Alps were sold to slave ships on arrival in the Mediterranean or died of fever and disease. Very few returned to their home country, let alone arrive in Jerusalem. But what is fact and what is fiction? What really happened in the spring of 1212? There is no longer any doubt about the historical authenticity of this unprecedented children's crusade, but the reasons for it and the circumstances have been the subject of lively debate for many years. With elaborate re-enactments, computer animations and interviews with eminent historians and scientists, this two-part documentary reconstructs the events of that time and tries to find answers to some of the unresolved questions. Did children really venture on this suicide mission alone? How did it come about? Who organised the march? And what role did the church play?