Monday, April 18, 2011

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow (Book)

Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Release date: 2005. Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction. ISBN: 9780439353793.

Plot summary: This nonfiction title follows the lives of twelve tweens and teens living in Germany during the Third Reich. Some of the young people became enthusiastic members of the Hitler Youth, or Hitlerjugend, while others denounced the dictator. The book begins with the formation of the Hitlerjugend in 1926 and continues through the war to de-Nazification process that occurred after Hitler’s death. Included in the book are many photographs of the lives of Hitler Youth and what they experienced at the hands of the notorious dictator.

Review: Hitler Youth, though a nonfiction title, is as emotionally taxing and horrifying as any of the fiction books who have chronicled the experiences of various individuals during the Third Reich and World War II. Instead of focusing on those who were victimized by Hitler and the Nazis, this book looks at many who supported him and his efforts. Bartoletti’s tone is neutral throughout the book, but it is clear she is trying to make some effort to explain what exactly would cause these young members of the Hitlerjugend to get behind a man who was responsible for the deaths of millions. Some of the experiences and memories provided by the twelve youth featured in the book are both heartwarming and terrifying. The story of Scholl children who risked their lives opposing Hitler and denouncing his actions is a wonderful, heroic piece of the book. Some of the other young people, however, like sixteen-year-old Alfons Heck who lead an army of Hitlerjugend and Sasha Schwartz who, at eleven-years-old, looked up to Hitler as a national hero, are startling. It is certainly impossible to determine every reason why the members of the Hitlerjugend decided to go along with the dictator’s murder of millions of innocent people, but this resonating title seeks to shed a little light on the youth themselves, despite their motives.
Genre: Non-fiction

Reading level: Grades 5-8
Similar titles: The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Personal thoughts: This nonfiction title, though fascinating, was sickening at the same time. I have read quite a few books, both fiction and nonfiction, about the victims of the Third Reich, but never have I really explored the mindset of those that were responsible for it. I think this book, particularly some of the photographs, will stick with readers for a long time. Hopefully it will serve as a lesson to them that those in power are not always worth following.
Themes: Nazis, Third Reich, Hitler, Hitler Youth, holocaust

Awards/Reviews: Newbery Medal Honor Book 2006, positive reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine.
Series Information: N/A

Character information: N/A
Annotation: This true story presents the lives of twelve young people who were involved in or affected by the Hitlerjugend, or Hitler Youth, during the Third Reich.

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