Thursday, July 12, 2007


Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2005. HITLER YOUTH: GROWING UP IN HITLER’S SHADOW. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439353793

This story of a youth organization over seven million strong, founded and controlled by Adolph Hitler during World War II tells of the impact of channeled youth on Nazi Germany and ultimately, the world. The story is told through the individual stories of young people–some who supported the youth organization like Alfons Heck, only sixteen year old, who commanded more than 800 Hitler Youth and led these young people in actual battle when the Allied forces closed in. Others like the Scholl children, Inge, Hans, and Sophie risked their lives distributing literature denouncing Hitler. The story tells of the book burning, vandalizing the property of Jewish citizens, intimidation of nonconformists, and the informing on anyone who was not supporting the cause—even one’s own parents. It concludes with the de-Nazification of the young people of this group who were exploited by Hitler along with the reconstruction of Germany itself and includes a challenge to the young people of today not to allow themselves to be seduced by strong personalities with ulterior motives.

Through Bartoletti’s intense research—direct interviews with former members of Hitler Youth as well as interviews of Jewish residents who were children during this time, oral histories, examination of diaries and written accounts—she is able to make comprehensible the seduction and allure of this organization for the German youth during that time. “I can remember the feeling I had when he spoke,” said Sasha Schwartz, who was eleven when Hitler came to power. “At last,” I said, “here’s somebody who can get us out of this mess.” Or Alfons Heck at the age of ten after hearing Hitler convincingly speak, “from that moment on, I belonged to Adolf Hitler, body and soul.”
The introduction of each of the twelve individual children on whom the story most focuses, along with a Timeline and epilogue of the fates of each of the twelve young people help clarify the running text which is divided by chapters, but not by individual stories. This sturdy book, 176 pages, 27 cm. square, is heftier than many books circulated in children's libraries.
The black and white photos offer powerful images that often tell more than the text itself such as the alarming faces of Hitler youth in actual battle where one does not expect to see such youthful countenances on soldiers in battle (p. 119, “Fanatical Fighters” “Hitler’s Boy Soldiers 1943-1945). Other powerful photos show the innocense of a group of very young girls in their first year of school, dressed all in white, giving the "Heil Hitler" salute along with their teachers (p. 41), or another showing the anguish experienced by a young soldier returning home to Frankfurt and discovering the destruction that was his home (p. 154). The photos are what likely will draw students to this book and can with the detailed captions all but tell the story of this organization and of the war itself.

Horn Book (May/June, 2005)
While many books for the young have chronicled the experiences of Hitler’s victims, far fewer have looked at the impact of Nazi ideology on those who subscribed to it.

Kirkus (April 1, 2005)
Bartoletti makes it clear what appealed to youth: “excitement, adventure, and new heroes to worship,” hope, power, and the “opportunity to rebel against parents, teachers, clergy, and other authority figures.”

This book is a Newbery Medal Honor book and a Robert F. Sibert Medal honor book for 2006. Other nonfiction books by Susan Bartoletti include:
Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850
The Flag Maker
Growing Up in Coal Country
Kids on Strike!

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