Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hitler Youth

1. Bibliography:
Bartoletti, Susan Campell. 2005. Hitler's Youth. Singapore: Scholastic Nonfiction. ISBN: 0439353793
2. Summary:
In this deeply moving book, Bartoletti goes to people themselves who followed Hitler to discover and to document the move that brought Hitler into power in Germany. The book explores both the movement leading to the rise of Hitler, his reign of terror, and the aftermath of his fall. Because the book uses the words of the youth who were brainwashed by Hitler and his lackeys, its authenticity stands out and creates a moving read.
3. Analysis:
This book is a powerful read. I have often wondered how people could follow Hitler so blindly and miss the atrocities being committed while they served without questions. Although I had studied the history of WWII and Hitler's charisma, reading this book was eye-opening. It is amazing to read in the words of the kids how Hitler began putting the pieces into place many years before the war. Tactically speaking, Hitler's plan to create a Hitler's Youth group was brilliant, turning kids into robots of war.
Quotes from members of the group like, "We ran for Germany. We did the long jump for Germany. We did it all for Germany," clearly depict the total brainwashing of these children. Their total identities were wrapped up in not only their country but the socialism promoted by Hitler. The songs they sang contained words like "When Jew blood spurts from the carving knife/ Oh, it's that much more okay." The brutality of the lyrics also demonstrate the sadistic mind and its influence on vulnerable children.
What is most moving aspect of the written part of the book is the anguish some felt after the war. When the war began, these warriors were children, innocent and naive. That innocence was shattered when American troops brought them to see the destruction of the Hitler regime. Their grief over the pain and slaughter they had contributed to is heart wrenching. One boy says,"The impact of what we had seen was too great to be immediately digested." However awful the crimes against them, the book documents that the survivors of the concentration camps never retaliated after they were freed. "I thought they were going to tear us to pieces, but never a word was uttered, never a hand was raised." That may be the most moving part of all.
Bartoletti also spends adequate time focusing on the young people who saw through Hitler's rhyme and reason and who stood up for the truth. These teenagers were tortured and sometimes put to death. While many historians focus only on the negative actions of the people of Germany, Bartoletti paints a full picture by highlighting the efforts of teens such sixteen-year-old Helmuth Hubener, who died for his stance against Hitler.
The language of the book is perfect for the age group targeted. Because the book is for younger readers, many of the brutalities are not given in detail. The sentence structure and flow are also easy to read.
The pictures for the book were thoughtful and added to the story immensely. Since the book is geared toward younger readers, the pictures are not the most gruesome ones that can be seen at Holocaust museums around the world. The pictures added to the story but did not take away from the power of the words of the people who lived through this time.
4. Reviews:
Publisher's Weekly: "Bartoletti's portrait of individuals within the Hitler Youth who failed to realize that they served "a mass murderer" is convincing, and while it does not excuse the atrocities, it certainly will allow readers to comprehend the circumstances that led to the formation of Hitler's youngest zealots." Ages 7-10. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The final chapter superbly summarizes the weighty significance of this part of the 20th century and challenges young readers to prevent history from repeating itself. Bartoletti lets many of the subjects' words, emotions, and deeds speak for themselves, bringing them together clearly to tell this story unlike anyone else has.–Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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