Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2005. Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439862736
In this book, Bartoletti presents a unique perspective on Hitler’s rise to power, focusing on the youth who involved themselves with the Nazi party through different levels of loyalty and participation. The book includes the stories of twelve youth and explores the roles they played in supporting Hitler or eventually working against him.
The opening introduction discusses Herbert Norkus, a member of Hitler Youth, whose murder by a Communist gang provided a way for the Nazi Party to draw attention and honor to their organization for youth. Bartoletti’s subsequent chapters look at twelve individual youth and their involvement with this organization. Their stories are as unique as they themselves were, with some joining the Hitler Youth despite their parents’ wishes and others joining eagerly before ultimately launching their own organization against Hitler and the Nazis. From seemingly innocent events such as athletic events or camping trips to more Nazi-focused efforts such as propaganda meetings, the stories of these youth and their roles in the Nazi regime are chronicled. While stories about life as a Hitler Youth are told, Bartoletti also includes notable moments in the growth of Hitler’s power, from his appointment as chancellor of Germany to his suicide in 1945.
Bartoletti leaves few details uncovered as she covers the youth’s involvement with the Hitler Youth from beginning to end. In the conclusion, she offers details about what happened to many of the youth when the war was over. She reminds the reader of these young people’s story in history and poses a question worth considering further: “Could another despot like Hitler rise to power on the shoulders of young people?” (p. 157).
Bartoletti’s book presents a highly accurate look at the Nazis from the perspective of some of its youngest members. In her note at the end, the author discusses her research in which she explored the Third Reich through magazines and newspaper articles that were published during that time in history. She followed this inquiry up with travels to Germany and interviews and discussions with former Hitler Youth members. Her level of dedication to accuracy throughout her research shows in the book, as it compiles such a wealth of information that is woven into the stories that the youth tell.
Additionally, she incorporates throughout the book historical photographs of youth and of scenery relevant to the Nazi Party, many of which came from museums, archives, or even family photo albums. Her inclusion of so many photographs supplements her attempt to accurately portray the lives of the youth that became such a part of Germany and the Nazis.
Another layer of this book involves the numerous quotations that Bartoletti weaves into the individual stories that are told by the different Hitler Youth. To assure the reader of the accuracy of these quotations, there is a listed of quote sources at the back of the book. Looking at these sources, the reader can feel secure knowing that the author has taken great care in researching and presenting a thorough account of such a dark part of history.
The organization of this book also adds to its depth as each chapter presents individuals who participated in the Hitler Youth, while still presenting relevant events from history to accompany the individuals in chronological order. Thus, Bartoletti’s beginning introduction with Norkus’s murder and her ending conclusion with the end of the war facilitates the reader’s understanding of the progression of historical events while exploring the deeper personal side of such events. Furthermore, the beginning summaries of the young people included in the book help prepare the reader for the stories that they are about to encounter.
The design and style of this book is exceptionally thought-out as the author has interspersed photographs and quotations throughout every chapter. The photographs and accompanying captions allow the reader to visually transport themselves even more into the story that they are following while also providing another layer of understanding of the history behind Hitler, the youth, and the Nazi regime.
Starred Review from School Library Journal – “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.”
Starred Review from Booklist – “The handsome book design, with stirring black-and-white historical photos on every double-page spread, will bring in readers…spark discussion…”
Starred Review from Kirkus Reviews – “Case studies…root the work…, and clear prose, thorough documentation and an attractive format…make this nonfiction writing at its best.”
This nonfiction work was absolutely fascinating to me as I never realized children’s’ level of involvement with Hitler and the Nazi movement. The mix of photographs and details from this time period brought such a difficult issue to life, making the truth of it so much more authentic and heartbreaking.
· Read more about the Hitler Youth and their activities at http://histclo.com/youth/youth/org/nat/hitler/hitlera.htm.
· Listen to Hitler speak about his youth through the links and sound clips at http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/hitleryouth/index.html.
· Create a graphic that highlights the statistics on Hitler Youth as presented at http://www.shoaheducation.com/HJ.html.
· Explore the German Propaganda Archive at http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/kbuch.htm to see how the Nazis tried to recruit children.
· Watch the documentary entitled “The Hitler Youth,” published in 1999.
Other Books by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Boy Who Dared
Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850
Growing Up in Coal Country
Kids on Strike!
Other Books about the Holocaust and the Nazis
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose by Jud Newborn and Annette Dumbach
Hans and Sophie Scholl: German Resisters of the White Rose by Toby Axelrod
Ten Thousand Children: True Stories Told by Children Who Escaped the Holocaust on the Kindertransport by Anne Fox and Eva Abraham-Podietz