Book Review: Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow


by Andrew Palmer

This book examines the history of the “Hitler Youth” and how Hitler was able to take young people and turn them into monsters. The book is structured in chapters. There are 10 in all with a small introduction to kick it all off. Each chapter looks at the youth role in Nazi Germany in a little different way. Bartoletti also sticks to a loose sequential timeline as she moves through each chapter. The book includes some incredible pictures that are well matched to the text.

My favorite chapter, and arguably the most terrifying, was Chapter 7, “Serving a Mass Murderer: The Holocaust Begins.” I never knew that Hitler instituted a euthanasia program in Germany. Maybe the strangest and scariest part of all is how it started. In 1938 the parents of a five-month-old baby boy that was born developmentally disabled petitioned Hitler to allow their doctor to kill the child in a merciful manner. Hitler sent his own doctor to examine the child. The doctor agreed and the baby was “put to sleep.” As a result of this, Hitler thought that he could make the Aryan race better and at the same time save government money. So began a secret euthanasia program that eventually killed at least 100,000 Germans (it may have been up to 200,000). The program not only included deformed babies, it included adults who were deemed too physically or mentally unfit to live productive lives.

I was also surprised by how important the youth were to what Hitler did. How do you kill eleven million people? You lie to them and you brainwash their children. By 1939 there were 7,287,470 youth enrolled in the “Hitler Youth” program. The terror of Hitler was impossible without the help of teenagers and young adults.

As I read this book, I was reminded of American youth and their passion for President Obama. No, I don’t think that Obama is creating the new Hitler Youth program, and no, I don’t think Obama is equivalent to Hitler. There are some parallels to what is happening to many of our youth in this country. The left, especially the Hollywood, limousine-liberals, are brilliant propagandists. While our children aren’t enrolled in some massive Obama Youth program, I do think they are being brainwashed to accept liberalism and follow Obama.

I see this in my classroom. I teach middle school, and some of the kids are just enamored with Obama. It’s not because  they have an in depth understanding of the issues and where Obama stands. They like him because he is cool and has star power. Why do they feel this way? Because it has been presented to them through the media and entertainment they consume.

What is happening right now with regards to the gun control debate has nothing to do with banning guns right now. This is about the future, they are grooming this generation to accept gun control. They are moving the mob in America to accept their positions. They are using the media to scare them about the supposed risks of firearms. Hitler was patient, it took years, but he was able to program German teenagers to accept his insanity. Remember, progressives are patient, as well. It’s not about right now, its about how the ends justify the means. It is my only hope that conservatives wake-up to this sooner or later. We must focus on the youth through different mediums, especially pop culture.

I was struck by a couple passages in the book. The first came at the end of the body of the book. I love how the author talks right to the young reader that has just finished this book.

“In October 1932, when Adolf Hitler praised the Hitler Youth for their loyalty, bravery, and readiness to create a new Germany, he asked them, ‘What can happen to a people whose youth sacrifices everything in order to serve its great ideals?’

“On that day, no one could have predicted the answer to that question. No one could have predicted the extent and degree to which a person such as Adolf Hitler could exploit the idealism of children and teenagers.

“Sixty years have passed since the bloodiest war in history ended. Some people wonder: Could another despot like Hitler rise to power on the shoulders of young people?

“Only young people today can answer that question. What are you willing to do to prevent such a shadow from falling over you and others.”

And from the “Author’s Note” at the end of the book. This is exactly why we read and write.

“By nature, human beings search for ways to make sense and meaning out of their lives and their world. One way that we make meaning is through the telling of our stories. Stories connect us, teach us, and warn us never to forget.

“This book is my attempt to understand the role of young people during a devastating twelve-year period of history that changed our world forever. It is my attempt to make sense out of the fact that adults taught young people to hate, to kill, and to feel superior over others. After all, the Hitler Youth weren’t born Nazis; they became Nazis.

“The stories in this book are complicated. They are riveting. But most of all, they turn the heart over.”

This is, by far, one of the greatest young-adult books ever written.

Lexile: 1050


Newberry Honor

Robert F. Sibert Honor Book




Filed under Book Reviews, Young Adult Book Reviews, Young Adult Books

3 responses to “Book Review: Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow

  1. Terri Smith

    Some might find the movie “Swing Kids” a great companion to this book.

  2. Stewart E. Kopp

    I do not remember any actual teaching about how hitler gaineds power and the results of his regrime. Most of what I know has come from TV documentaries and reading. Maybe this book needs to be used in the school curriculiam.

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