Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: Hitler Youth, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (2005,Scholastic)

Recommended  for ages 12+

The Hitler Youth movement sought to harness the power of youth in Nazi Germany even as Hitler felt that he could more easily manipulate young minds. These are their stories.
Using photographs and text, Hitler Youth provides a look at Hitler’s Nazi Germany as seen through the eyes of the young people who were swept up into the Hitler Youth movement, and some who opposed him. The book follows historical events from Hitler’s rise to Germany’s defeat and spotlights 12 teenagers who were on both sides of the Hitler Youth movement.
We learn about the brutal practices Hitler youth endured under the guise of “camping”, including forced marches and weapons training; we learn how the Hitler Youth was a breeding ground for the Nazi armed forces, particularly the SS. We read, through teens’ observations, how Hitler twisted his words and used deception so that the children never understood the full scope of what they participated in. When the war was over, the Allied forces took these children and teens to liberated concentration camps in order to view up close what they contributed to.
We also learn about those youth who disagreed with HItler and gave their lives in defiance of his lies: the teen who listened to secret British radio broadcasts and distributed flyers, and the brother and sister team who were part of the White Rose group, another leaflet distrubution organization that called for passive resistance. The book ends with an epilogue that follows the teens profiled and where they are today.
Hitler Youth provides a look at Nazi Germany from a vantage point readers do not normally get: that of the teenagers in the Hitler Youth movement. Providing readers with these teens’ own words brings home the impact and the understanding even more, as modern readers are able to better connect with a teenage mindset. It allows for an understanding of how a nation of children could be swept up in such a movement and take part in such activities even as it illustrates the ways that everyday, ordinary teens of the time found ways to push back against the tide. Photographs from personal collections, the Holocaust Museum and National Archives also provide visual confirmation of the events, creating a stronger ability to identify and process this time in history.
Hitler Youth received Newbery Honors (2006); Sibert Honor (2006); Orbis Pictus Honor (2006); Parents Choice Award (Gold Winner, 2006), and the Carolyn W. Field Award (2006).
Susan Campbell Bartoletti is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction for teens. Her website provides author information, contact information, her blog, and more about her books.

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