By the time Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, 3.5 million children belonged to the Hitler Youth. It would become the largest youth group in history. Susan Campbell Bartoletti explores how Hitler gained the loyalty, trust, and passion of so many of Germany's young people. Her research includes telling interviews with surviving Hitler Youth members.
I loved this book, and how it focused on the generation of young men and women who were indoctrinated by Hitler. I appreciated the detail the author went into, while assuming the reader already knew many of the events during this time period. The pictures and quotes from interviews really brought the story home. Hitler definitely had a vision of how he could put the youth to work, and showed it with his quote: "I begin with the young. We older ones are used up . . . But my magnificent youngsters! Look at these men and boys! What material! With them, I can create a new world.” It was interesting that most youth, at the beginning, joined to make Germany a better place—not fully realizing that they were contributing to the most horrific event in history. I was surprised at how deep their indoctrination was. They got it everywhere, from school (with re-written text books) to Hitler Youth meetings. I was also surprised by the diversity of jobs the youth were assigned to, and how early they were trained to be soldiers. Those kids were also worked hard, digging trenches, clearing away rubble, and even becoming Flak helpers. It was a little scary to see how fearless and fanatical these boys were as soldiers, and how they weren’t afraid to die for Hitler. I appreciated this story. The events depicted in this book are ones we should never forget. It made me wonder of my own fate and choices had I lived in Germany during this time period.
Awards: ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2006), Newbery Honor (2006), Sibert Honor (2006)