Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2005. HITLER YOUTH: GROWING UP IN HITLER’S SHADOW. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc. ISBN 043935379.
This is a collection of nonfiction stories about the involvement of Germany’s young people in the rise of the Third Reich. The story begins with a story of murder about a young boy named Herbert Norkus who was a member of Hitlerjugend, or Hitler youth. Afterward, the story follow a chronological sequence beginning with Hitler’s rise to power, followed up how Hitler Youth was organized, through Nazi education, preparing for war, the start of the Holocaust, and so forth. The reader follows along as the almost unknown story of the influence and involvement Hitlerjugend had in World War II.
The effort Susan Campbell Bartoletti made to include the reader in her thought process, interest in the topic, and journey in writing this book is remarkable. She avoids stereotyping and presenting theories as facts because she doesn’t tell the story in her words; she lets the story tell itself. Hitler Youth is organized into individual stories all relating to Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth). Some stories are about the murder of a HY member (The Bloody Handprint, The Murder of Herbert Norkus) and others are about preparing for war (Muscle-Tearing Hard Word) or Hitler Youth and Resistance (Long Live Freedom).
This book sparks curiosity in the reader as he/she is sure to become amazed at a side of the Third Reich many don’t know. The text and style of writing are lively and engaging, and will keep you turning page after page to know more. Each story is long enough to be informative and captivating, but not too long as to bore the reader and lose its sense of wonder. If you’re a lover of nonfiction like me, then this book will pull you right in just with the headings of the stories. If nonfiction isn’t usually your forte, the historical black and white photographers will intrigue you.
The information provided is accurate and cited within the text. The author also provides a lengthy bibliography in the back of the book. Additionally, next to each photo in the reading, it mentions when the photo was taken and where the photo came from. Each photograph complements the story it is placed within. For example, in the story “Where One Burns Books” about the Nazi education system, the story talks about how a picture of Adolf Hitler was hanging in every classroom, and there is a picture from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum showing a class with Hitler’s portrait on the wall.
Ms. Bartoletti also personally conducted all of the interviews with the people mentioned and has a quote source page in the reference area. She mentions specific articles and books she read as well as places she visited like the National Archives or Library of Congress in Washington DC and the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Germany. Bartoletti also provides a note about where the pictures come from, and how she chose them for this book. Additionally, the back of the book: Epilogue (What became of the young people in the books), author’s note, about the photographers, quote sources, bibliography, and an index.
History buffs and avid readers alike will enjoy reading this book. If my critical analysis above didn’t sell you on this book then I don’t know what will. Except maybe this: GO READ THIS BOOK, ASAP! Then buy a copy or five and give them to all the history lovers in your life.
Awards and Review Excerpts:
Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award
A Sibert Medal Honor Award 2006- Chapter Book
Parents Choice Award, Gold winner 2006
What was it like to be a teenager in Germany under Hitler? Bartoletti draws on oral histories, diaries, letters, and her own extensive interviews with Holocaust survivors, Hitler Youth, resisters, and bystanders to tell the history from the viewpoints of people who were there. Most of the accounts and photos bring close the experiences of those who followed Hitler and fought for the Nazis, revealing why they joined, how Hitler used them, what it was like.- Booklist
Hitler’s plans for the future of Germany relied significantly on its young people, and this excellent history shows how he attempted to carry out his mission with the establishment of the Hitler Youth, or Hitlerjugend, in 1926. With a focus on the years between 1933 and the end of the war in 1945, Bartoletti explains the roles that millions of boys and girls unwittingly played in the horrors of the Third Reich. – School Library Journal
This book would be perfect in a history class with an emphasis on American history or a modern World History class that goes in depth on World War II. Also, The Diary of Anne Frank is a common read in 8th grade Language Arts classes. Hitler Youth would be a great addition to a nonfiction unit including Anne Frank’s diary to see children in the war on the other side.
Other nonfiction books by Susan Campbell Bartoletti:
They Called Themselves the KKK. ISBN 061844033X.
Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850. ISBN 0756950813
Kids on Strike! ISBN 0618369236
Growing Up in Coal Country. ISBN 0395979145