A personal window into a nation’s shameful past, this is the untold story of an entire generation of German children who were pressed into becoming soldiers in Hitler’s army
The daughter of a World War II German child soldier, Helene Munson masterfully weaves together her father’s first-hand experience, as resurrected after his death through his wartime journals, with a meticulously researched investigation of how the Nazis educated and trained 300,000 German children against their will.
Hitler’s Boy Soldiers documents the sensitive topic of elite-schooled youth soldiers under the Nazi regime. Teachers were conflicted between educating children in good faith and the authorities’ demands to turn students into mini Nazis, whether at common Napolas, or elite Feldafing, as experienced by Helene’s father, Hans. Born in Chile in 1927 to German expats who fled the Weimer Republic, Hans was sent to Germany in 1937 for better schooling opportunities. Four years after his arrival Hans was accepted into the elite Feldafing school, which became a training academy for Nazi officers; all students were quickly enlisted in Hitler youth. At age 15 Hans was drafted as an anti-aircraft gunner, and at 17, sent to train for the SS.
This deeply personal book explores the long-lasting effects of young minds brainwashed, when children were forced to sign membership to a party they did not understand. Helene's father’s suffering cast a shadow over her own childhood, and after reading his wartime diaries she embarked upon a mission to retrace his steps and shine a light upon this taboo subject: What happened to the ten million German children who attended Nazi schools and 300,000 German child soldiers sent into WWII?
At once a modern narrative and an important contribution to history, Hitler’s Boy Soldiers grapples with nuanced issues of inherited trauma, the nature of being a victim or a survivor, and the burden of guilt that remains. Itis the moving story of a generation that lived in silence with the shame of what had been done to them.