Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler's Shadow

Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler's Shadow. Scholastic, 2005. 176pp.  Lexile 1050.

This Sibert Honor Book by one of the best nonfiction writers for young people looks at Nazi Germany through the lens of the Hitler Youth movement, which by 1934 included almost half of Germans ages ten to eighteen. It was later mandated that every healthy adolescent and teen, excluding Jews, become a member, a total of about eight million youth.  As this disturbing, informative book reveals, Hitler used the movement to train loyal citizens and future soldiers. Schools eventually focused on the movement’s goals, with five hours of the school day devoted to physical training; parents who objected risked imprisonment. Bartoletti introduces specific boys and girls from the time, using quotes and photographs to convey their personalities. While most of the young people in this multifaceted book were enthusiastic Hilter Youth, others described in one chapter resisted through illegal publications and other dangerous tactics.  Another chapter looks at teenage boys, some very young, who fought as soldiers near the end of the war.  As she explains in her excellent author’s note, Bartoletti interviewed survivors and did researched using newspapers, magazines, letters, journals, and oral histories.  Back matter includes an appendix on what happened to some of the teens, a chronology, end notes, a bibliography, and an index.  Of the many black-and-white photographs, those of resisters who died and young soldiers are especially moving.

Reading Std #3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.  Have students analyze how Bartoletti features certain young people such as Sophie Scholl, Henry Metelmann, Alfons Heck and Helmuth Hubener throughout the text to give different viewpoints and stories.

Fiction tie-in: Bartoletti wrote a fine novel, The Boy Who Dared,  based on Helmuth Hübener, a teenager in Nazi Germany who started an underground newsletter to combat Nazi propaganda but was caught and executed.