Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book 79: On Hitler's Mountain

On Hitler’s Mountain by Irmgard A. Hunt was a great book. It was about Irmgard’s life growing up in the backyard of the Eagle’s Nest, family members who were members of the Nazi party and the indoctrination of Nazi idealization. I love the fact this is a book that showed the German perspective of having a Nazi heritage. It’s a perspective that isn’t always talked about and well I think we need to hear it just much if not more than the Jewish perspective.

I love the fact this book addresses having the Nazi heritage and not hiding the fact. She grew up in Berchtesgaden in Bavaria which is literally in the backyard of the Eagle’s Nest. She actually got to sit on Hitler’s lap at one point during a parade. It was a special moment in her life although it wasn’t the most comfortable experience in her life (Hitler held her too stiffly and she was torn emotionally after seeing the disgust on her grandfather’s face and the pride on her parent’s face). She went to school with several kids whose parents were the Nazi elite.

I will have to say this book does a great job of showing the ordinary citizen growing up in Berchtesgaden. Her parents were Nazis and she knew from an early age how her grandparents and some family friends were not fans of the Hitler’s assent. But in all honesty, it seems like her family were not guilty of any real guilt other than for supporting the dictator. Her father was an artist who did paint some dinnerware for Hitler and then was quickly drafted into the army where he was killed in battle. Her mother was a Nazi for a longer period of time but as the war worn on, she too was more critical of the problems of the Nazi government and tired of the war in general. The hope of a better world for Germans free from unemployment, poverty and superinflation was what drew her parents to the party. Something that seems understandable. In that area of Bavaria, the Jewish problem didn’t really exist. Irmgard can’t recall ever meeting a Jew but she did remember having a friend change her name away from a Jewish name as a way to show that they were more German.

I like how Irmgard just explained many things as she was growing up. She was so excited to join the Hitler Youth at first. But then as the group activities went from being crafts and singing and hiking to just marching around and trying to recruit others to show up for the meeting, she wanted to stop showing up. Plus it was great to see how she liked and disliked some of her teachers.

The interesting thing to me was the fact that so many members of her extended family were critical to the Nazis and how that affected their lives. She realized very early on that being anti-Nazi was something that was hard to really accomplish but there were private protests that they did. One of the stories, I really liked was how she was so mad that her grandfather wouldn’t donate his magazines to the Nazi army and yet she was so reluctant to really share his views to a teacher that was taking an interest in his beliefs (who she later found out the teacher was an informant and she saved her grandfather from a concentration camp).

Plus this book also talks about the aftermath of World War II. Life wasn’t easy and things didn’t improve for a while. Then after the Nuremberg trials, she related how hard it was to see a classmate faint in class when they were mentioned and to see him suffer after the boy’s father was sentenced to death. She never tried to say the boy’s father wasn’t guilty. Instead it was the true human emotion of not wanting to see a likable classmate suffer. Plus it was interesting to hear how the German guilt associated with the war and they mixture of feelings that happen when she initially told people she was from Berchtesgaden until now where that city name has been forgotten by many people.

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