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A Child of Hitler: Germany in the Days When God Wore a Swastika

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In this starkly candid account of one boy's indoctrination into the Hitler Youth, we see a side of Nazism that has been little recorded. This autobiographical account is a rare glimpse at World War II from a German boy's viewpoint. In this starkly candid account of one boy's indoctrination into the Hitler Youth, we see a side of Nazism that has been little recorded. This autobiographical account is a rare glimpse at World War II from a German boy's viewpoint.


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In this starkly candid account of one boy's indoctrination into the Hitler Youth, we see a side of Nazism that has been little recorded. This autobiographical account is a rare glimpse at World War II from a German boy's viewpoint. In this starkly candid account of one boy's indoctrination into the Hitler Youth, we see a side of Nazism that has been little recorded. This autobiographical account is a rare glimpse at World War II from a German boy's viewpoint.

30 review for A Child of Hitler: Germany in the Days When God Wore a Swastika

  1. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    A non-fictional 'coming-of-age' story that puts Holden Caufield's self-absorbed whiney ass to shame. At age 17, Heck became commander of 6000 of the Third Reich's last defenders, many of them just boys of 13 and 14, of the Westwall along the Rhine. Heck provides insight into the importance of the Hitler Youth in establishing and defending the Nazi regime: "A Hitler Youth uniform was as dangerous as an SS, especially if one was a leader or officer." Heck relates rather poignantly a discussion he A non-fictional 'coming-of-age' story that puts Holden Caufield's self-absorbed whiney ass to shame. At age 17, Heck became commander of 6000 of the Third Reich's last defenders, many of them just boys of 13 and 14, of the Westwall along the Rhine. Heck provides insight into the importance of the Hitler Youth in establishing and defending the Nazi regime: "A Hitler Youth uniform was as dangerous as an SS, especially if one was a leader or officer." Heck relates rather poignantly a discussion he has in Februrary of 1945 which elicits a Luftwaffe major to exclaim "Christ, what have we done to our children?" And many in the post-war world looked upon the youth of Germany as misguided children (the minimal attention paid to Pope Benedict's past comes to mind), but Heck points out that "we misguided children had been far more ruthless than our elders." Read this if you want to understand the fanaticism of youth and why modern madrassas present such a threat to the stability of the Islamic world. And read this if you happen to know Germans who survived the war and wish to understand them better. In describing his increasingly militant attitude while Germany suffered annihilation in the last year of the war, Heck also incidentally provokes some soul-searching over the efficacy of the Anglo-American 'strategic' bombing campaign, and, by association, the effectiveness of any bombing campaign (American, Islamic, or otherwise) in destroying the will of youth schooled in violence and hate. I give Heck some credit for at least trying to come to terms with his Nazi past and acknowledging the sins of the regime and of every German associated with it. There are pearls of wisdom here for anyone who mindlessly adopts mottos (pro patria!) or blindly accepts the policies of their leaders out of some twisted notion that it would be unpatriotic not to support the president (especially 'in a time of war'). "We, a civilized human people," writes Heck, "had allowed ourselves to become indifferent to brutality committed by our own government on our own citizens. And yet, I never once during the Hitler years thought of myself as anything but a decent, honorable young German, blessed with a glorious future." A final warning to all of those out there who, like myself, teach: While not attempting to exonerate himself, Heck does particularly damn the educators of Germany: "not only had they allowed themselves to be deceived, but they had delivered us, their children, into the cruel power of a new God."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ellie Midwood

    “A Child of Hitler” is a perfect choice for everyone who wants to get an insider’s look at the inner workings of the Hitlerjugend, their organizational structure, and ideology. Told by a former HJ member, who had eventually emigrated to the United States and devoted his life to studying Nazi Germany’s shameful history and the Holocaust, it demonstrates on his personal example how early the indoctrination started and how deeply-rooted it was, even at such a tender age. In one of the chapters, the “A Child of Hitler” is a perfect choice for everyone who wants to get an insider’s look at the inner workings of the Hitlerjugend, their organizational structure, and ideology. Told by a former HJ member, who had eventually emigrated to the United States and devoted his life to studying Nazi Germany’s shameful history and the Holocaust, it demonstrates on his personal example how early the indoctrination started and how deeply-rooted it was, even at such a tender age. In one of the chapters, the author explains why HJ organization produced the most fanatical members: they were true children of Hitler, blindly obedient to their Führer and ready to denounce their own parents if needed to prove their loyalty. Having grown up in Nazi Germany, they didn’t carry “baggage” of the past which tainted certain old-guards’ loyalty and, in some cases (July 20 Plot) even turned them against Hitler. He loved his Hitler Youth creation because they were raised to worship him and to die for him - and some indeed did, thrown into the war at an age of eight, with a Panzerfaust in his hands. Heck’s personal experience is not so different: from a Nuremberg rally of 1938 to the devastating last two years of the war, he was growing through the ranks of Hitlerjugend and eventually found himself commanding a unit charged with fortifying Westwall - when he was only fifteen. What is also noteworthy is the fact that the author included certain aspects of civilian life into the narration: the relationship between the farmers and their French POW worker; the population of a small city trying to cope with the aftermath of an Allied bombing; boys’ relationships with each other and their attitude towards their Flieger-HJ and the SS, and many more. Overall, it was a very interesting first-hand account which is a great source of research for anyone who’s interested in the history of WW2. Highly recommended!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    This is a detailed personal view of one of Hitler's more frightening ideas: Turning German children into fanatically loyal killers. That's not an overstatement. The author, Heck, who rose high in the the ranks of the Hitler Youth by age 17, makes clear that Nazi ideology and worship of Hitler outweighed friends and family, even to the point of execution and turning them into the Gestapo. His candid appraisal of his state of mind at that age is, frankly, shocking, especially when we are constantl This is a detailed personal view of one of Hitler's more frightening ideas: Turning German children into fanatically loyal killers. That's not an overstatement. The author, Heck, who rose high in the the ranks of the Hitler Youth by age 17, makes clear that Nazi ideology and worship of Hitler outweighed friends and family, even to the point of execution and turning them into the Gestapo. His candid appraisal of his state of mind at that age is, frankly, shocking, especially when we are constantly reminded that the author was only 15 or 16 years old. On the other hand, it's probably no surprise that the younger we are, the more certain we are that that world is divided into good and evil The Hitler Youth program was designed to make Hitler good and anything else evil, with no real shades of gray. AT the time the book was written, Heck and a Jewish friend were traveling the country, giving talks about how Nazi Germany and the Holocaust could have happened.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Silvya Mazerolle

    The authour's stark recollection of the indoctrination of a nations youth lets the reader understand how it was done and how easy this can happen. He does not give excuses or shows shame in what was going on around him. As a child of German immigrants who lived through the war, I needed a better explanation of their silence about their young years. This book filled in many blanks in my understanding of that time and was one of the scariest true stories I've ever read. The authour's stark recollection of the indoctrination of a nations youth lets the reader understand how it was done and how easy this can happen. He does not give excuses or shows shame in what was going on around him. As a child of German immigrants who lived through the war, I needed a better explanation of their silence about their young years. This book filled in many blanks in my understanding of that time and was one of the scariest true stories I've ever read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Les Wolf

    This book offers a unique perspective on World War II as told from the viewpoint of a young Hitler youth who trained as a glider pilot in preparation for a career in the Luftwaffe. It is interesting to follow the war from such an unusual angle. The training was mandatory for young German boys and they were taught and encouraged largely by former Wiermacht officers, many times those who were reassigned after they were severely wounded in the fighting. Alfons never saw duty as a fighter pilot bu This book offers a unique perspective on World War II as told from the viewpoint of a young Hitler youth who trained as a glider pilot in preparation for a career in the Luftwaffe. It is interesting to follow the war from such an unusual angle. The training was mandatory for young German boys and they were taught and encouraged largely by former Wiermacht officers, many times those who were reassigned after they were severely wounded in the fighting. Alfons never saw duty as a fighter pilot but has quite an adventure nevertheless. He rises in rank and manages to emerge from the war without permanent injuries. As the allies close in and it becomes more and more obvious that the war cannot be won, the young lieutenant is forced to confront a new set of realities regarding his military affiliation with the Nazi party and his once beloved leader, Adolf Hitler. It is interesting to watch Alfons and his friends as they undergo indoctrination and training and to witness their difficult struggles with such issues as racial prejudice, unwavering loyalty to the party, religious divisiveness, military dogmatism, etc. Officer Heck returns to what little is left of home but destruction, indeed almost utter devastation marks the landscape at every turn. The cost of allegiance to the Third Reich is almost incomprehensible. Alfons traveled with a Jewish woman who was a concentration camp survivor for many years after the war and together they told their stories in a narrative entitled "Parallel journeys".

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul Janiszewski

    Sunday 19th November 2017 was VOLKSTRAUERTAG in Germany. Its purpose is to commemorate members of the German armed forces, civilians and victims of violent oppression.... An obituary written by Jack Williams for the Union Tribune San Diego 18th April 2005. regarding former Hiter Youth, Alfons Heck. It begins... "No matter how far he moved from his native Germany, Alfons Heck couldn't escape the turmoil and tragedy of the Hitler years." In his autobiography "A Child Of Hitler" he concludes: "We, a civ Sunday 19th November 2017 was VOLKSTRAUERTAG in Germany. Its purpose is to commemorate members of the German armed forces, civilians and victims of violent oppression.... An obituary written by Jack Williams for the Union Tribune San Diego 18th April 2005. regarding former Hiter Youth, Alfons Heck. It begins... "No matter how far he moved from his native Germany, Alfons Heck couldn't escape the turmoil and tragedy of the Hitler years." In his autobiography "A Child Of Hitler" he concludes: "We, a civilized, humane people, had allowed ourselves to become indifferent to the brutality committed by our own government on our own citizens. At best that seemed to make us cowards, at worst brutes ourselves. And yet I never once during the Hitler years thought of myself as anything but a decent, honourable young German, blessed with a glorious future.... Suddenly, I was an especially tainted citizen of the most despised nation on the face of the earth. I found that hardest to accept.....none of us who reached high rank in the Hitler Youth will ever totally shake the legacy of the Fuhrer. Despite our monstrous sacrifice and the appalling misuse of our idealism, there will always be the memory of unsurpassed power, the intoxification of fanfares and flags proclaiming our new age. "Today Germany belongs to us and tomorrow the world" we trumpeted in our anthem. We believed it. Tragically, now, we are the other part of the holocaust, the generation burdened with the enormity of Auschwitz. That is our life sentence, for we became the enthusiastic victims of our Fuhrer"

  7. 4 out of 5

    David Schuster

    This is a very difficult book to review. I've been putting this off for days. It was very important for me to read this, but not very pleasant. I believe the most dangerous sin of the German people that enabled Hitler was not the desire for a strong leader nor the belief that orders from authority should not be questioned. In fact, I believe it was pride and arrogance. I've never really understood the importance of humility as well as I do after reading this book. Humility is like symmetry - it al This is a very difficult book to review. I've been putting this off for days. It was very important for me to read this, but not very pleasant. I believe the most dangerous sin of the German people that enabled Hitler was not the desire for a strong leader nor the belief that orders from authority should not be questioned. In fact, I believe it was pride and arrogance. I've never really understood the importance of humility as well as I do after reading this book. Humility is like symmetry - it allows you to see others as yourself, to honor their goals and desires, and to see God in others. A humble guy can never really believe that he deserves to be rich or deserves to be in control of others (politically, socially, by force, etc.). So, practice humility and encourage it in those you love (especially the greatest ones!) so that you're ready if someone says that tomorrow, the world could belong to you. It will be best if you don't even want it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kiara

    I had to read this book for a class, but despite that, I did think this autobiography was an interesting account of one man's experience in the Nazi Youth. It had a cohesive narrative, and definitely showed Heck's distinct perspective. The early parts were a bit of a slog, but the book really shone in the final few chapters, when Heck realizes that the Nazis have lost and has to come to terms with what he's done. This is definitely a book I would recommend to anybody interesting in learning more I had to read this book for a class, but despite that, I did think this autobiography was an interesting account of one man's experience in the Nazi Youth. It had a cohesive narrative, and definitely showed Heck's distinct perspective. The early parts were a bit of a slog, but the book really shone in the final few chapters, when Heck realizes that the Nazis have lost and has to come to terms with what he's done. This is definitely a book I would recommend to anybody interesting in learning more about the functioning of the Hitler Youth from the perspective of an actual member.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kim Bingham

    An interesting perspective I’d never read before, Alfons Heck’s story really made me consider the role the Hitler Youth played in Hitler’s Germany. While I’m still undecided on my opinion of the guilt or victimization of the Hitler youth, this book made me question whether or not they were just like any other kids doing what they were told and following blindly. I think this book is an incredibly important read for anyone studying up on WWII/the Holocaust if only just to give the perspective of t An interesting perspective I’d never read before, Alfons Heck’s story really made me consider the role the Hitler Youth played in Hitler’s Germany. While I’m still undecided on my opinion of the guilt or victimization of the Hitler youth, this book made me question whether or not they were just like any other kids doing what they were told and following blindly. I think this book is an incredibly important read for anyone studying up on WWII/the Holocaust if only just to give the perspective of the losing side and offer a glimpse of 1940s Germany through the lens of humanity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kitty

    I love how honest the author was in his book about things that might be hard for someone to admit because they don't want someone to judge them or perceive them a certain way. This book really opened my eyes to a different side of the Germans who fought in WW2. I love how honest the author was in his book about things that might be hard for someone to admit because they don't want someone to judge them or perceive them a certain way. This book really opened my eyes to a different side of the Germans who fought in WW2.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary-Sidney

    A powerful and challenging first hand account of a successful Hitler youth. The effective creation of the perfect army: the youths of Hitler were completely molded into enthusiastic worshipers of Hitler. He could do no wrong.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ashwani Gaur

    Different from the other World War 2 books we usually read. It is enlightening to know how Hitler used the youth of his country.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marion Roux

    Non-fiction. Autobiography of his rise to power in the Hitler Youth. Thought provoking

  14. 4 out of 5

    Becky S

    This is a little slow in places but a fascinating look at life in Germany during Hitler's reign. Heck was a member of a young Hitler group. It really picks up when the Allies invade Germany. This is a little slow in places but a fascinating look at life in Germany during Hitler's reign. Heck was a member of a young Hitler group. It really picks up when the Allies invade Germany.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Isabel

    Incredibly gripping and well-written. The ending was so heart breaking in such a complex way. Definitely the type of book that makes you stop and stare at the wall.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Charise

    This is a fascinating book and I think it needs to be a widely read book. If it is it not on high school and uni reading lists it should be. Alfons Heck, the author of this book, was a teenager and member of the Hitler Youth in Germany during World War 2. War changes people and forces to them grow up fast and this is accurate for Alfons. Today, modern teenagers may spend their free time in packs of like minded school friends loitering in shopping centers or being car pooled to sporting events. In This is a fascinating book and I think it needs to be a widely read book. If it is it not on high school and uni reading lists it should be. Alfons Heck, the author of this book, was a teenager and member of the Hitler Youth in Germany during World War 2. War changes people and forces to them grow up fast and this is accurate for Alfons. Today, modern teenagers may spend their free time in packs of like minded school friends loitering in shopping centers or being car pooled to sporting events. In 1945, sixteen year old Heck had risen rapidly in the Hitler Youth to the rank of Gefolgschaftsfuhrer - an equal rank to an U.S Army or British Army Captain- and was in in command of nearly 2,800 boys and 80 girls in defensive duty on the Siegfried Line. This was unusual, not however for the reason that springs to mind. It was unusual because sixteen year old Gefolgschaftsfuhrers - which were not uncommon- usually were in command of only a measly unit of 800 boys. This mind boggling rank and command system was present because of two main reasons. Firstly, due to the horrendous loss of life suffered by the German army. The army was running out of men and determined not to surrender they dipped into the youth of Germany recruiting boys as young as twelve years old. The second reason is that the members of the Hitler Youth had been schooled and indoctrinated in the ideologies of Nazism from the age of five and six. This resulted in the Hitler Youth being one of the most fanatic groups in Nazi Germany and they were desperate to fight in the war, even as defeat grew near. Many choose suicide over the thought of living in a world were their leader and hero, Hitler was not in command. Whether or not these child soldiers should be held accountable for their actions is one of the key themes of this book. Currently the age of criminal responsibility ranges in age between 10 to 12 in different western countries. The idea is that a child under 10 does not have the mature capability to commit a serious crime and they cannot be charged with one. The members of the Hitler Youth were older than 10 but was the weight of their tainted education and the national intoxication of Hitler too much for them realise the true consequences of their actions? Did they even know the whole picture? Heck writes about his horror and shock when at the end of the war he was finally convinced that concentration camps had actually existed. In this book Heck writes that he and the boys relished their power and supremacy and they had believed in the master race. However, as he learnt the truth of what had happened during the war he felt deep anger and resentment to his elders who he felt deceived and delivered their children into a lie. If you want to read a book that will make you feel as if you were with the Hitler Youth on their rallies, during training and when they faced active war, this is the book for you. Heck paints a very vivid picture of his experiences and since they are his own experiences the truth of what really happened to thousands of German children and teenagers thuds home.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie Robinson

    This book is a personal account of Alfons Heck, who was a German boy living during World War II. He was inducted into the Hitler Youth, and tells of his experiences as a member of that group. I haven't really read many books like this, personal accounts from Hitler Youth members or children of Nazis. I saw this and had to get it. There are so many accounts from other groups during the war years, and I feel like it is biased to only read those accounts. This war and ideology impacted everyone, fr This book is a personal account of Alfons Heck, who was a German boy living during World War II. He was inducted into the Hitler Youth, and tells of his experiences as a member of that group. I haven't really read many books like this, personal accounts from Hitler Youth members or children of Nazis. I saw this and had to get it. There are so many accounts from other groups during the war years, and I feel like it is biased to only read those accounts. This war and ideology impacted everyone, from all degrees of society. I thought this book was very interesting, and I hope to find some more like it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This book was so insightful. It showed the heart and humanity of a time/people that are demonized and it does so in a way that is in NO way excusing the horrific deeds of that time. It is truly heartbreaking and helped me to see that there were many more victims in that piece of history than I originally knew of, some of which were the brainwashed children who were forced to grow up much too quickly, to fight a war they didn't even understand. It's truly heart wrenching but I definitely think it This book was so insightful. It showed the heart and humanity of a time/people that are demonized and it does so in a way that is in NO way excusing the horrific deeds of that time. It is truly heartbreaking and helped me to see that there were many more victims in that piece of history than I originally knew of, some of which were the brainwashed children who were forced to grow up much too quickly, to fight a war they didn't even understand. It's truly heart wrenching but I definitely think it's a must read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Awallens

    "A CHILD OF HITLER: GERMANY IN THE DAYS WHEN GOD WORE A SWASTIKA" is the no-holds-barred autobiography of a high-ranking leader of the Hitler Youth, who now is an American citizen and a nationally recognized authority on Nazi youth indoctrination. The book is required reading in over 380 universities and schools. this was an amazing book. the author was very honest about his experiences and didn'thold anything back. I thought the book ended abruptly but overall it was an oK book. "A CHILD OF HITLER: GERMANY IN THE DAYS WHEN GOD WORE A SWASTIKA" is the no-holds-barred autobiography of a high-ranking leader of the Hitler Youth, who now is an American citizen and a nationally recognized authority on Nazi youth indoctrination. The book is required reading in over 380 universities and schools. this was an amazing book. the author was very honest about his experiences and didn'thold anything back. I thought the book ended abruptly but overall it was an oK book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tom Schwitzgebel

    Great insight to what it was like being a citizen in Nazi Germany and gives you greater understanding of how and why the Nazi's came to power in the first place. A must read not only for WWII buffs, but also for the general population to learn from this historic episode and realize that it can easily happen again. Great insight to what it was like being a citizen in Nazi Germany and gives you greater understanding of how and why the Nazi's came to power in the first place. A must read not only for WWII buffs, but also for the general population to learn from this historic episode and realize that it can easily happen again.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Diane Depew

    Fascinating read of how the Nazis indoctrinated impressionable children into their ideology and used them, especially towards the end of the war, to in some cases, fight to the last. I do however, disagree with the author, that as a Hitler Youth, he was a victim of Hitler and the Nazis in the same vein as victims of the holocaust.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Erin Miller

    It's an important book about the indoctrination of an entire generation, and I think it speaks volumes about his character that he was able to so honestly reflect on his beliefs in the 1930s and 1940s. Alfons Heck wrote that he wasn't very brave at the time, but it was brave of him to write this book. It's an important book about the indoctrination of an entire generation, and I think it speaks volumes about his character that he was able to so honestly reflect on his beliefs in the 1930s and 1940s. Alfons Heck wrote that he wasn't very brave at the time, but it was brave of him to write this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

    It's interesting how easily people believe what they are told. This book is told from the first-person experience of a young many who was high up in the leadership of the Hitler Youth. Definitely worth reading. We must be aware and ever vigilant that the same thing never happens in America. It's interesting how easily people believe what they are told. This book is told from the first-person experience of a young many who was high up in the leadership of the Hitler Youth. Definitely worth reading. We must be aware and ever vigilant that the same thing never happens in America.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andie Zajaceskowski

    "He alone who owns the youth, owns the future" ~Adolf Hitler What a different point of view about WWII and Hitlers attempt to rule the world. Such young kids promised such big and bright futures all to be basically used as pawns without a sense of reality. The lies, the loss of young lives. "He alone who owns the youth, owns the future" ~Adolf Hitler What a different point of view about WWII and Hitlers attempt to rule the world. Such young kids promised such big and bright futures all to be basically used as pawns without a sense of reality. The lies, the loss of young lives.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Bookman

    This was one of the most powerful and thought-provoking books I have ever read. Seeing war and politics from the eyes of a young person, seeing how despicable acts can become normal when introduced to the young, the level of detail shared, this book has forever changed me and how I see the world.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Tiny bit shocking, but a good learning experience. I would recommend this book to anyone.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dwight

    A fascinating perspective

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rese

    This book was truly fascinating. What went through the minds for the brain-washed youth of WWII Germany.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matty

    Biography of pro-Nazi Hitler Youth.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marco

    ...indoctrination is still happening.

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