This is a very moving memoir written in the 1970's by Marie Anne Hirschmann (nicknamed Hansi at one point in the story) who was a 14 year-old from theThis is a very moving memoir written in the 1970's by Marie Anne Hirschmann (nicknamed Hansi at one point in the story) who was a 14 year-old from the Sudentenland when she won a scholarship to a Hitler Youth school in Prague. It is chilling to read of her growing devotion to the Fuhrer, as she and the other students listen in rapt attention to his radio broadcasts:
At that time I heard one of Hitler's many speeches over the radio. We listened to all of them, but that address was something special, given at one of the annual sport festivals for the Hitler youth. How that deep voice could send chills down my back!
'Hitler Youth, you are my youth," he said affectionately at the end. 'I believe in you and I claim you, for you are the Germany of tomorrow, MY Germany of tomorrow.'
Thousands of voices drowned out the rest of his words. Young voices responded the way we all felt. 'Heil! Heil! Seig Heil! Sieg Heil! Heil Hitler!' We could imagine the sea of outstretched arms, the eager faces, the exultant shouts. Tears ran down my cheeks and as we heard the national anthem over the radio we all stood with outstretched arms to join in, but I was too choked up to sing.
Yes, we all belonged to Hitler, even little me. For the first time in my life I felt someone claimed me as his own -- and I WANTED to belong to him. . . And if I had to make the supreme sacrifice someday and lay my life down for him, I would be willing to do so. Hitler's war raged and his youth stood ready to die! Fuhrer, command; we obey. Heil Hitler!
Marie Anne had nominally embraced Christianity out of love for her devout step-mother, only to be gradually convinced otherwise when confronted with Nazi propoganda: "Jesus of Nazareth had been a Jew, and the Jewish people were condemned. Now, why would the Son of the eternal God have to be a Jew if those people were so bad? Didn't it show poor judgment on God's part?"
The book goes into great detail regarding her narrow escape from the nightmarish Soviet "laborer's paradise" into Germany's American zone where she has her first encounter with U.S. soldiers, who, she is surprised to find, aren't urban, gun-totting gangsters who chew gum constanly. Well, they ARE gum-chewers, but that's the only thing Goebbels got right. The friendly kindness with which they treat Maria Anne, her friend, and the little girl whose mother was caught by Soviets as they tried to rush the border will make U.S. readers want to give a cheer (or shed a tear) for the "greatest generation."
But I digress. The second half of the book involves Marie Anne's two odysseys: a spiritual one as she inches her way back to Christianity and a cultural one as she gradually becomes acclimated to her adopted homeland, America.
The writing is a little choppy (not surprising since English was her second language) but her incredible recall of detail -- not only the monumental events that she was part of but also her personal reactions to each of these events -- makes this a very gripping read....more
This book is in my top-five favorites list. When I was in high school one of the better teachers there taught a class on this book and I'll never forgThis book is in my top-five favorites list. When I was in high school one of the better teachers there taught a class on this book and I'll never forget his pointing out the very prescient early line: "the courthouse sagged in the square."
The book is incredible on so many levels and the Gregory Peck film captures some of them, especially the character of Atticus Finch (who was based on Lee's own father and who Peck actually spent some time with in order to gain some knowledge -- and mannerisms -- of the original character).
But the end, where Scout is standing on Boo Radley's porch and is thinking about seeing the world from another person's perspective is totally excised from the film. Which is why no film can satisfactorily substitute for a classic book.
My husband and I listened to a tape series of this; one woman was reading the entire book and had different accents for each character -- it was absolutely amazing. She was just as good as the guy who reads the Tolkien trilogy for Books on Tape.:)...more