Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood
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An affecting, revealing memoir of girlhood in the heart of the Third Reich.

Her parents gave her the definitively Germanic name of Irmgard, and small wonder: they lived in a “mountain paradise,” Berchtesgaden, where Hitler kept his Eagle’s Nest retreat and the Nazi leadership had villas and chalets. In 1934, when the author was born, the Nazis were already in full control of every branch of government there, “and they had begun to infiltrate all aspects of life and to dictate the everyday details of family decisions.” The Nazi leadership hoped to remake society from top to bottom. Its planners and ideologues were hard at work reshaping Santa Claus into “the Christmas man . . . from the frozen Nordic sea,” recruiting youngsters into social and service organizations such as the Hitler Youth, and inserting fascist ideals into every corner of private and public life. Behind closed doors, writes Hunt, her family had a qualified commitment to the cause: “my parents’ Nazism was a mixed bag of enthusiasm and avoidance when possible of the most inconvenient and absurd decrees and customs.” Yet they paid their party dues, submitted Irmgard to be dandled on Hitler’s knee, and made other sacrifices. Her father’s death in France in the early years of WWII was psychically shattering for her, Hunt writes, but she kept up appearances and more, to the point of being willing to denounce a grandfather for anti-statist attitudes. The shadow of Nazism would take time to lessen; when the American army finally arrived in Berchtesgaden, she and a friend danced in joy that the war was over, only to receive complaints from the neighbors for their “unseemly behavior in the hour of Germany’s defeat and shame.”

Valuable firsthand look at daily life under Nazism as lived by “the average, law-abiding, middle-class German who helped sweep Hitler to power and then supported him to the end.”

Pub Date: March 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-053217-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2004