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On Hitler's Mountain
By Irmgard Hunt

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On Hitler's Mountain
My Nazi Childhood

By Irmgard Hunt
Ulverscroft Large Print, 2007
ISBN : 978-1-84617-592-3
Genre: Memoir / History - World War II

Reviewed by Simon Bonim - March 23, 2007

Much has been written about the personal experiences of Jews, soldiers, and resistance fighters during World War II, but what was life like for non-Jewish German children during the war? In On Hitler's Mountain: My Nazi Childhood Irmgard Hunt paints a vivid portrait of what her life was like during this period, what she understood about the war and the Nazi's quest to exterminate the Jews, and what her feelings about the war are today.

On Hitler's Mountain is unique in several regards. Hunt lived in Berchtesgarden, a Nazi stronghold and the location of the Eagle's Nest, Adolph Hitler's favorite retreat. In 1937, at the age of three she was photographed sitting on Hitler's knee, and she was fully indoctrinated with the Nazi credo. Immersed in this pro-Nazi environment, Hunt grew to accept their hate-mongering rhetoric as normal.

Within the pages of this troubling book, Hunt examines how quickly, and how throughly, those around her became indoctrinated with Nazism, how readily they accepted it, and how throughly it pervaded everyday life. This is not, technically, a book about Nazism. Rather, this is a memoir, a story, about one girl's childhood and about her family. Hunt paints a portrait of her grandparents and parents life, how they reacted to the growth of Nazism, about the birth of her sister, and later, of her father being called up for military service. Hunt also talks about those items that were normal for a German child of the time - joining the Hitler Youth, doing war service, going to school (and hating it), the games she played, the difficulties she and her family faced as the war progressed, and the fears that they lived with.

In the realm of World War II memoirs, I found On Hitler's Mountain to be both interesting and troubling. The details about her Nazi childhood gave an interesting peek into what life was like on 'the other side' and how Nazism affected everyday life for Germans outside of the big cities. What I found troubling about this book was how easily those around her accepted Nazi domination, even when they did not agree with Nazi doctrine. When the war ended, and the area came under American control, Hunt shows just how the locals just as quickly changed their tune and became life long anti-Nazis and very pro-American!

Hunt was eleven when the war ended, so much of what she wrote about in this book was garnered from conversations with family members, bolstered by her own memories. It is easy to imagine that, mellowed with time, these reminiscences came to take on more of an apologetic air for the crimes of the Nazis than they might have had at the end of the war. Why did those around her accept Nazi doctrine so easily? Did they truly believe in it, was it a fear of what would happen if they didn't? Or perhaps they just went along with it all out of Prussian stoicism and the German need for Ordung (order). Or, more likely, it was a combination of factors. Whatever the cause, On Hitler's Mountain provides a glimpse at how people reacted in one area of Germany, seen through the eyes of a young girl who grew up in the shadow of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

On Hitler's Mountain can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft.

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