Hitler’s Boy Soldiers

How My Father’s Generation Was Trained to Kill and Sent to Die for Germany

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.

Buy this Book on

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

1
To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add kindle@netgalley.com as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
2
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 24 May 2022 | Archive Date 07 Jun 2022

Talking about this book? Use #HitlersBoySoldiers #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


Description

This file is NOT currently available for Kindle. We apologize for any inconvenience. If you have difficulties with downloading, please email us (at publicity@theexperimentpublishing.com) for assistance or leave a note in lieu of a review rating.

The true, untold story of how Germany’s children fought in WWII, through the lens of the author’s father and his rediscovered journal

When Helene Munson finally reads her father, Hans Dunker’s, wartime journal, she discovers secrets he kept buried for seven decades. This is no ordinary historical document but a personal account of devastating trauma.

During World War II, the Nazis trained some three hundred thousand German children to fight—and die—for Hitler. Hans was just one of those boy soldiers. Sent to an elite school for the gifted at nine years old, he found himself in the grip of a system that substituted dummy grenades for Frisbees. By age seventeen, Hans had shot down Allied pilots with antiaircraft artillery. In the desperate, final stage of Hitler’s war, he was sent on a suicide mission to Závada on the Sudetenland front, where he witnessed the death of his schoolmates—and where Helene begins to retrace her father’s footsteps after his death.

As Helene translates Hans’s journal and walks his path of suffering and redemption, she uncovers the lost history of an entire generation brainwashed by the Third Reich’s school system and funneled into the Hitler Youth.

A startling new account of this dark era, Hitler’s Boy Soldiers grapples with inherited trauma, the burden of guilt, and the blurred line between “perpetrator” and “victim.” It is also a poignant tale of forgiveness, as Helene comes to see her late father as not just a soldier but as one child in a sea of three hundred thousand forced onto the wrong side of history—and left to answer for it.

This file is NOT currently available for Kindle. We apologize for any inconvenience. If you have difficulties with downloading, please email us (at publicity@theexperimentpublishing.com) for...


Advance Praise

“This extraordinary book tells the previously untold story of what happened to Germany’s children during the Third Reich and WWII as seen from the unique perspective of a German family and through their collected documents.”—Roger Rosenblatt, author of Children of War, essayist for PBS Newshour and Time Magazine

“An exceptionally well-written and moving book. We all might pause to say a prayer for the ‘six Feldafing boys’ and the millions of other young men and women whose lives have been brutally taken in the horror of war.”—Dr. William M. Fowler, professor of history, Northeastern University, and author

“This extraordinary book tells the previously untold story of what happened to Germany’s children during the Third Reich and WWII as seen from the unique perspective of a German family and through...


Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781615198597
PRICE $27.95 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Download (PDF)

Average rating from 8 members


Featured Reviews

There are many books dealing with the youth that grew up under heavy indoctrination in Nazi Germany, but the this is the first book in English I find from the perspective of a "Kriegsenkel," one of the "grandchildren of war" that live haunted by the legacy of the childhood trauma suffered by their "Kriegskinder" ("children of war") parents, and comes to fill a gap in WWII history that's not that well-studied in the Anglophone sphere, although there are already some books of this kind in German.

Hitler's child soldiers were boys (and many girls) that were forced to fight in the war either as Flak (anti-aircraft) helpers or as regular soldiers in SS and Wehrmacht units when aged ranging from 12 to 17, hardly old enough to finish school but cynically used by the Nazi hierarchy as cannon fodder. Because you can't call these children anything but that in view of how callously they were groomed to defend the Nazi ideology & regime in the Hitler Youth groups and elite schools, where they often were subjected to insidious brainwashing without the knowledge or consent of their parents. The author's father, Hans, is used as the poster child of this indoctrination process, describing through his diary entries, pictures, eyewitness accounts of other child soldiers that crossed his path, and primary and secondary sources the author consulted, thoroughly chronicling his life story from a sweet child growing up in South America to his being dropped off in Germany by his trusting parents to get an education that would turn him into a soldier.

The process is subtler than you'd think. To us, with our knowledge and hindsight, it looks so obvious what the Nazis were doing. Their techniques and methods look so easy to spot and refute. But that's the distance of time and history. Back then, for the generation born in the pre-war years, it wasn't that obvious. These children didn't know any better. Two passages in particular struck me because they underline how innocent those kids were: Helene Munson says that when he arrived in Germany at age 9, her father didn't know people used to greet each other with "Good morning" before because all he heard was the "Heil Hilter!" salute; and the testimony of former very young Hitler Youth members that they didn't know what the songs they sang so merrily meant. How is that even possible? Because the Nazis had aptitude for control of the masses, and quickly saw that the way was progressive: start with the songs with more innocent lyrics first, then increase the belligerence, ultra-nationalism, racial hate, etc., progressively as the child ages.

The poor children were ripe for the plucking, and plucked they were, by the thousands and thousands. By the end, Germany had the unenviable record of having mobilised the largest-ever number of child soldiers: 200,000 to 300,000 young boys and girls. It's a shocking amount; no army ever since has mobilised that many children to fight and die senselessly in war.

Such tragic experience that early in life comes at a price: trauma. Helene Munson tells about the trauma her father carried on his shoulders for the rest of his life, trauma that affected her and her siblings. She describes in detail how, and in what ways, her father's untreated PTSD as well as her mother's horrible experiences in the war permeated everything in her life. I appreciate her willingness to ask the tough questions, and to admit to discomfort with certain realities of life at the time, her willingness to look inward, and the ability to call out those who aided and abetted the sweeping under the rug of this topic of child war victims of Nazism, those that preferred silence to providing an outlet, to the cover-up of the lasting trauma of the children that underwent Napola, Adolf Hitler schools, Feldafing elite boarding school, Hitler Youth, BDM, etc., in preparation to take over as soldiers for a brutal regime. At one point, Munson says that, although Germany has been willing to face the atrocities it committed during the war, it's been very unwilling to address the fact that it misused and warped the mind of its own children for nefarious ends. This book, hopefully, will help bring it to the public square for discussion and debate.

Was this review helpful?

Helene Munson's Hitler's Boy Soldiers is a deeply moving story of a little studied portion of World War II. Cobbling together the life of her father as a child in the German army, Munson takes the reader through his journey while doing some soul searching herself. The result is a book that, while very small in scope, tackles some much bigger questions about responsibility, generational guilt, and mental health.

Munson's book is on the shorter side and does not give an in depth look at the greater events of World War II. However, it does not suffer for it as the story she tells is focused more on family and understanding than anything else.

(This book was provided by Netgalley and The Experiment. The full review will be posted 26 April 2022 on HistoryNerdsUnited.com.)

Was this review helpful?

I swore I’d never read another book about Nazis. I never would give them any additional reading time. Yet when I saw this book, I requested an ARC, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because it was dealing with children who were sent off to fight in a lost war. How pathetic is that? Some were as young as 15. The author’s father was 17 and had been in a Hitler school since he was 10. Germany had all sorts of Hitler schools indoctrinating children in Nazism and Hitler worship. Some children never knew a life before Hitler.

Much of the book has excerpts from the journal the author’s father kept as a boy, which included the time period when he was sent to the front to fight in the spring of 1945. Any reader looking for lots of military information may be disappointed. There is no shortage of those sort of details, but her father, Hans Dunker, was an introspective teenager who also often wrote about nature. Nature was the only thing that still had any real beauty during the war. Everything else was ugly or quickly turning ugly, except for friendship with the other boys Herr Dunker went to school with at Reichsschule der NSDAP Feldafing (RSF).

Like many who fought in WWII, Helene Munson’s father only talked of those days in a very limited way. After he died, she regretted not trying to get him to talk more. That was one reason for this book-–trying to tell the story of the indoctrinated German children and how that indoctrination affected their whole lives. Of course, the author has many concerns about guilt. Not only her father’s guilt, but the guilt she considered the children of Nazis possibly had, due to their parents’ lives. Guilt by association. Guilt by blood.

In addition, like her father, she felt trying to describe his suffering was possibly going to be seen as minimizing the suffering of Holocaust victims, and all the others the Nazis harmed. It’s a real concern, too. While reading the story, it was hard not to think whatever bad things happened to the Germans during and after the war was deserved. They brought it all on themselves with their arrogance and cruelty. I admit that thought occurred to me more than once . . . and I felt guilty thinking like that at times, too.

The indoctrinated boy soldiers living at a Nazi school and sent off to the front actually believed their cause was good, their fighting was just. It’s not really fair to think they should have thought otherwise. Yet it was impossible for me to feel full compassion, to fully recognize their suffering. The Nazis did so much harm to people and property. The Germans chose an insane, cruel leader, believed his insanity and carried out his cruelty. They believed they truly were a superior race. Not all Germans, of course, but I still can’t feel the compassion for the author’s father that I think I should feel. I simply cannot do so, even after reading this well-written, empathetic book. I simply cannot do so.

Was this review helpful?

Hitler’s Boy Soldiers is a hunting memoir of Hans Dunker’s experience of being a Nazi soldier during his teen years. After Han’s death, his daughter, Helene, discovers his wartime journal. The journal contains painful, horrible truths about how boys were brainwashed while attending Third Reich schools.. The parents are told that the school is for gifted boys and that it is a wonderful opportunity for their sons. While attending the school, the boys are trained to be soldiers. By the time the war was over, Hans had shot down allied soldiers and was sent on a suicide mission. He was only seventeen years old.
Helene Munson does an excellent job of combining the information contained in her father’s journal along with what she also discovers while retracing his footsteps. This haunting memoir is an excellent account of what happened to all of those boys who became a part of the Hitler’s Boy Soldiers.

Was this review helpful?

Hitler's Boy Soldiers
by Helene Munson
Pub Date: May 24, 2022
Experiment
Thanks to Helene Munson, Experiment, and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.
The true, untold story of how Germany’s children fought in WWII, through the lens of the author’s father and his rediscovered journal

When Helene Munson finally reads her father, Hans Dunker’s, wartime journal, she discovers secrets he kept buried for seven decades. This is no ordinary historical document but a personal account of devastating trauma.

During World War II, the Nazis trained some three hundred thousand German children to fight—and die—for Hitler. Hans was just one of those boy soldiers. Sent to an elite school for the gifted at nine years old, he found himself in the grip of a system that substituted dummy grenades for Frisbees. By age seventeen, Hans had shot down Allied pilots with antiaircraft artillery. In the desperate, final stage of Hitler’s war, he was sent on a suicide mission to Závada on the Sudetenland front, where he witnessed the death of his schoolmates—and where Helene begins to retrace her father’s footsteps after his death.
I am recommending this incredible book! 5 stars

Was this review helpful?

Unimaginable


What a superbly written title in Hitler’s Boy Soldiers: How My Father’s Generation Was Trained to Kill and Sent to Die for Germany by Helene Munson. I just became fan of this author! Whatever this author writes, I read. I haven't read work from this author before, and I more than enjoyed this story. It probably sounds strange that I enjoyed this story of the life that Munson's father, amid the destruction of the boy soldiers, that he was, but it was eye-opening, and I couldn't put it down. I am fan of WWII history, and love to the memoirs of those who were there, and how they survived. Sometimes they didn't survive, but someone did to tell their story. Munson read her father's journa, and discovered some terribly, unimaginable treatments of her father. Once a boy soldier for Nazi Germany. Once of the things that caught my eye when reading this was how the young generation was permanently scarred by brainwashing. It's a very saddening, emotional, and even at times, you have to put it down to take a break, true story. Munson now has a different perspective of her late father, and she was heartened enough to translate his journal and share it with all those who read it. I recommend that everyone reads this title. Hitler’s Boy Soldiers is a definite recommendation by Amy's Bookshelf Reviews. I look forward to reading more titles by this author. I read this book to give my unbiased and honest review.

Was this review helpful?

A real look at the history of one persons involvement in the Hitler Youth Movement and military events. I found this book to be very interesting in that it tells the story of a generation that were born in a place that seems alien to ¨us now . After reading this I was wondering how the Parties in the Ukraine can be doing such things as the hated Nazis did 70 years ago. Will we ever learn? Still this is an interesting and honest look at political manipulation and what it means for us all.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: