Everyday Inspirations

 
 

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Over the past week and a half, I have been devouring two books focused on one major historical subject: growing up in Hitler's Germany. I've always loved learning about World War II, and stumbling on real-life accounts of those who grew up during this turbulent time has truly opened my eyes to the realities of living in a world ruled by Nazis.

The first book was discovered by accident as I wandered around Barnes and Noble one night. I passed by a big table of books and a title jumped out at me: On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A. Hunt. I made a note to check the book out of the local library.

Hunt's memoir is a beautiful story of growing up in Berchtesgaden, Germany, a lovely mountain village down the road from where Hitler established his mountain retreat and Eagle's Nest. Never a place I was ultra interested in visiting, Hunt's description of the picturesque mountain town made me thirsty to visit southern Germany. (I am a mountain girl at heart, you know.)

What I love about this book is Hunt's dedication to helping readers see how intelligent, hardworking people like her parents elected a man like Hilter (a fascinating subject, if you ask me) and how that changed her family forever. Hunt was lucky, a "pure" German who was safe from the Nazis and watched the actions of the Third Reich in a way others couldn't (she even sat on Hilter's lap for a publicity photo). As she grew up, she began to see that something about her world was not right. Along with millions of other Germans, Hunt has spent the rest of her life trying to make sense of the pain her country inflicted on the world. She notes that the suffering her family felt during the war (she lost her father, went hungry, lived in fear) almost felt voided when she realized the actions her government took and the lives they needlessly ended.
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On the back of Hunt's book was a quote by Peter Gay, who wrote My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin (which I picked up immediately after finishing the first). Gay also tells a story about growing up in Germany during the 1930s -- only his tale reflects what it was like to live as a Jew during that time. (Note: I haven't yet finished this book, but I'm reaaally close.) 

Gay directly speaks to those who, for years, have asked him why his family stayed in Berlin after the Nazis took power instead of immediately fleeing. He patiently explains what it was really like to be a German Jew in the years before WWII, and how his life was slowly turned upside-down. Almost poetically, he beautifully and bitterly analyzes the events that led to his family's eventual escape.

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