Historical Figures

Susan Campbell Bartoletti tells the story of the children who grew up in Hitler’s shadow. Several youths’ experiences are discussed to highlight what it meant to be a young person in Nazi Germany. Hitler Youth is organized chronologically rather than by the youths’ stories. These children’s experiences are weaved into the historical narrative of the text.

Herbert Norkus

Herbert Norkus is the first youth introduced in Hitler Youth. He was born to a poor family and joined the organization in 1931. At that time, the Hitler Youth would campaign for the election of Nazi candidates. However, it was a difficult time to walk the streets, and rival gangs would fight each other. Norkus was stabbed six times by a Communist gang in 1932. He was made a martyr for the Nazi cause. Bartoletti points out that nearly as many Communist children had died as Hitler Youth had.

Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl’s experiences come up often in Hitler Youth. Scholl was an unusual girl within Nazi Germany because she dared to defy expectations of behavior and thought. When good German girls were expected to wear their hair in braids, Scholl wore her hair short. Where most girls were too afraid to discuss Heinrich Heine’s poetry, Scholl maintained that he was an integral writer in German literature. Scholl did not accept the ideals of sacrifice and Nazism that so many of her peers did. She was not pleased to be assigned to labor forces that kept her from pursuing her academic dreams.

Scholl believed in civil liberties and individuality, and she felt that the Nazis had destroyed both. When she discovered that her brother, Hans, had begun to print pamphlets that were critical of the Nazis, she demanded that he let her help. Hans had been a member of the Hitler Youth but had come to disagree with its demands to conform. Ultimately, Sophie and Han were executed for spreading their dissenting opinions.

Alfons Heck

Heck’s recollections stand in contrast to Scholl’s actions. Heck was a prominent leader within the Hitler Youth and led 800 of his peers in battle against the advancing Allied forces. At this time, Heck was only 16. At...

(The entire section is 915 words.)