Form and Content
Ilse Koehn’s “Mischling,” Second Degree: My Childhood in Nazi Germany views Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, especially during World War II, from a perspective that has been largely overlooked: the viewpoint of a young girl. (In Nazi Germany, a Mischling was a person of mixed heritage; “first degree” meant one-half Jewish, while “second degree” was one-quarter Jewish.) Since the defeat of Hitler’s Germany, the vast majority of memoir literature, including the autobiographies of former Hitler Youth members, has been written by and about males. While the explosion of scholarship about women in the last third of the twentieth century filled in many of the gaps concerning their lives, the experiences of female children in Nazi Germany are still largely unrecorded. Koehn’s autobiography serves as a testament to one girl’s fate during a crucial but terrifying era.
In recounting Koehn’s personal history, other perspectives of life in the Third Reich are illustrated because her story dramatizes the impact of National Socialism on the nuclear and extended family, as well as on relationships among friends and colleagues. “Mischling,” Second Degree also explores the effect of both anti-Semitism and total war on a civilian population, especially the disruption of education, work, and daily life.
Koehn’s memoir is organized chronologically, written in narrative form, and divided into eleven chapters, each...
(The entire section is 491 words.)