On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood

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9780060532178: On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood

On Hitler's Mountain is a powerful, intimate, riveting, and revealing account of a seemingly halcyon life lived mere paces from a center of evil and madness; a remarkable memoir of an "ordinary" childhood spent in an extraordinary time and place.

Born in 1934, Irmgard Hunt grew up in the picturesque Bavarian village of Berchtesgaden, in the shadow of the Eagle's Nest and near Adolf Hitler's luxurious alpine retreat. The very model of blond Aryan "purity," Irmgard sat on the Führer's knee for photographers, witnessed with excitement the comings and goings of all manner of famous personages, and with the blindness of a child accepted the Nazi doctrine that most of her family and everyone around her so eagerly embraced. Here, in a picture-postcard world untouched by the war and seemingly unblemished by the horrors Germany's master had wrought, she accepted the lies of her teachers and church and civic leaders, joined the Hitler Youth at age ten, and joyfully sang the songs extolling the virtues of National Socialism.

But before the end -- when she and other children would be forced to cower in terror in dank bomb shelters and wartime deprivations would take a harrowing toll -- Irmgard's doubts about the "truths" she had been force-fed increased, fueled by the few brave souls who had not accepted Hitler and his abominations. After the fall of the brutal dictatorship and the suicide of its mad architect, many of her neighbors and loved ones still clung to their beliefs, prejudices, denial, and unacknowledged guilt. Irmgard, often feeling lonely in her quest, was determined to face the truth of her country's criminal past and to bear the responsibility for an almost unbearable reality that most of her elders were determined to forget. She resolved even then that the lessons of her youth would guide her actions and steel her commitment to defend the freedoms and democratic values that had been so easily dismissed by the German people.

Provocative and astonishing, Irmgard A. Hunt's On Hitler's Mountain offers a unique, gripping, and vitally important first-person perspective on a tumultuous era in modern history, as viewed through the eyes of a child -- a candid and fascinating document, free of rationalization and whitewash, that chronicles the devastating moral collapse of a civilized nation.

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About the Author:

Irmgard A. Hunt has been an executive at a number of environmental organizations, including the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Partnership for Central Europe, a project of the German Marshall Fund. After years as a consultant to several international not-for-profit organizations, she retired and began to write her memoirs. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University (which she earned at age fifty-two) and an M.P.A. from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She lives in Washington, D.C., and has two children and two grandchildren.

From Publishers Weekly:

Hunt's moving, unsettling memoir is part of a literary and historical trend: examining the lives of ordinary Germans during WWII. She was born in 1934 in an intriguing locale—Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, where Hitler set up his headquarters. In fact, in one of her most compelling stories, Hunt recalls sitting in Hitler's lap during a 1941 visit, "suspiciously studying his mustache, his slicked-back, oily hair... while at the same time acutely seeing the importance of the moment." In remarkable detail, she relates the normal parts of childhood (the birth of a sister, going to a new school) interspersed with the extraordinary events (e.g., Hunt's father was one of the first German soldiers killed during the war) of the time and place. The older members of her family and others in the village had vastly differing reactions to Hitler. The author (who now lives in Washington, D.C.) remembers how some teachers said, "Heil Hitler," while others preferred more traditional greetings. She also shows how Nazism pervaded day-to-day life. Although she portrays herself as uncomfortable with the regime, she pushed to join the Hitler Youth, only to leave it in the final months of the war. Those looking for an explanation of the Hitler phenomenon will be disappointed, but readers who want a richly textured memoir of a German girl during WWII will find it here. B&w photos.
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