From School to War: Growing Up in Hitler’s Germany

Truman State University Press
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As a child in 1930s Germany, Wolf Dettbarn was playful and curious, plopping old ladies’ hats into a bathtub to see if they would float and watching tadpoles hatch on the banks of the Werra River. At odds with his military family, Wolf dreamed of becoming a doctor, but the rising power of the Nazi Party changed the course of his adolescent life. At thirteen he was sent to the Adolf Hitler Schule in Bavaria and at seventeen he was conscripted into active duty, and all the while he struggled to hide his dislike for the school and the military, and his growing disillusion with the Nazi regime.  When the war finally ended, Wolf set aside his military past and worked to rebuild his life and realize his childhood dreams.

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Wolf, a natural storyteller, describes his transition from schoolboy to soldier to doctor with unaffected candor and insight, painting a picture of the fear, propaganda, and silence that surrounded him as Germany fell to pieces. Wolf’s reflection on his young adulthood is a story of devastation and resilience, proof that humanity can grow in the worst of conditions.

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About the author

 Wolf Dettbarn was born in Berlin in 1928 and grew up in a family with a long history of military service. When he was ten years old, he was a member of the Jungvolk and witnessed Kristallnacht in Eschwege. At thirteen, he joined Hitler Jugend and was enrolled in the elite Adolf Hitler Schule in Sonthofen, Bavaria. He was in Kassel in 1944 when the city was being bombed by Allied forces, and in October 1944 was conscripted into the Volkssturm. He was captured by American troops in April 1945 and spent several months in a POW camp before returning home to resume his studies in preparation for medical school.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Truman State University Press
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Published on
Sep 8, 2017
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Pages
216
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ISBN
9781612482019
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
History / Europe / Germany
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Devil in the White City, delivers a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
    A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
    Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
Christopher R. Browning’s shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews—now with a new afterword and additional photographs.

Ordinary Men is the true story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as round-ups of Jewish people for deportation to Nazi death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning argues that most of the men of RPB 101 were not fanatical Nazis but, rather, ordinary middle-aged, working-class men who committed these atrocities out of a mixture of motives, including the group dynamics of conformity, deference to authority, role adaptation, and the altering of  moral norms to justify their actions. Very quickly three groups emerged within the battalion: a core of eager killers, a plurality who carried out their duties reliably but without initiative, and a small minority who evaded participation in the acts of killing without diminishing the murderous efficiency of the battalion whatsoever.

While this book discusses a specific Reserve Unit during WWII, the general argument Browning makes is that most people succumb to the pressures of a group setting and commit actions they would never do of their own volition.  

Ordinary Men is a powerful, chilling, and important work with themes and arguments that continue to resonate today.

“A remarkable—and singularly chilling—glimpse of human behavior...This meticulously researched book...represents a major contribution to the literature of the Holocaust."—Newsweek

 


 

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