As I was preparing my Summer Reading Challenge list, one of the books that I had seen listed on another blog was On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard Hunt. I found myself intrigued by the title, and added it to my list, and this past weekend, I had the opportunity to finish it.
According to Goodreads, “Growing up in the beautiful mountains of Berchtesgaden — just steps from Adolf Hitler’s alpine retreat — Irmgard Hunt had a seemingly happy, simple childhood. In her powerful, illuminating, and sometimes frightening memoir, Hunt recounts a youth lived under an evil but persuasive leader. As she grew older, the harsh reality of war — and a few brave adults who opposed the Nazi regime — aroused in her skepticism of National Socialist ideology and the Nazi propaganda she was taught to believe in.
In May 1945, an eleven-year-old Hunt watched American troops occupy Hitler’s mountain retreat, signaling the end of the Nazi dictatorship and World War II. As the Nazi crimes began to be accounted for, many Germans tried to deny the truth of what had occurred; Hunt, in contrast, was determined to know and face the facts of her country’s criminal past.”
Hunt’s memoir goes beyond simply a recollection of the events of her childhood, it also attempts to analyze and reconcile them, as well as distance the person she is from the atrocities of war. Raised in a home where both parents had seen and experienced in the devastation of World War I, her parents eagerly embraced the ideology of Hitler. Hunt joined the Bund Deutscher Mädel (The League of German Girls) and supported the war effort. She and her family went hungry, were forced to loot and scrounge for food, and feared the oppression of the U.S. Troops as they rolled in.
As the atrocities of war came out, Hunt found herself uncomfortable with the acts that had been committed, and was appalled by the acceptance of some and denial by others.
This theme- her reactions to the horrors of World War II committed by Germany, carries through to the end of the book. She is clear that while she was raised in Nazi Germany, she does not support the atrocities committed, nor the ideologies behind them.
Its the first time I’ve ever read a memoir of World War II from the perspective of a German who was not persecuted by the Nazi Regime, and it was certainly an interesting change of perspective. I think what struck me, particularly at the end, was how hard Hunt was working to convince her readers that she was not a Nazi for having grown up in Germany during the war. Her memoir is powerful, but instead of allowing her memories to speak for themselves, she felt the need to defend them. To some extent I understand, but it also seemed to take away from all that she said, which is why I give the book three stars.