September 13, 2017 by readingoutside
On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood provides a rare behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to grow up in an ordinary German family during the Nazi years. Irmgard Hunt’s parents lived through WWI, and Irmgard came to see how the bitterness caused by deprivation, shame, and loss allowed her parents and others of their generation to sweep a man like Hitler to power.
What makes Irmgard’s story unique is that she lived in Berchtesgaden, the part of the Bavarian Alps where the Nazis were headquartered. She remembers at the age of six sitting on Hitler’s knee when he came to visit the adoring crowds. But even though she was safe from the worst of the Nazi atrocities, her childhood in the war was full of hardship and loss. Her father died at the front, she and her siblings went without many of the basic necessities, and she was constantly reminded of how poor she was compared to the Nazi officer’s children she went to school with. She constantly fought with her mother, whom she disagreed with on many issues.
As the war dragged on and Irmgard entered adolescence, she began to blame her parents for starting the whole mess and felt the fighting was increasingly pointless. When the Nazis were finally defeated, the author shows things from the losing side, and how difficult it was for her friends and family to find work and food, added to the constant fear of what the occupying enemy would do next. Sh and others of her generation never got over the guilt when they learned what the Nazis had done.
Although this book was published a decade ago, given the current political climate in the U.S. it is a chilling reminder of what can happen when people feel disenfranchised. A Q & A with the author at the back of the book is an even further reminder, as she outlines what it would take for a Hitler to rise to power in the U.S., and you realize that many of those conditions have been met in 2017. There is a particular passage at the beginning of the book, when she describes Hitler’s ascendancy, that you could actually substitute his name for a certain American president, and it would be entirely accurate. If only more Americans studied history.