written by Charis Gambon
I thoroughly enjoyed reading boy soldiers and suggest that anybody who is interested in WW2 and history reads this outstanding book. The subject of Nazi boy soldiers is one that I and many others know very little about as it is not discussed in the history books. This book therefore is able to shed light on a subject that is unknown about. I would suggest that Boy Soldiers is possibly the leading book on the subject. Helene Munson definitely has a unique and outstanding book.
The topic is one that is very personal to Munson as she used her fathers war diary to create the book as he was a Nazi boy solider during the last year of the war. Due to this there is an emotional and heartfelt connection that can be felt while reading the book. I personally found it added to the book that Munson choose to follow the journey her father took throughout the war and end up in Zawada, where her father fought his last battle. She commented that it allowed her to gain an insight into how difficult the journey would have been and allowed her to pay homage to her father and his friends. Zawada is somewhere that Hans, her father, had always wanted to revisit in peace times but unfortunately, he never managed to. Munson went to the village to complete the journey for him, which is a touching sentiment.
The story of Hans follows him from age 9 when he was ‘identified as gifted’ and sent to a Feldafing School to after the war. The book focusses on Hans due to Munson having access to her fathers’ documents and diaries as she was given them to look after by her father before his passing. However, despite this individual focus it is still really a story of every child who went through the same as Hans, insight can be provided into hundreds and thousands of Nazi child soldiers lives.
Hans did not begin to be open to Munson learning about his experiences until he was elderly. As just as others who had the same experience the system in their time meant that they needed to remain silent about their participation in the war. Only in old age, in a more open and forgiving society did they feel that they could talk about what they had been through.
The systems that were supposed to protect the young boys had failed them. The education system was so inhumane that post war Germany had worked hard to keep it as a secret until more recently. The education system at the Fielding school focussed on preparing the boys to fight, giving them dummy grenades to throw instead of javelin’s or discuss. The system after the war did little to save these poor boys who had been through so much their education was invalidated and they were banned from university for six years.
I enjoy History books very much and this book is definitely one that will stay with me as it is so harrowing and provides insight into a historical catastrophe in which children were the victims. Boys were sent to man the FLAK units and then sent to war at the age of 14. Older boys were in charge of the younger boys, adults were not present as they believed in youth training and teaching youth.
The pictures of Hans and others in their school uniforms wearing the Nazi armband as children really help to visually demonstrate that these things really did happen. Visually learning is the most powerful way of processing information. The pictures really demonstrate the shocking truth.
Helene Munson is a talented writer, and it is outstanding that she was able to write such an emotional book about a topic that is very personal. The book Boy soldiers is immensely important.
Boy Soldiers: A Personal Story of Nazi Elite Schooling and Its Legacy of Trauma is available to purchase from all major book retailers.