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We wanted to be young : Hitler's youth in post-war Berlin / by Kimberly Ann Redding.

Publication | Library Call Number: HQ799.G32 B47 2000

Images of youth and youthfulness constituted a central element of National Socialism, and Hitler's exploitation of attitudes of and about young people has long interested scholars. While this interest has produced a diverse literature exploring youth experience during the Nazi period, there have been surprisingly few attempts to analyze how young Germans coped with the demise and consequences of the Third Reich. My work explores Nazism's immediate and longterm influence on German youth by examining young Berliners' lives during and after World War II. I argue that wartime experiences prepared youths quite effectively—if inadvertently—for life under quadripartite occupation. Although frequently described as disinterested and immoral, these young people seized new opportunities for autonomy and self-definition in the early postwar years. Using archival and oral sources, the dissertation concentrates on experiences and memories of Berliners born between 1926 and 1933. The Introduction discusses methodology and analysis within the context of past approaches to the study of youth. Chapter Two explores cohort members' early memories, asking how Nazism shaped children's lives between 1933 and 1943. Chapter Three focuses on key experiences near the end of World War II that are recalled as crucial turning points in personal narratives and unifying features of cohort identity. Furthering this discussion, Chapter Four explores how the Hunger Years, although defined by hardship, nonetheless constitute a meaningful period of self-determination, while Chapter Five discusses (re)constructions of an aura of normalcy in the early 1950s. The Interludes draw attention to three groups deemed especially problematic by post-war authorities. Finally, Chapter Six offers a broader discussion of the constructed nature of both memory and youth.By exploring Berliners' recollections of youth, my work uncovers personal and collective initiative among a cohort widely considered apathetic, and argues that, despite decades of enforced separation, shared experiences of the 1940s similarly inform the self-perceptions of both East and West Berliners. It integrates oral and archival sources to explore how Nazism, division and reunification have shaped the contemporary identities of a generation of Germans.

Redding, Kimberly Ann.
Record last modified: 2018-04-24 16:01:00
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