Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
This reading guide is intended for adult discussion groups. For
younger readers, visit
Irmgard Hunt's website for a teacher's guide, suggested classroom
activities, and a list of additional resources.
Born in 1934, Irmgard Hunt grew up in the Bavarian village of
Berchtesgarden, in the shadow of Hitler's infamous "The Eagle's Nest."
In this fascinating memoir, she offers an intimate glimpse into German life in
the Third Reich, recalling an "ordinary" childhood in an extraordinary
time and place.
Can you pinpoint the moment in your own life when you discovered the
meaning of loss? What was that moment for Irmgard? Think of the children in your
own life: do you believe that a child can ever truly understand death's logic?
How do you think Irmgard's experience of the loss of her father changed
when, many years after his death, she realized that not only was he stolen from
her by war, but also by flawed ideology?
As a reader, did you find yourself sympathizing with Irmgard, or were
you hesitant to feel sorry for a victim of the Nazis who did not suffer the
Konzentrationslager? Before reading On Hitler's Mountain had you thought of the
psychological burden borne by German children of the Third Reich? How do you
think their suffering differed from the guilt of their parents' generation?
Think back to your childhood. What were the major world events that
influenced your own world view? Did you have a teacher or an adult in your life
who shaped your opinion of the people of another nation, ethnicity, or racial
group? Was there a moment when you realized that your own thoughts and ideas
might have been manipulated by another's prejudices or by the political culture
of the times?
How do you think Irmgard's brutal and early experience with the
unfathomable forces of chance, time, history and circumstance set a course for
her life? Do you believe that she would have grown to be a different person if
she had been born ten years earlier or ten years later?
It has been said that "a man's character is his fate." Do you
believe that character is immutable, or can it be influenced by the times in
which we live? How is the destiny of the led bound to the leader?
Discuss whether you feel that ordinary citizens, both men and women, are
an integral part of the political decisions and events of which they can become
either beneficiaries or victims. What, if anything, could an average German who
disagreed with the Nazis or became disenchanted with them have done about Hitler
once he was in power? How much influence do you think your own personal politics
has on the public and foreign policy decisions of your own national government?
This leads to a question many people have asked. Could a Hitler happen
here? If you think so what would be the circumstances? Are there aspects of life
in the United States that would prevent a Hitler from occurring here?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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