Summary and book reviews of On Hitler's Mountain by Irmgard Hunt

On Hitler's Mountain

Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood

By Irmgard Hunt

On Hitler's Mountain
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2005,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2006,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

On Hitler's Mountain is a powerful, intimate, riveting, and revealing account of a seemingly halcyon life lived mere paces from a center of evil and madness; a remarkable memoir of an "ordinary" childhood spent in an extraordinary time and place.

Born in 1934, Irmgard Hunt grew up in the picturesque Bavarian village of Berchtesgaden, in the shadow of the Eagle's Nest and near Adolf Hitler's luxurious alpine retreat. The very model of blond Aryan "purity," Irmgard sat on the Führer's knee for photographers, witnessed with excitement the comings and goings of all manner of famous personages, and with the blindness of a child accepted the Nazi doctrine that most of her family and everyone around her so eagerly embraced. Here, in a picture-postcard world untouched by the war and seemingly unblemished by the horrors Germany's master had wrought, she accepted the lies of her teachers and church and civic leaders, joined the Hitler Youth at age ten, and joyfully sang the songs extolling the virtues of National Socialism.

But before the end -- when she and other children would be forced to cower in terror in dank bomb shelters and wartime deprivations would take a harrowing toll -- Irmgard's doubts about the "truths" she had been force-fed increased, fueled by the few brave souls who had not accepted Hitler and his abominations. After the fall of the brutal dictatorship and the suicide of its mad architect, many of her neighbors and loved ones still clung to their beliefs, prejudices, denial, and unacknowledged guilt. Irmgard, often feeling lonely in her quest, was determined to face the truth of her country's criminal past and to bear the responsibility for an almost unbearable reality that most of her elders were determined to forget. She resolved even then that the lessons of her youth would guide her actions and steel her commitment to defend the freedoms and democratic values that had been so easily dismissed by the German people.

Provocative and astonishing, Irmgard A. Hunt's On Hitler's Mountain offers a unique, gripping, and vitally important first-person perspective on a tumultuous era in modern history, as viewed through the eyes of a child -- a candid and fascinating document, free of rationalization and whitewash, that chronicles the devastating moral collapse of a civilized nation.

Preface: On Writing A Childhood Memoir

A sense of great urgency, after years of postponement, propelled me to write this memoir. With the passing of my parents' generation many facts of everyday life under the Nazis and the German people's feelings about the Nazi experience are already lost forever. Firsthand accounts by the average, law-abiding, middle-class German who helped sweep Hitler to power and then supported him to the end are becoming a rarity. yet the seemingly petty details of these people's lives are actually often symbolic and always telling. They illuminate the societal transitions from pre-Nazi, to Nazi, to post-Nazi, and from a post-World War I to a post-World War II mind-set. In the continuing struggle to understand the past -- both personally and as a lesson from history -- these details are too important not to be recorded and thus preserved.

Of course historians have written countless volumes documenting and analyzing Hitler and the ...

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.


Introduction

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.



Discussion Questions

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 ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

An exceptionally readable and interesting book. By focusing on the microcosm of her own family and their neighbors, Irmgard's memoir shows how it was possible for a nation to fall willingly under Hitler's power - one family at a time.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (479 words).

Media Reviews
Library Journal - Dale Farris

This vital memoir reveals a child's-eye view of the brutal impact of Nazism and the ravages of World War II on nonmilitary Germans. Hunt's is a precautionary reminder of what can happen when an ordinary society chooses a cult of personality over rational thought.

Publishers Weekly

Those looking for an explanation of the Hitler phenomenon will be disappointed, but readers who want a richly textured memoir of a German girl during WWII will find it here.

Kirkus Reviews

Valuable firsthand look at daily life under Nazism as lived by "the average, law-abiding, middle-class German who helped sweep Hitler to power and then supported him to the end.

Booklist - Jay Freeman

Hunt's later recollections of life under occupation and her personal struggles to cope with the legacy of her parents' generation make this a poignant, valuable account.

Author Blurb Hunt's later recollections of life underPeter Gay, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus, Yale
A supremely honest, attractively written book, unsparing about her parents' involvement with the regime, and her own awakening from the indoctrination she underwent… An important book.

Reader Reviews
Kathy Pohlman

Facinating read!
Irmgard's depiction of her life gave me insight into my G Grandmother Pohlmans' life in the Austrian Alps. I'm grateful she was generous enough to share her story. I now have even more respect for German's who found themselves under Hitlers spell ...   Read More

Joan from Arkansas

Watch out America!
I could not put the book down once I started reading! Thank you Irmgard for giving Americans an insight to just what can happen in America if we don't heed the warnings. We are on the way I am afraid. Every American should read this account! ...   Read More

Wanda T. Crow

On Hitler's Mountain, Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood
I'm in the middle of your book at present. I can hardly put it down. I was born in 1933 & my sister in 1934 - Arkansas, U.S.A. I was struck by your close-knit family, as mine was. Your family not really realizing what was going on, but felt ...   Read More

liane gutman

Ill at ease, perched on Hitler's knee.
The book speaks to us, without apologies. It speaks for Irmgard Hunt .

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Beyond the Book

Some years after WWII, Hunt moved to the USA. Before retiring, she was an executive at a number of environmental organizations, including the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Partnership for Central Europe, a project of the German Marshall Fund. She lives in Washington, D.C., and has two children and two grandchildren.

Interesting Links:

  • The web appears to offer very little historical information about Berchtesgaden and the Eagle's Nest. The best I could find is a tour company website that has a little information about the area and a couple of photos.
  • The Plot ...

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