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Loyal To A Degree Paperback – August 12, 2013
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About the Author
Horst Christian was born in Berlin, Germany in 1930. His father, a mathematician and a banker, taught him to read and write before the age of 5. He discovered his love for writing by the time he was 10 years old and wrote vacation reports and several articles for the German school periodical “Hilf Mit.” When Horst was 10, he entered the “Jungvolk,” a subdivision of the Hitler Youth, which was mandatory in the Berlin school system. He then entered the Hitler Youth at the age of 14, also mandatory, and continued writing for the Hitler Youth periodicals “Der Pimpf” and “Die Deutsche Jugend Burg.” His favorite pastime was playing in the U-Bahn (subway) tunnels. While other children played soccer, Horst, with a few other likeminded children, explored Berlin by riding the subway trains. Drafted to help defend Berlin against the Soviets at the age of 14 because of his unique knowledge of the subway system, he served as a guide for various SS demolition commandos. In the early 1950s, Horst immigrated to the United States and became a US citizen after the mandatory 5-year waiting period. He loves to travel and has visited all 50 states in the US, most of Europe, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and some Central American countries. He now resides with his wife Jennifer of 41 years, in Northern California, where he has been for the last thirty years.
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Both books, focas on two young boys growing up during Hitler's reign of terror. Understanding the difference between the upbringing of children then & now, and the German standards of behavior of their children is quite interesting.
I do recommend this book & book 1 for anyone who is interested in WWll, sociology of the time regarding children and adults, and the terror experienced to read both Children to a Degree #1 and Loyal to a Degree #2. I'm going to get the third book in the series, Trust to a Degree from the Amazon Kindle store right now.
This describes the breakdown of leadership and its impact on both the civilian population and the boys and old men used in the final stages of Hitler's scorched earth policy. As in life, there are some heroes and some really rotten guys.
I appreciate the descriptions of Berlin and how it was for the civilians and children as the Russians advanced into the city. Even, perhaps especially, the consequences of indoctrinating young children into rigid concepts of duty, loyalty and faith in their leaders while fully intending to get them killed to save nothing. A city they tried to destroy for both the Russians and the Germans. All the while ensuring there's no childhood, no discovery of identity, no individual thought or action allowed.
What happened to these children? Who did they grow up to be? Unlike adults, they had no context to explain the horror and no concept of refusing to obey.
This sheds some light on what happened to a couple of them.
I first read "Children to a Degree" so this was the natural sequel even though it was written first.
While the dialog is still a bit stiff I found myself getting used to it, just like when you're in a foreign country for 3-4 weeks - by the time you leave you hardly notice your stilted conversation until you converse with a natural English speaker...
The story conveys very clearly without getting to labored or gruesome the hardship and violence of WW2 in NE Germany. As I mentioned in my review of "Children..." my uncle was born in the same year as the protagonist and author, and my father two years later. So I try to picture them in the scenes. I can't really. How can you picture 14-15 year old kids doing the "work" of soldiers? And that is surely what they did. Not only carrying weapons and killing the enemy, but executing very high level and far reaching tasks, like training the Volksturm.
My biggest complaint is that it's not really a standalone book. It's really Volume 2. WARNING - if you don't want to buy the next book, don't buy this one. The next to last paragraph is typical of the last paragraph of a page-turner chapter. The final paragraph is really a rather lame attempt to summarize what the next book must surely be about.