Being Present: Growing Up in Hitler's Germany

Being Present: Growing Up in Hitler's Germany

Being Present: Growing Up in Hitler's Germany

Being Present: Growing Up in Hitler's Germany

Synopsis

Willy Schumann's chronicle of the years 1930-1950 gives an eye- and ear-witness account of what it was like to grow up in Germany during the Third Reich. His generation of Germans, born in the 1920s, was shaped in an atmosphere of all-encompassing mind-control in a one-party state.

Excerpt

It is common knowledge among responsible writers that they at all times keep their audience in mind, the people they want to address. The readership I had in mind during the two years when this book was taking shape was not composed of the specialists, the Germanists and Central European historians, but rather the younger generations of Americans for whom the Third Reich and the Second World War is merely the history of more than four decades ago. I know that many have an avid interest in the events of the 1930s and 1940s. They ask questions: What led to the second global war in our century? How did a divided Europe come about? In other words, I am thinking of my students and others who cannot have firsthand knowledge of the events, but who have the intellectual curiosity and the desire to learn wie es eigentlich gewesen, "as it actually happened" (Leopold von Ranke).

Above the main entrance of the university library in Boulder, Colorado, are chiseled in stone the words: "Who knows only his own generation remains always a child." The well-known quotation by George Santayana points in a similar direction: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfil it." I fully subscribe to these views and I am convinced that a society without historical consciousness is a society without a future. In innumerable discussions and conversations with students, colleagues, friends, and my three children, it has become clear to me in more than forty years how fragmentary, sporadic, and one-sided the real knowledge in this country is about the events that led to the founding of the Third Reich, how little is known of the mentality, the inner attitudes, the thinking and feeling of a people who, because of their central geographical location, were destined to play a major role in history.

It was not my intention to write another history book presenting the course of events from 1930 to 1950. What I do want to convey to a larger . . .

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