x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Growing up under Hitler

In popular depictions of the Second World War, Germany is filled with goose-stepping horde. Giles Milton's memoir of his father-in-law's childhood and wartime experiences dispels that picture.

Wolfram: The Boy Who Went to War Giles Milton Sceptre Dh 72

In popular depictions of the Second World War, Germany is filled with goose-stepping horde. Giles Milton's memoir of his father-in-law's childhood and wartime experiences dispels that picture.

Milton puts a face on the tragedy of a populace slowly subsumed by racist nationalism. The titular figure is raised by open-minded parents and is a gifted sculptor even as a boy.

At first, Hitler's rise occurs at a distance; troubling events and proclamations are mocked and have little impact in the family's idyllic country villa. But by the time a teenage Wolfram is thrust into a troop train bound for the Russian front, it is clear no German is safe. He is wounded, sent to Normandy, where he happily surrenders to Allied forces, and finally learns what happened in the concentration camps.

His story, of course, ends happily. He returns to school and becomes a renowned sculptor. But this valuable book shows how German soldiers were just like their Allied counterparts: young, frightened and wanting nothing more than a return to peace.