Growing Up a Nazi

The article that follows comes from True to Both My Selves, Katrin Fitzherbert's prize-winning history of her Anglo-German family. Spanning a century and two world wars, the book centres on three generations of women who each lived part of their lives as Germans and part as Britons, depending on the state of politics between the two countries.

Grandmother Ethel, a spirited London hairdresser speaking not a word of German, had to follow her husband to Germany when he was deported from his adopted British homeland after World War I. Their eight-year-old London-born daughter then grew up in Weimar Germany and was to marry an enthusiastic Hitler supporter and minor Nazi party official. Their daughter Katrin, grew up in World War ll as a normal German - and Nazi - child .

However, at the end of the war the whole family - save only Papa - was to be 'repatriated' to England; and, in an extraordinary mirror-image replay of her mother's experience, 10-year-old Katrin had to accept her former enemy as her new homeland.

At Home and School

It is well known that war can do wonders for a nation's mental health; the threat of a common enemy gives a sense of purpose and participation to even the most isolated and depressed. Growing up in wartime Berlin, I clearly recall the atmosphere of unity all around and also the feeling of well-being it gave me.

This spirit of common commitment came not only from being at war, but from all being Nazis; that was how it felt, anyway. I took it for granted that everybody shared this conviction. I never experienced anyone behaving in a way that hinted at the tiniest doubt about the validity of the Nazi cause. It has emerged since that Hitler had numerous opponents and there may well have been a lot of them in Mahlsdorf; however, as they didn't voice their opposition, they might as well not have existed. They certainly did nothing to dampen the Nazi fervour that pervaded every corner of our suburb and every aspect of our lives.

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