Oral History

Peter Becker describes indoctrination and being in the Hitler Youth

Peter was six years old when his mother enrolled him in a special Hitler boarding school for future Nazi Party officials in 1935. He studied traditional academic subjects, but was constantly exposed to Nazi ideas and prepared for a military life. Peter was also a member of the Hitler Youth. He came to believe in Hitler as the savior of Germany. Peter would later describe his indoctrination as a subtle process. It took two years after the war had ended for Peter to come to terms with the atrocities that the Germans had in reality committed—a process he described as very painful. He eventually moved to the United States. He became a historian and professor of Modern German History at the University of South Carolina.

Transcript

Now it was in the activities I think that my life differed from that of a normal boy who went to public school and went home after school was over and had a normal life at home. Our life was much more structured. And it was much more directed. So that whatever Hitler wanted to do with us we imbibed in a very careful fashion. That is, we were not aware of being indoctrinated. We were not being aware of what was being done to us. It was all a very, very subtle process. By the time that I -- the war ended in 1945 when I was 15, I had become a Nazi without ever really being aware that I was one. That is, I didn’t know how I’d become one. I knew that I was one. Because to me Hitler was the great man in Germany’s life. I had become convinced that Hitler was the savior of Germany. All of that I could believe because our knowledge of what had gone on in the past was very limited. We were carefully kept from, I think, knowing certain things or having a broad picture of history. We were not aware of what Germany had done before. Our history, our life really essentially started as far as we were concerned with the First World War, with the depressing period of the Weimar Republic, as we were told. Then, after Germany had been beaten down as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, had been disarmed, had been saddled with reparations, et cetera, et cetera, all of a sudden, well, then finally, Hitler came along to lift Germany out of this muck and mire and bring it back to greatness. And we felt that we were part of that and we were very proud of that and thought that Hitler really was the greatest thing that had ever come -- had come down the pike.


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