Two Great Books for Middle School Students
TWO GREAT BOOKS FOR middle school students to read regarding WW2 are When the Flagpoles Bloomed by Vera Oredsson and Twilight of the Gods by Wallin and Hillblad.
Long ago I had asked if anyone knew of books that children could read that dealt with Germany during WW2, specifically regarding an alternative to the Anne Frank propaganda that is suggested in the Ambleside Online reading list.
I have since finished two books which I can recommend for middle school students and potentially younger children literate enough to read them. You know your children better than I do.
First, let us consider When the Flagpoles Bloomed by Vera Oreddson (158 pages). From the publisher: “Vera Oredsson was born in Berlin in 1928 and grew up in the changing Germany. She saw with her own eyes how the city she grew up in changed and how National Socialism swept across the country. We follow Miss Vera on her crazy adventures and attempts to run away, to her time in the Hitler Youth. With colorful descriptions without blinders she depicts the Third Reich through the eyes of a young girl and thus presents a totally unique perspective to one of the most discussed epochs in world history.”
Throw out Anne Frank and spend your time and treasure here instead. With regard to questionable material there were only a few sentences. At one point she describes the debauchery that was pre-1933 Germany — the existence of sexual deviants is acknowledged, the only specific account I can remember is about a man shoving his genitals through the mail slot. (That’s the entire description.) Twice the author reveals her less than approving attitude regarding Christianity, very brief. There was also one humourous use of the more profane term for feces. I can easily look over these things, but not everyone shares my tolerance or tastes. Honestly, I could recommend this to any middle school student. It was all quite tame, and never approached, by miles, the filth that is in Anne Frank.
Second, let’s look at Twilight of the Gods by Erik Wallin, editor Thorof Hillblad (144 pages). From the publisher: “Erik Wallin, a Swedish soldier who volunteered for service with the Waffen-SS, and participated in the climactic battles on the Eastern Front during late 1944 and 1945, later telling his story to this book’s editor, Thorolf Hillblad. Wallin served with the Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion, 11th SS-Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, a unit composed mainly of non-German volunteers, including Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes. The division enjoyed a high reputation for its combat capability, and was always at the focal points of the fighting on the Eastern Front in the last year of the war. During this period it saw combat in the Baltic, in Pomerania, on the Oder, and finally in defense of Berlin, where it was destroyed. Erik Wallin served with his unit in all of these locations, and provides the reader with a fascinating glimpse into these final battles.”
The best trick the enemy has played is giving us characters for whom we are to feel empathy, stories to build our modern myths — propaganda like Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan.
Twilight of the Gods works well to push back against such stories. Reading this book removes the ignorant and derogatory idea that the people fighting for Germany were just faceless, mindless, evil minions of a madman. It describes the evils done against them by their enemies to the east and also mentions the terror bombing from the west. The main protagonist writes of camaraderie, but be warned that this is often short-lived, as the separation between life and death is thin in a time of war.
Regarding questionable material, this book can be graphic. The author describes the effects of battle in detail at times but does not become overly infatuated with these. Wounds are described, but often only a single descriptive sentence is sufficient to do so. The atrocities carried out by the eastern invaders are mentioned, but never described in gross detail.
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Source: Darcy via Mrs. Saxon and Dissident Homeschool