Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hearts of the Children

Bryan, Sam, and I have been watching The World at War. This series on WWII was made for TV in the 1970's. As a result the producers found many people who could tell their own stories for the cameras, both Axis and Allies. Watching episode after episode is brutal and sobering, sometimes inspiring, and certainly not for the younger set.

In an episode on Hitler's Germany there were these words:

When an opponent declares, "I will not come over to your side," I calmly say, "Your child belongs to us already... What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community." Adolf Hitler - Speech November 1933

 The Hitler Youth Movement had 100,000 members in 1933. The Nazi propaganda films show beautiful girls in shorts running, playing ball and tug of war. Boys swim, race and wrestle. One smiling face after another turns toward the cameras, laughing, the sun on their faces. There are shots of them sitting down to eat, served a healthy lentil stew, nourishing a strong and rugged Aryan race. Every image deceptively idyllic. By 1936 there were four million Hitler Youth members, then in 1939 attendance became mandatory and numbers soared. But those numbers don't tell the truth.

I see the smiles and bobbing blond hair over and over again. I also see the tears in the eyes of the mother who refused to let her son join the Hitler Youth. I hear of the ways he was made fun of by his friends, and punished by his teachers. I hear the fear. Yet she was steadfast; steadfast for the heart of her child, steadfast in her conviction of right.

For the youngest children, the Hitler Youth Movement wasn't outright evil, it was outdoor fun and healthy bodies and a subtle tug to capture the hearts of the children. I think about my own children and their activities. This complicates matters. The question becomes far more complex than whether one activity is morally right or wrong, it becomes a question of the heart. Who will influence their heart? And in the end who will own it? Will someone ever turn to me and say "What are you? We already have your children."

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