Helene Munson

Hitler's Boy Soldiers: How My Father's Generation Was Trained to Kill and Sent to Die for Germany

Nonfiction - History

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The true, untold story of how Germany’s children fought in WWII, through the lens of the author’s father and his rediscovered journal

When Helene Munson finally reads her father, Hans Dunker’s, wartime journal, she discovers secrets he kept buried for seven decades. This is no ordinary historical document but a personal account of devastating trauma.

During World War II, the Nazis trained some three hundred thousand German children to fight—and die—for Hitler. Hans was just one of those boy soldiers. Sent to an elite school for the gifted at nine years old, he found himself in the grip of a system that substituted dummy grenades for Frisbees. By age seventeen, Hans had shot down Allied pilots with antiaircraft artillery. In the desperate, final stage of Hitler’s war, he was sent on a suicide mission to Závada on the Sudetenland front, where he witnessed the death of his schoolmates—and where Helene begins to retrace her father’s footsteps after his death.

As Helene translates Hans’s journal and walks his path of suffering and redemption, she uncovers the lost history of an entire generation brainwashed by the Third Reich’s school system and funneled into the Hitler Youth.

A startling new account of this dark era, Hitler’s Boy Soldiers grapples with inherited trauma, the burden of guilt, and the blurred line between “perpetrator” and “victim.” It is also a poignant tale of forgiveness, as Helene comes to see her late father as not just a soldier but as one child in a sea of three hundred thousand forced onto the wrong side of history—and left to answer for it.