The University of Wisconsin Press

World War II / Memoir / European History / Holocaust


Requiem for a German Past
A Boyhood among the Nazis
Jurgen Herbst

A boy's adolescence in the Nazi Jungvolk

Jurgen Herbst's account of growing up in Nazi Germany from 1928 to 1948 is a compelling, understated tale of moral awakening.

"Herbst illustrates how easy it was for a German boy without strong conviction or religious hatred to climb into a position of leadership in the Nazi Jungvolk . . . indeed, how difficult it would have been for him not to end up in such a place. . . . A unique perspective on everyday life in extreme circumstances."
Wayne Hoffman, Washington Post

Jurgen Herbst is emeritus professor of history and education policy studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of several books including And Sadly Teach, published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

Additional information

"A sensitive and illuminating portrait of a tragic period in the history of a nation and a culture."
—Theodore S. Hamerow, author of On the Road to the Wolf's Lair: German Resistance to Hitler

"I believe academia and the general public want to hear from Jurgen Herbst and others like him, and though there are other such recollections in print, they are few and most are in German, and none that I know of is better written in English than this one."
—Reece C. Kelly, Fort Lewis College

Herbst was a middle-class boy in a Lutheran family that saw value in Prussian military ideals and a mythic German past. His is a compelling tale of moral awakening. He recalls his confusion as some of his classmates are no longer welcome at his school, and his consternation as he tries to reconcile what he learned from his favorite teachers and what was subsequently taught by their party replacements. His description of walking to school the morning after Kristallnacht is clear and chilling.

A Hitler youth in the making, he joined the Jungvolk and slowly became aware of the real nature of the National Socialist regime. The story of that evolution—a unique, insider's view of the Nazi youth movement—is inspired by young Jurgen's deep friendships with his fellow students and their dedication to a military code of personal honor and loyalty. His devotion to those young men allowed him to endure scorn and deprivation and to risk personal well-being, even life, in the face of a brutal evil that demanded unquestioning allegiance.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

March 2002
256 pp.   6 x 9  
20 b/w photos
Book icon
Paper $19.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-16414-0
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
  Review cart contents
Secure checkout

Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.

Updated March 19, 2010

© 2010, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System