Not I: Memoirs of a German Childhood
Joachim Fest’s last book is in many ways the most intimate of all of his revered journalistic writings and book-length nonfiction. Although he was known throughout his life as a staunch critic of Nazi Germany, here he provides a much more intimate portrait of what it must have been like to grow up in a household violently opposed to Adolf Hitler’s regime.
At first, Fest was able to avoid joining the Hitler Youth, although this might have endangered his family. He was eventually expelled from school and entered a private school in Baden, where his luck ran out at the age of 18. Although his father encouraged him to remain apart from the Nazi machine, Joachim enlisted in the Wehrmacht to avoid being taken into the Waffen SS. His father was angry that his son didn’t refuse to participate altogether. Fest’s descriptions of battle, his capture and imprisonment in a POW camp, and his return home are deeply moving.
Fest makes it clear in his memoir that he refuses to believe the common German was unaware of what Hitler was doing to the Jews. This book is highly recommended for a sobering look into the Nazi years, seen through the eyes of an embittered young German.