A Child of Nazi Germany
Cynthia Castellon
    For most of us World War II was something of the past which we have read about in history books. Then there are people like Joseph who lived through this time period. Unlike most of the people we hear about; Joseph is a German who lived and experienced life under the rule of Adolf Hitler. Joseph was born in Berlin in 1930 and for fifteen years he would live under the laws and beliefs of Nazism. Joseph's story shows us how an innocent infant can be molded by its society. It also shows us how easily the mind of a child can be manipulated. Joseph and others like him are the product of first generation children of the Nazi system.
    At the time of Joseph's birth Hitler had just started to gain his power. Like many Germans, Joseph's parents believed Hitler's propaganda and became Nazis. Once Hitler took power in 1933 everywhere anyone went they would run into Nazi propaganda. Joseph's parents implemented the beliefs of the Nazis. For as long as he can remember all he heard from his parents was to live for the fatherland. Of course any child who is born into a situation like this will believe and become into whatever the parents want them to believe and become. Joseph was not offered any alternatives. He thought that he was superior from other races and that he should one day grow up and be productive for his country. There was no way that Joseph was going to grow up being anything less than what his parents wanted him to be. But it was not just his parents it was also the community and the country that shaped the lives and the beliefs of the children of the time. In any case there was no way of escaping the Nazi beliefs because he was surrounded by them. And the most important factor was that he had been conditioned since he was a baby. Had he been older and able to think and decide on his own he might not have believed in the ideals of Nazism.
    Once Joseph started going to school he shared the same beliefs of superiority that his parents had taught him. In school he was influenced even more to believe in the right way, the Nazi way. Joseph remembers some of the older children and how some of them would oppose the actions and beliefs of the government. Joseph didn't understand why they would
oppose the great country he believed they lived in. School provided more propaganda for Joseph and as soon as he was old enough he joined the group Hitler's Youth. This group not only provided an outlet for more propaganda it also shaped children into becoming good citizens and soldiers. The group also taught them to spy on their parents and report any anti-Nazi criticism. Joseph did spy on his parents but never heard anything to report. As he got older he wanted to fulfill his need to serve his country. He even considered lying about his age so he could join the army. But for the meantime he was happy being part of the youth group. So Joseph just hoped that one day he could become a soldier and fight for his country. But by the time he was fifteen the war had ended, Hitler had fallen, and everything that Joseph had been taught to believe in had been destroyed.
    After the war, times were tough in Germany so he and his parents moved to a place where they could have a better future. They moved to France then to Canada and eventually they came to the United States. During this time Joseph was experiencing a great amount of culture shock. He was used to being the majority and now he found himself as part of the minority. The hatred and the beliefs he learned as a child he felt no longer applied. Many times he got into fights and got picked on for who he was. After the war he felt that there was a lot of hatred towards the Germans. He was beginning to understand what the Jewish people must have felt like when he picked on them. Joseph felt betrayed by his country and his parents. In a sense he felt as if his parents were abandoning and fleeing their country. He hated all the changes and all the different experiences, yet he knew he had to change in order to fit in. He decided that America would be a fresh start for him. He knew things had to change even if he didn't want them to change. He considers these changes the hardest thing he has ever had to do. But he always knew that he wanted to excel and the only way that was going to happen was if he could put his past beliefs aside then he could go through life more easily and excel in America. It was his hope that he could start over again.
    Right before he moved to America he met and married his wife. Now that he had responsibilities and a family to provide for he knew that he had to do whatever it took for his family to survive. When he moved to America with his wife they were very poor and didn't know how to speak English. He made a point to go to school and learn English. He found that many people didn't discriminate against him being German but that may also be due to the fact that he didn't look German and usually didn't tell people that he was. Sometimes his accent gave it away but mainly people thought he was Anglo-American. He did this not because he was ashamed of his past, he did it because he didn't want to be looked down upon and he found it easier not to tell people. Although Nazi Germany had been destroyed he still believed in its ideal. He never regrets or is ashamed of his country. And if he had a chance to do it again he would on one condition; that his family will always be cared and provided for. The priority of his family is at the top of the list. He would not do anything that would change that. Today he is a successful landlord who owns multiple buildings in the San Fernando Valley. It seems to me that the reason why he doesn't tell many people about his past and his beliefs is because he is afraid of being the minority and risking the lives of his family. There are only a few people that know that he still believes in the Nazi ideals, but he prefers to not tell his children of his beliefs because he wants them to make their own decisions and believe what they want to believe.
    Joseph is one of the many children that was brainwashed by Nazi propaganda and it seems that it was very effective. Even still the effects of the propaganda are still seen. I think he still believes in Nazism because that is all he knew as a child; and that has a great effect on you. But he has been able to break away a little bit because he places the well being of his family before anything. And the only way he feels he can provide and excel in America is if he puts his political opinions aside and strives for success; which he has earned. Through it all he regrets none of the actions that he has taken in his life. And for me I find that very strange because it seems that throughout his whole life he has been blinded by his old beliefs. And even when he grew up and saw the differences around him he still didn't regret anything that his country had done. He felt and still feels Germany never did anything wrong but try to make the world a better place.
2002 Personal Interview, Van Nuys, CA, January 26, 2002