Man tells of being forced to join Hitler youth league
Win Schendel remembers what it was like growing
up in Germany during World War II, having little
personal freedom, using a ration card to get food
and being distrustful of anyone.
"I turned in my own father without even knowing it,"
His father, a doctor, disagreed with the Nazi
ideology and spoke about it at home. Schendel
repeated what he'd heard to Nazi officers while
training with Adolf Hitler's youth league, not
knowing it would get his father in trouble. German
soldiers came one night to take his father away, and
Schendel has never seen him since, he said.
Schendel, 78, was 7 years old when he was first
forced to become a member of the youth league,
which all German boys were forced to participate in
during the Nazi regime of World War II. He
recounted some memories to about 45 students at
Liberty Common School this week while stressing
the importance of being engaged in the political
"I give talks to sell America to Americans," Schendel
said. "You have to recognize how great it is here."
The Hitler Youth, which trained boys for military
work and taught Nazi propaganda, had about 8.7
million members in 1939, during the onset of the
war and when the government mandated
membership, according to the Encyclopedia of
Children and "Childhood in History and Society."
Boys ages 6 to 17 were forced to partake in the
youth leagues, the older boys eventually serving as
Growing up outside of Hannover, Germany,
Schendel remembers having the family radio
confiscated by Nazi soldiers after being suspected
of listening to non-German radio stations. He also
remembers having to pick up shrapnel and pieces of
aircraft after battles so the Germans could melt the
metal down and use it to build ships.
"Everything was for survival. You'd better do as
you're told," he said.
At age 13, Schendel said he became a soldier and
saw a fellow German teenager killed while hiding in
a bunker. He said that experience has stayed with
him throughout his life.
"Dead people smell like hell," he told students.
It took Schendel almost one year to find out the war
had ended. After several years of living in Hannover,
which had been destroyed by bombs, he and his
mother left the city on a freight train, eventually
reaching New Orleans by boat when he was 22.
Duane Staton, a history and economics teacher at
Liberty, said seventh-graders learn about World War
II as part of their curriculum. Staton said the school
always has a veteran speak to students, although it
was the first time students heard from someone who
fought on the other side of the war.
Tarah Vijayasaratny, 12, said she recognized the
unique perspective Schendel brought.
"We always hear it from the Allies' point of view," she
said. "It was really cool."
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