Book Review: The Life and Death of Adolph Hitler

The Life and Death of Adolph Hitler by James Giblin 223p.

Giblin’s middle grade biography traces Hitler’s life from nearly homeless artist to ruthless dictator.

The first chapter is short and sets up the story with what kids will know about Adolph Hitler: he once ruled Germany and he’s dead. Giblin explains that while young people might not know exactly who he was or what he did, they have older family members who were influenced by Hitler’s actions. Questions that kids might ask about Hitler, such as why didn’t people stop him sooner, are posed and the author promises to explore them in the book.

adolf hitler

Adolph Hitler as a baby

Giblin’s straightforward storytelling of Hitler’s childhood makes him, at least at this point, more relatable to young people. For example, kids that tried out and didn’t make a sports team could understand Hitler’s disappointment when he didn’t get accepted to art school. Any one who has lost a family member can understand why Hitler didn’t want to accept his mother’s cancer diagnosis.

The book goes on to explain Hitler’s crushing disappointment after World War I. He had nearly gone blind trying to defend his country, but Germany lost anyway. Like other German soldiers, Hitler resented the Versailles Treaty which made Germany pay nations like Britain and France for the cost of the war. When the German army needed instructors to teach the evils of Communism and the importance of nationalism to the troops, they had little idea that they were helping to launch the career of a dictator. Through his speeches Hitler learned that he had the power to persuade audiences–a skill he would use again and again in the coming years.

Unlike other biographers, Giblin does not pretend to have all the answers. For example, while other biographers have speculated that Hitler may have disliked Jews because his mother’s doctor was a Jew, Giblin points out that Hitler only had kind words for the doctor. Giblin comes to the conclusion that there is no obvious reason for Hitler’s feelings but that hating Jews was a main feature of Hitler’s life from 1919 until his death.

The book points out why the Nazi party was popular with some Germans during the Great Depression. Hitler’s rise to power coincided with an increase in jobs and better working conditions. People were healthier, too. Hitler even suggested that an affordable car called the Volkswagen (the people’s car) be produced so that the middle class could drive around town and go on vacations. Though the lives of Jewish people were increasingly restricted, Hitler often didn’t emphasize his anti-Semitic beliefs in his pre-World War II speeches.

As Giblin explains, World War II came about because of serious misunderstandings between Hitler and the British and French. Britain and France didn’t want another war, so they stood by while Hitler took over territories like Austria and Czechoslovakia for Germany. Britain warned that it would stand by Poland, however. Hitler thought the British were bluffing and proceeded with his invasion only to find himself at war with Britain, France, and eventually the Soviet Union and U.S.

Although Giblin does talk about the Holocaust, his coverage of the extermination of the Jews is somewhat brief, perhaps because Hitler delegated the working of concentration camps to other Nazi officials. The book does quote Hitler’s book Mein Kampf which outlined his hatred for Jews. It also covers the laws restricting Jewish participation in society in the 1930s.

Giblin does a good job of incorporating stories from and about young people. He includes  members of the Hitler Youth, a group that indoctrinated young people in the policies of the Nazi Party. Hitler’s troubled relationship with his niece Geli and his odd romance with the young Eva Braun are explored. In addition, Giblin includes stories of young people like Sophie Scholl and her brother who bravely opposed Hitler’s political agenda.

Extensive photos help Giblin’s gifted storytelling come to life. Included are rare photos of Hitler in private, family photos and paintings, and photos of Hitler’s Nazi followers.

Readers would have benefited from short summaries of important people in Hitler’s political life. It can be hard for young readers to keep track of people with similar names, such as Himmler and Heydrich.

The book ends with a cautionary note: leaders like Hitler can still come to power under the right conditions, but hopefully future generations will use their knowledge of others’ mistakes to prevent such an event.

Overall, The Life and Death of Adolph Hitler provides young people with a solid introduction to the career of one of the most infamous men in history.

American Politicians and Immigration Policy: A Troubled History

Inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty are these words: “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” The poet should have put an asterisk after these lines that read “unless politicians find it inconvenient to admit certain refugees; in that case the door is closed.”


In the 1930s and 1940s, the door to the United States was closed to Jewish immigrants fleeing the Nazis. With the exception of the work done by the War Refugee Board in 1944 (by which time most of Europe’s Jews were dead), President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration stood by while 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

U.S. State Department excuses for not loosening immigration quotas included the possibility that Jews might be acting as spies for the Nazi government. Despite this theory, the record indicates that only one enemy agent entered the country as a refugee, and that refugee was not Jewish.

In order to enter the U.S., Jewish refugees had to endure so much government red tape that by the time the State Department approved a visa, the applicant had often been deported to a concentration camp. Even a congressional bill to accept 20,000 Jewish children was rejected because, as President Franklin Roosevelt’s cousin Laura Delano stated, “twenty thousand charming children would all too soon grow into 20,000 ugly adults.”


Syrian Refugees at Budapest Railway Station, 4 Sept. 2015. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov


At the moment, Syrian refugees are the most unpopular group in the United States. A few months ago, Mexican immigrants, all of whom politicians like Donald Trump seem to think are rapists or drug dealers, were enemy Number One, but opinions change quickly. The terror attacks in France gave U.S. politicians who did not want immigrants entering the country the perfect excuse to say, “We do not want Syrian immigrants in America. They are coming to attack us.”

Yet out of 784,000 refugees that have entered the U.S. since September 11, 2001, only three were arrested for planning terrorist activities. Only one of the three spoke of targeting the U.S., and even he had no specific plan. People risking their lives to get out of their country (and plenty, including young children, have died in the attempt) are unlikely to target a country that provides them with food and shelter.

Despite the fact that the U.S has pledged to admit only 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, even this number is too large for some politicians. Last week in the House of Representatives, 47 Democrats and 242 Republicans voted to put new security limits on those immigrants. Apparently these representatives are unaware that the security screening process is already so complicated that it takes 18-24 months (more than a year) before a refugee from Syria can ever enter the U.S.

In contrast to the reluctance of the U.S. to admit Syrian refugees, Germany is projected to take in 800,000 refugees by the end of this year. Germany–a country Jewish refugees tried to flee from in the 1930s and 1940s–is now taking in hundreds of thousands more refugees than the U.S. ever planned to welcome.

France, the country with the most recent terror attacks and the country that gave the U.S. the Statue of Liberty, has promised to continue accepting immigrants from Syria. America, the nation of immigrants, is becoming the nation of exclusion.

The Childhood of Anne Frank

Early Years in Germany

Although Anne Frank was born in Germany in 1929, her parents Otto and Edith knew they had to leave their country when Adolf Hitler came to power. Hitler and the Nazi party found a scapegoat for Germany’s economic problems—the Jews. Since the Franks were Jewish, Otto hoped his family could escape Germany’s oppressive Jewish laws by moving to the Netherlands when Anne was four.

The Move to Amsterdam

When the family settled in, they sent the children Anne and Margot to school. Anne’s parents knew that traditional schooling would not work for her stubborn, free-spirited personality. Instead, they sent her to a Montessori school in Amsterdam where she started kindergarten. Students often chose what they wanted to do for the day, like reading or drawing. Anne talked freely in class, often asking questions of her teachers. Even when a lesson that Anne didn’t enjoy was taught, teachers went out of their way to make learning fun. For example, if the teacher asked what two times two was and the students didn’t know, they hopped around the rows of desks, counting as they went.

Anne and Her Family

Anne’s friends always enjoyed coming over to the Frank house. Mrs. Frank made delicious food, and Mr. Frank loved to play with the children. In an era when fathers left most of the childrearing to their wives, Otto stood out. He made up stories and songs for Anne and Margot, and though he worked hard he always made time for them. He and Anne had a close relationship. Her bubbling personality kept his mind off his adult worries about money and what Hitler might do if he invaded Holland. Edith and Anne’s relationship became strained because she wanted Anne to be more like her older sister, Margot, who had a gentle temperament and did what she was told. Ironically, Anne’s future best friend had a personality similar to Margot’s. 

Best Friends–Anne and Jackie

In 1940, Hitler invaded the Netherlands. Among other restrictions, Jewish children could only attend schools with Jewish students and teachers. On Anne’s first day at the Jewish school, she met a girl named Jacqueline van Maarsen. After school, they rode their bikes to the Frank’s house at Anne’s insistence. Jacqueline later wrote, “from that day on we were inseparable…after a few days, Anne firmly declared that I was her best friend and she mine.”

Though Anne never had trouble making friends, she wanted one that she could truly confide in, and she found what she wanted in Jackie. They read books together, pretending to be the heroines they admired. Anne wrote in her diary, “Recently I met Jacqueline van Maarsen at the Jewish Lyceum. We hang out together all the time and she’s my best friend now.” Because of the German occupation, the two friends could only hang out at each other’s homes or at certain Jewish owned businesses. They spent a lot of time on Anne’s porch gossiping and having sleepovers at each other’s homes, though they also visited an ice cream shop after school, where Anne liked to flirt with boys.

Going into Hiding

When Anne’s sister Margot got a summons to report to a labor camp, the Franks knew they had to hide. They had already heard stories of Jewish young people disappearing after they left for the German camps. It was time for the family to go into hiding. Neither Anne nor Margot knew for sure where they were going so they couldn’t tell friends about their hiding place. For years Jackie believed Anne immigrated to Switzerland. Later she discovered that the Franks tried unsuccessfully to hide out in a section of Anne’s father’s office.

For more information about Anne Frank's family, including photos, visit:

1942 – Frst page of Anne Frank's diary.