In 1933, after Hitler's rise to power, the paramilitary HitlerJugend, or Hitler Youth, became the only permitted youth organization in Germany, then known as The Third Reich.
It’s 1937 now, and a fourteen-year-old German youth, Ernst, is part of a secret mission which will send a group of teen-aged boys to London under the pretense of a bicycle tour to spy for the Nazis. The cyclists’ objective: identify both geographical and human targets for subsequent elimination as Europe approaches a flashpoint that Hitler intends to exploit by waging all-out war. Ernst’s mentor, Officer Müller, considers him the perfect fit for a special assignment—spy on a wealthy British Jewish family considered a threat to the Reich as they shelter Jewish refugees from Nazi oppression.
In a parallel story, a modern-day American teen-aged orphan, Clark, has fallen under the spell of white supremacy ideology after a series of family misfortunes. Having lost his mother as a child to cancer and then his father a couple of years later to war in Iraq, he is in the hands of his unscrupulous guardian who manages to plant him as a child-agent in a Muslim household. Clark’s purpose: prove that the randomly-chosen Muslim family must be terrorists.
Each youth approaches his assignment with a masked heart filled with hate and a deep misunderstanding of who his hosts are, roiling the boys in emotional conflict as events unfold, and forcing each to face what will be the hardest decision of his entire life—help destroy what his handlers fear or find the courage to think for himself and face the consequences.
|File size:||751 KB|
About the Author
For over 20 years Aalia Lanius has been sharing her personal experiences with audiences of all age groups and diverse backgrounds, speaking to the world, taking on the challenge of conveying the right message. Known as a successful business entrepreneur, author, and founder of non-profits rooted in helping society deal with heavy topics, she is dedicated to empowering others, sharing tragedies and triumphs, both positive and negative, allowing others to realize that there is always hope in the dark. Having been homeless and abandoned by her parents at 14 years old, it comes as a surprise to most that she launched her first company by 25 years old, graduated university with Honors, obtaining a BA in International Business, Managerial Leadership and Entrepreneurship, followed by attending Concord Law School. During this time, she also experienced personal and health challenges such as battling cancer three times, an unhealthy marriage that eventually ended but not before enduring domestic violence and emotional abuse. Lanius feels compelled to teach people that being “perfect” is an unrealistic idea and that everyone deserves the chance to change their circumstances, if they are willing to put in the effort. She has supervised youth ministry and founded two non-profit organizations: (1) One Day at a Time Cancer Foundation (2) Unsugarcoated Media. Lanius is the author of Tough Love, a biographical fiction novel based on her life and the historical fiction novel, Jugend, releasing March 31, 2019.
Read an Excerpt
Hamburg, Germany May 1937
No spy should ever be late! Ernst Heiss scolds himself, vigorously pedaling his bicycle towards his destination, the training grounds where boys like himself are drilled in the ideology of the elite Hitler Youth. Ernst considers himself fortunate to be part of a specially selected group chosen to spy for Germany. It would be disgraceful and isolating if he were to be considered anything other than the dedicated cadet that he is.
In 1933, after Hitler's rise to power, the Hitler Youth, or Hitlerjugend, became the only permitted youth organization. Almost every young German - excluding Jews, Sinti or Roma - was made a member of the organization. Ernst is proud to be one of them.
It's the height of a busy morning as Ernst steers his bike along the familiar old cobblestone road. Drops of sweat escape from under the cap on his golden blonde head, causing droplets to form on the end of his tan nose dusted with light freckles. He leans forward on the bike, letting the sweat drip somewhere that it can't irritate him.
Officer Müller will not like this at all! he thinks, considering how his mentor can be tough on the cadets. In Müller's eyes, they are not children, but missionaries with God's message from the German people. Ernst looks up to his mentor and is unhappy at the thought of disappointing him.
Weaving and dodging between the workers on the dock, he focuses his energy on speeding up, which annoys them as they pause impatiently beside large wooden pallets loaded with goods already hoisted, awaiting their expert guidance onto the large ships.
It's one of the busiest ports in the world: Hamburg, Germany, and it is the place Ernst calls home. His adolescent size gives him the nimbleness to navigate his journey as the sounds of the bustling area swim around his head — passenger ships blowing their horns and the rattle of tug boats helping them along. The boats create an endless repetitive soft chant; chugga-chugga-chugga- chugga. The pollution feels thick in the air as steam boats blow stacks of black smoke into the blue sky.
"Langsamer!" A workman yells, in German, a demand for the mad peddler to slow down. There isn't time to slow down, and the man suffers a close call as the bike whisks by him. He raises an outraged fist as he continues railing at Ernst, who is already speeding away. He pedals with more fervor, marshalling his bike through the bustling port side streets towards an area of large buildings standing alone in a desolate field. Great, he thinks, hearing the chimes of the big clock tower; I'm officially late.
The youth breathes harder, eventually coming upon the gravel road he seeks, anxiously turning down the path. He pushes harder now that his tires are sinking into the loose rocks that pop under them. Finally, skidding to a stop, he quickly jumps off, leaning the bike against the wall of a large brick building, next to at least a dozen other bicycles that are already there.
Running as fast as he can, he heads towards a large field on the other side of the building. He must pass the front steps of the building, which houses classrooms and the office of his mentor before he is free and clear. Hoping he will escape any reprimand, he runs fast, but not fast enough. After passing the steps and almost clearing the building to make it to the field, he hears a voice call out, "HEISS!"
Like a whip of thunder, the powerful voice brings Ernst to an immediate halt, causing him to stand frozen while the footsteps behind him grow louder and closer. Taking in a deep breath, he adjusts his height, pushes his shoulders back, lifting his chin slightly, hardening his gaze in front of him; a pose like that of a soldier.
"You are late, jugend!" the high-ranking officer says sternly, speaking English in part of the sentence, except for the one German word, meaning youth.
Ernst stands stoically. He already thinks himself a man, and to Germany, he is a soldier who in a moment should be willing to put his life on the line for the sake of his country; in reality, he is a mere fourteen years old.
Dressed sharply in a black uniform and black cap, the standard issue to upper ranking officers in the German Nationalists Party, Officer Müller comes to stand in front of him. He is taller than Ernst, who himself is taller than average boys his age. The boy shoots his right arm straight into the air, his shoulder nudging his ear, forming the nationalist party salute.
The officer evaluates the sweaty boy with a cross look upon his face. His uniform bears the insignia's of Hilter's army, boasting of his accomplishments and stature in contrast to the shorts, long-sleeved brown shirt and tie Ernst wears. The two share similar features: blonde hair and blue eyes, both looking as if they could be related, perhaps brothers with a large gap of years between them, since Müller himself looks to be in his mid-twenties.
"Heil mein Führer! Yes, Officer Müller," Ernst begins in German, hailing his leader, finishing in the English he speaks well, despite an accent.
It has been part of his training, to speak English, so he is not surprised to hear it from Müller, and anticipates the need to speak it back, always aware that he is being constantly tested on ability.
"Why do you not offer an excuse?" Müller queries the tardy youth.
"No excuse is good enough, sir. I should have been on time."
"This is true! How wise of you to know it," Müller says, firmly with a heavy accent, heavier than the boy's, with his w's sounding like v's when he speaks in the foreign language, "but I will not accept this tardiness again, Heiss."
"Sir! Yes!" Ernst shouts, remaining unmoved from his statuesque pose.
"I see that you only grow stronger in your English-speaking skills. Well done, because you'll need it in your mission."
"Yes, sir! It is an honor to serve my country!" Ernst answers, unflinchingly and rather robotically.
"I'll accept that you had a good reason for being tardy for now. Today is important! You need to stay sharp as I've trained you to be! Do not let me down." His request is calm but full of expectation from him. "Now, join the others."
Müller steps back, allowing the boy a path to resume his running. Ernst runs. The stern leader watches Ernst barrel towards his classmates in the middle of an exercise class on the field, his hands clasped behind him. Ernst is his star pupil, and as he watches him, the corners of his mouth slightly turn up in prideful approval.
Rounding the corner of the building, Ernst sees the large group of boys dressed identical to himself. They are on the field, performing exercises on an obstacle course comprised of bars, walls, hurdles and ditches used to increase their physical activity.
Relieved to finally be joining his mates, he turns back just in time to see his mentor walk up the steps and disappear into the building.
Gustav, the class bully, notices Ernst and begins to tease him in front of the other boys. He has always been quite jealous of Ernst who beats him in every challenge, both physical and academically. Walking over to him, he decides to taunt him.
"Heiss! How good of you to show up! What happened? You couldn't get away from Mama and Papa?" he asks in German, trying to provoke him.
A chuckle emerges from the group of adolescent boys standing nearby. Ernst looks uninterested in the oaf's attempts to rattle him. His eyes sharpen as his tongue whips back in a spit of verbal fire.
"At least I have a Papa, Gustav. Where is yours?"
The group roars with a loud humming sound as the insult is hurled. Gustav acts as if he will throw a punch at Ernst, who stands staunchly, practically daring the bully to strike him.
A whistle blows in the distance, disrupting the confrontation and causing the boys to gather single file and head into their classroom. Gustav glares at Ernst as if to indicate that they would resume their squabble later.
As they march towards the brick building, Ernst can see Müller standing in a window, observing them. Glancing over, he notices some parked cars he has never seen before, though it's not irregular for the school to receive guests.
They follow the long corridor until the group of boys arrive at their classroom. It is here that they are traditionally given their instruction on all the typical subjects, such as math and science, but this is not to be confused with a place that children are provided the basics of education. Here is where these youth are trained in a way that appeals to their national honor according to the German Nationalist ideologies, which consciously seeks to breed hate, treachery, and cruelty into the mind and soul of every German child.
Ernst sits behind his desk as the instructor begins leading the class. Grabbing books from their desks, each boy obediently begins to follow along. Pens begin to jot down notes on paper, while the teacher stands at the front of the classroom writing on a blackboard that is flanked by two wooden poles on rollers. It's not a big room, but it manages to fit the several rows needed to accommodate the class.
The shelves that line each side of the room have stacks of magazines and books sitting on them. These aren't typical materials for a group this age. These are filled with biased literature and amusing pictures intended to influence their young minds according to Hitler's dehumanizing creed.
Imagery has been carefully placed within the room. Large images hang over them showing other German Hitlerjugend marching with their blonde hair and blue eyes, heroically beating a drum or bearing the flag of Mother Germany. The eager pupils sat in this room hundreds of times, listening as they are told repeatedly how special they are as Germans, above all others, and that they are the supreme race. Absolute, there is no one higher, only everyone beneath. The idea plays especially well with children.
These walls would not be complete without imposing images of their courageous and selfless leaders. Hitler, their fearless protector and the man considered their very first soldier, has several posters. Other high-ranking officials hang, smaller in comparison to Hitler, but present nonetheless to show their importance and make them recognizable.
These figures are displayed on every wall, as if peeking over the students' shoulders, witnessing their every move with superior judgement. The strategy is effective at creating a devotion out of intimidation and fear. Creating a belief that they as German boys were to be prepared to sacrifice everything in a moment's notice, if so ordered, and to defy that accountability, would be to defy the homeland.
Ernst flips the page of his book, and for a moment allows his eyes to drift upwards, settling on a poster, as they have countless times before, sitting here in class, directly beneath it. The image depicts a regal and confident Hitler upon a mighty steed, dressed in a suit of armor, like that of a medieval knight ready to joust anyone who dares remove the flagpole in his hand, which waves with the current symbol of the German nationalist party; the swastika.
Looking at his leader, Ernst stirs with admiration and respect. Surely, Hitler must care a great deal about Germany, he thinks. His eyes move to the other leaders on the wall, allowing his gaze to distract him from the lesson for a few moments.
Heinrich Himmler sits in a frame to the right of Hitler. Which makes sense, given the importance and role he plays as one of the most powerful men in Germany. His portrait always seems to stare down at Ernst, with beady eyes behind his round glass spectacles. The boy daydreams about what it would be like to meet them, or even better, be recognized one day. His thoughts return to the lesson.
In a meeting taking place down the hall, men have since joined Officer Müller in his office. The room is decorated comfortably. A large wooden desk and chair sit to one side, while in front of the fire place sits two cushioned chairs on a rug laid out almost wall-to-wall. The fire burns as Müller and his commander sit conversing in German.
The commander is smaller and older than the handsome, younger Müller, but his entourage of soldiers standing outside the door and insignias on his jacket attest to his importance.
Müller is anxious to gain his respect, addressing him confidently in conversation, leaning forward earnestly in his chair, while the senior sits back, legs crossed, more relaxed.
"Are they ready?" the commander asks Müller.
"They are ready, sir," he responds confidently. "We've selected the seven boys that will be placed with host families during an arranged bicycle tour of London and surrounding areas over the eight-week period."
The commander's face reflects how he considers his subordinate's words. He is a diabolical man, wicked to his core. Sniffing, he takes a deep breath, holding it for an elongated second before releasing it, in a slightly exaggerated manner.
"This is important that they succeed." His tone is insistent. "We need an advantage over Britain, a country that stands to impede our great mission. I want to know everything there is to know about this city. The boys' failure or success is squarely upon your shoulders, Müller.
His eyes threaten the young officer, who acknowledges the warning with a confident smile, not shaken by the intensity of his superior.
"For the past two years, these youth have been learning English, acquiring the tools they need not only to defend Germany, but to assist in helping us take our rightful place in the world. We've developed their skills in photography, graphing and surveyance to be able to identify key targets on which to study and report back. Important buildings, landmarks and especially as much information as possible about the layout of the port of London. They are more than prepared."
"Information of this nature is important to the future of Germany. The intelligence gathered by these youth will go directly to the hands of the Führer!" he says, raising his forefinger into the air with a scowl upon his face. "They must be accurate."
Müller agrees silently, not wishing to inject any doubts about his confidence.
"The special assignment, I presume this has been addressed?" he asks.
"Yes, Commander. My star pupil is the one I've selected. I have faith in him to help us get the information we need."
"Yes. He is the strongest of them all, in both wits and strength. He is perfect. In fact, dare I say, he reminds me of myself as a boy, wanting nothing more than to serve my great country."
"There is nothing more unassuming than a group of boys. If we went with youth any older, we would run the risk of suspicion; any younger, they wouldn't be capable."
"Agreed, sir. I will be delivering and collecting the boys personally."
"Your protégé, what of his parents? Loyal to the Reich?" the commander asks, holding his chin in his left hand, considering the families that still rebuff the nationalist ideology that the Nazi's propagate.
"His father is a philosopher and teacher at the University of Hamburg, and like many of the scholars there, they require some additional coaxing, but present nothing of concern. If anything, they are fearfully obedient."
"Philosopher!" the commander scoffs. "All these philosophers do is make observations with no solutions!"
"Agreed, but while his father has been distracted by matters at the University, likely trying to protect precious relics and books, it's given me an opportunity to be closer to his son. He is perfect for our mission, and I'd like to take you to them now, Commander."
Müller leads the way as he escorts his villainous superior and his entourage to the room full of the boys eager to please their leaders.
Ernst, who is taking notes, looks up curiously. He can hear the sound of heavy footsteps coming down the hall. The doorway is suddenly filled by the men. Immediately, all the boys stand from behind their desks at attention, lifting their arms and shouting in unison.
Their tenacity is felt in the room. Heinrich Himmler stands before the boys. In uniform, he is easily recognizable with his buzzed hair, round glasses and small, round, shiny eyes. Though he is a smaller man in stature, his face exudes an arrogance. He nods in approval at the boys, with his lips pulled tightly as he inspects them.
The boys are exhilarated and in awe of their opportunity to stand before such a man. Despite being one of the most sadistic and evil minds existing in nationalist ranks, the children look up to him like a god.
He clicks his boots against each other. The boys tremble with excitement and fear, even trying to limit their breathing in his presence. They are completely and utterly awe struck. Müller steps forward, standing next to Himmler.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Jugend"
Copyright © 2019 Unsugarcoated Media.
Excerpted by permission of Unsugarcoated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.