translated from the German original Der Hitlerjunge Quex by K. A. Schenzinger. The famous film of the same name was based on this novel first published in December 1932. “Quex” is the nickname of a fifteen year old boy who, in defiance of his father and the neighborhood communists, joins the Hitler Youth in Berlin and pays for this with his life. They always say the book is better than the film. This is also the case here. The book contains a lot of very interesting material that was left out of the film. If you liked the film, you will love the book!
The more he distanced himself from the camp, the faster he walked, diagonally across through the forest toward the glow of the fire. Not for a moment did he reflect what he was doing there. It felt good during this night to march toward that light, and so he simply marched.
The glow became ever brighter. Again, singing reached him, now quite distinct, it had to be quite close. He could already recognize the melody, he had already heard it somewhere, but did not remember where it had been. It was a marching song that inspired the legs. He ran up the hill, bumped against roots, caught himself in runners. His breath wheezed, sweat ran across his nose. Reaching the height, he stared in shock into the blazing flame. He was blinded by the sudden light, was totally out of breath. He did not dare to move from the spot. He stood and looked. Gradually, his eyes became accustomed to the light. Probably a thousand boys stood around the burning stack of wood, perhaps it was also just a hundred. It seemed to him as if this wreath of young people stretched to the edge of the world. Quite close in front of him stood, arranged in ranks, boys like he. Each held next to him vertical on a pole a pennant against the sky, black pennants and shining red with twisted signs in the base of the cloth. One looked like the other, short pants, bare knees, brown shirt, a cloth wrapped around the neck. That they wanted to sing! that was all that he was able to think at the moment. His heart still pounded.
But they did not sing. They all looked over at the fire silently. A large, young person had taken position there and spoke to them. He probably delivered a proper address. Heini only made out individual words, he heard “movement” and “Führer”, he understood half a sentence: “each his life for the others. While he still listened and already considered whether he should not sneak a little closer in order to understand more, a mighty terror passed through him “Germany, Germany over all”, it fell upon him with a thousand voices like a hot wave. I am also a German, he thought, and this awareness came over him with such might and so unexpected like nothing else in his life, not in school, not at home, not in front of the Reichstag when the Reichswehr presented arms. He wanted to sing along, but his voice failed him. This was German soil, German forest, these were German boys, and he saw that he stood off at the side, alone, without help, that he did not know where to go with this sudden, great feeling.
The stack of wood had burned down, the boys had assembled for the departure march, their steps had long since faded in the distance. Dazed, a heavy discord in his heart, Heini still stood at the same spot. Why had he not presented himself? Why had he not simply stepped up to the big young person: I want to go with you, take me in. Because he did not know what they wanted? What was meant by ‘Führer’ and ‘movement’? Heini broke off a twig and threw it through the air. He knew that it had not been about that. Here there was nothing more to know for him. He felt that he wanted to go with these boys, that this here was the exact opposite of what went on in the clique, that there was order here, order – , the word no longer wanted to get out of his head.