The National Socialistic upbringing in the League of German Girls uses paramilitary like disciplinary measures to build their loyalty and moral character. Coupled with neo-pagan rituals, songs, and folklore, Through Innocent Eyes captures the self-actualization of ten-year-old Gertrude as she progresses from childhood and living in poverty to adolescence and becoming “one” with her country. By age fourteen, Gertrude is chosen for Country Service Camp, called “Landjahr.” Here, she will receive the very best rural education, for the Reich only wants the healthiest and strongest girls. In 1941, there are twenty-six thousand girls in Landjahr, and Gertrude Kerschner is one of them.
“This is the most authentic book I have read about the girls in the Hitler Youth. You capture the essence in detail.” Irmgard M. Nagengast
“To be alive today and see a book written about our time in Landjahr Lager Seidorf brings back wonderful memories.” Eleanor (Nelly) Mohler Landjahr Mädel
“What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I will always remember our time together in Landjahr as if it were yesterday.” Steffi Pucks Landjahr Mädel
“Your book gives an intimate accounting of the Hitler Youth girls as seen through a child’s eyes. This book takes me right back in time.” Ellie Musial Landjahr Mädel
Four months before Gertrude Kerschner passed away from cancer, I found her handwritten, green cloth journal. The faded and torn red cloth emblem of a sword piercing an Odal Rune is glued to the right-hand lower corner of the book, bounded together on the left with a simple green string. When I opened her journal and turned the well-worn pages, I noticed very old German script. As I delicately turned each page, I examined the writings and studied each black and white photo. There were photos of a very large house, young teenage girls wearing uniforms standing at attention, playing with children and taking care of the farm animals. The most remarkable photo shows a Hakenkreuz flag, known to the world as the Swastika. The journal is written with black ink in a calligraphic hand Fraktur script, which was used during World War II in Austria, Europe. The journal appears as a diary, containing chapter headings, stories, poems, songs, and pictures. Instantaneously, a million questions went through my mind. Where is this house? When was it written? What is written in this book? I knew my mother wrote this book, but why? Who are these girls in the photos? Many more questions raced through my head as I drove to the hospital in anticipation of eagerly showing my mother her journal. I knew only she could give me the answers to the meaning of this hand-made book. I held the journal behind my back, slowly opened the door and peaked into the hospital room. My mother was awake, watching television. I quietly walked into the room and with a great big smile, I softly said “Hi Mom! I’m here!” Like a little child, I eagerly pulled the book out from behind my back and said “Mom! Look what I found!” She gasped in disbelief. “Where did you find this?" she surprisingly asked. “Believe it or not, I found this in your bedroom. Can you read this?” I excitedly asked as I handed her the book. Her frail hand pierced with an intravenous needle reached out to the book. Within an instant, the epoch of time passed from the young to the old. Very slowly, she opened the book and started turning the pages. I pulled up a chair next to her bed and sat there quietly watching her compose her thoughts. Then, I noticed her disposition change. She adjusted herself and sat taller in bed. It seemed to me that she had gained an inner sense of strength. As she turned the pages, it looked as if she was silently reminiscing about a time in her life that made her very happy. In a vigorous voice, she proudly responded, “of course I can read it. I wrote it. It is about the time I was in the Hitler Youth. I was fourteen years old when I wrote this book.” I could not believe what I was hearing. My mother was in the Hitler Youth. I was in shock. I thought my mother would tell me another one of her picturesque stories about the time she was growing up on her beautiful farm in Kleinzell, hiking up the Alps in Gmunden and Salzburg, or walking along the Mirabel Palace Gardens, in Salzburg. The places she told me about in her stories would eventually become the places I would visit with her on our many family trips to her homeland, Austria. However, the next sentence would put a screeching halt to my fairytale dreamlike state of mind and instead, would awaken my consciousness to question my own identity every time I investigated this topic. She placed her hands on the book and in a very stern and disciplinary Austrian voice looked at me straight in the eyes and said “…and, do not show this book to anyone because, they’ll kill you.”
Cynthia A. Sandor was born in New York and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut. She was employed with Cherry Lane Music Publishing Co., Inc. as the Manager of Copyrights, Administration, and Licensing. She studied at St. Petersburg College and received her bachelor's degree in business from Eckerd College. She survived a horrific motorcycle accident, which propelled her to produce the Lady Rider Show, The Business Forum, and Travels with Cindy, on Pinellas County Public Access Television. She is an accomplished world traveler visiting over twenty countries. She has written for Guitar for the Practicing Musician, Biker Ally magazine, and the Tampa Bay New Times magazine. An article about her parents' journey appears in the 50th Anniversary Maiden Voyage Edition – S.S. United States – Fastest Ship in the World by Frank Braynard and Robert Hudson Westover. Ms. Sandor lives with her two Chihuahuas, Nicky, and Harley, in Oldsmar, Florida.
I received a very nice email by Andres from Austria that I would like to share with you. He said:
“Cynthia A. Sandor brings history to life without sacrificing accuracy. She is significantly breaking new ground by chronicling the hidden history of the emotional toll that World War II exacted on the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) girls who participated in the Landjahr Lager (Country Service Camp) program, and those who loved them. I did not think there was anything good or fresh to say about the Hitler Youth to the modern world and Sandor has proven me wrong---very wrong indeed. This is such an important and engaging piece of work that should become a valuable part of WWII history. Thank you for writing “Through Innocent Eyes – The Chosen Girls of the Hitler Youth.”
One of the best books on the National Socialist period due to it's fairness on the subject. Excellent descriptions of experiences of a young lady growing up in Europe. The descriptions are vivid and interesting. I really enjoyed it, highly recommend.
People need to comprehend that the opportunity to come across with an unaltered, genuine diary from the time describing all events with so much attention to detail is beyond priceless and can come only once in a lifetime. This book is so good I can see historians using it as reference material in the short run. It is as good as Black Edelweiß; top of the top.
Jorge P. Aguilera