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"Melita Maschmann's Account Rendered"

Book Essay on:
Melita Maschmann,
Account Rendered: A Dossier on My Former Self

(London: Abelard-Schuman, 1964), 223 pages.
UCSB: DD253.48 M313 1965

by Kristina Plumley, UCSB
March 19, 2007

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
Germany, 1900-1945
UC Santa Barbara, Winter 2007

About the Author
& Abstract
and Links
Plagiarism Warning
$15 at amazon

About Kristina Plumley

I am a fourth year psychology major with an emphasis in sports. I took this class because I am of German heritage and was interested in learning more about developments in Germany. I have traveled around Germany and have visited many of the historic sites. I chose my book topic on the Hitler Youth because my grandmother was a part of the movement. My grandparents lived in Germany during the war, my grandmother was a member of the Hitler Youth and my grandfather was a U-boat captain. My grandmother used to tell me stories about her involvement so when it came time to choose a book, this one seemed the most interesting.

Abstract (back to top)

In her book Account Rendered, Melita Maschmann attempts to explain how such a radical transformation from a young German girl to a dedicated Nazi could take place. The book is written as a narrative to an old Jewish friend who disappeared during the war. With each step toward radicalism she tries to explain her motives to her friend. Melita believed that her parents' Germany was out of date and old fashioned. Even as a young girl she had feelings of pride and dedication for a strong, unified Germany. Like many other German citizens of the time, she believed that Hitler was the man who was going to change the future. She continuously moved upward in the ranks after joining the Hitler Youth as a press and propaganda specialist. With each passing day Melita became more involved in the growing movement and her strict ideology became more solidified. Hitler's death struck a serious blow to her psyche that could not be repaired. Melita ends the book with a final plea to her friend for forgiveness and understanding.

Essay (back to top)

Melita Maschmann's Account Rendered

During World War II, the girls of the Third Reich became important contributors to the Nazi cause. Many of the BDM, or Bund Deutscher Mädel, played a significant role in the ideological and propaganda aspect of the Nazi regime. The girls' division of the Hitler Youth was much more ideological then the boys. Many young people were drawn to the ranks of the Hitler Youth due to the antagonism they felt towards the older generation who were always talking about the nostalgia of the past. In Melita Maschmann's Account Rendered (1964) the author describes her attraction to the torchlight processions, the marching songs and rallies that accompanied Hitler's rise to power in 1933. She felt that the out of date world of her parents could only be brought to an end by declaring war on the social stratum from which they came, which she believed Hitler intended to do (p.4). Written as a letter to a childhood Jewish friend who disappeared, Melita Maschmann tries to explain how such a radical personal change could take place; pleasant young German girl into a dedicated Nazi, without feelings and without coercion.

As a young girl Melita had a desire to dive into the current and not to be submerged by it. “I wanted to escape from my childish, narrow life and I wanted to attach myself to something great and fundamental” (p.12). Her experiences in childhood framed her for a strong attraction to National Socialism. She states (1964) that even before she understood the word Germany, she loved it as “something mysteriously filled with grief and threatened with danger” (p. 15). When her parents' resistance weakened they gave her permission to join the youth leagues. It was not the political rhetoric that caused her to join; it was the weekend outings, with hikes, sports, campfire and youth hostelling that she most enjoyed. However, the girls in her group were not the real companions she was looking for. Maschmann explains that she was the only girl in her group who had attended secondary school and was not looking for ‘young working girl' companions (p.19). As a result Maschmann became more active in the BDM and it was not her hatred that drew her to the elite ranks; it was her love of Germany; she wished to make herself ‘tough, swift, and hard' (p.26).

When Maschmann became an active member of the BDM, she regarded her role in the organization as a kind of welfare worker; politics never entered into it. Although she was involved in various anti-Semitic propaganda campaigns she believed that the degredation against the Jews was just a passing phase. Maschmann states that her “anti-Semitic attitude seemed to be a natural part of my National Socialist outlook” (p. 45). However she explains how her membership in the Hitler Youth played no part in the life of the classroom and her attitude toward the Jewish girls in the class never changed. Maschmann drew a clear distinction between “those Jews” and the Jewish people she conversed with during her childhood. She explains “I had learned from my parents' example that one could have anti-Semitic opinions without this interfering in one's personal relations with individual Jews” (p.41). Throughout the book, Maschmann never associates Hitler's propaganda against the Jews with her own Jewish friends. “The Jew” was an evil power, something with the attributes of a spook or monster.

By the age of twenty five, Maschmann had risen to the head of the press department of the BDM and was involved in something much greater then she had anticipated. At the outbreak of the war she was utterly convinced of Germany's superior moral position. According to the German Press, Germany made the attack on Poland after the news of ‘Bloody Sunday' in which sixty thousand German nationals were killed. In actuality however the events occurred in reverse order and Maschmann accounts for how difficult it was to cut through “the undergrowth of our own minor and major political mistakes” (p.60). In the first days of the war Maschmann was sent to Schneidemühl, near the Polish border. It was here that she realized that she was no longer an individual entity and had become fully absorbed into the National Socialist movement. While in Poland she was bombarded with propaganda regarding the biological threat the Polish population presented. Maschmann's National Socialist theories seemed to be confirmed as she viewed the area as poor, lower-middle class and primitive. She was told that Germany would be able to overcome its fears regarding the biological survival of the nation, by increasing its confidence in the unique qualities of leadership. “A group which believes itself to be called and chosen to lead, as we did, has no inhibitions when it comes to taking territory from ‘inferior elements'” (p.70). The constant bombardment of National Socialist propaganda, as well as her first hand experiences in Poland, rooted Maschmann's ideology deep within her psyche.

Melita Maschmann's induction into the 'whole' becomes even more apparent when she displays her newly formed aversive attitude toward the Jewish population. In one instance a number of local Jews crowded around their car upon arrival in the Warta to clean out the dirt. She could not look these men in the face, as if she felt ashamed for them. “Did they not know how much we despised them and that the Germans meant them no good” (Maschmann, p.80)? Furthermore the sight of Jews began to physically sicken her because her convictions regarding the importance of the German nation were in danger. Another example was her growing blindness to the experiences that cause ideologies to gain significant power over many young people. A fellow BDF leader told her of a soldier who had forced a rabbi to perform a prayer, like an oriental prince commanding an acrobat to perform skills in front of guests. Maschmann states regretfully that she does not believe she would have had an adverse reaction to such a performance because she had already surrendered to her ideology, in which she saw without seeing and heard without hearing (p. 86) .

Early in 1942 Maschmann took over running a camp for the first time. However there was a gang of Polish fire-raisers that were hiding in the forest on the outskirts of the camp. One day they set fire to the village and the women ran about in a panic. Maschmann attempted to rally the citizens to help put the fires out, not for their own benefit but to prevent the burden on the German supply arrangements. The situation caused her to encounter an evil inside herself without knowing it. She thought that “anyone who sees his fellow man in such distress and can only recognize the enemy and not the neighbor becomes himself defenseless against the power of evil” (p.107). Later when these Poles were deported, the BDM members were told that they were being resettled into German farms. The information given to them by the SS-Fuhrer was taken as fact and they never became involved in dangerous discussions of ambiguous questions.

After the death of her parents in a night bombing attack in 1944, Maschmann was filled with gloomy fatalism, although nothing outwardly changed in her life. As the war continued Maschmann worked for the press department taking a job in Berlin out of a sense of duty, not pleasure. She suffered from a general disillusionment with the Party and the Government. Even in the weeks preceding the collapse of Germany no one spoke of defeat. Furthermore with the news of Hitler's suicide “one's heart was gripped with fear at the appalling truth” (p.177). In the following weeks she was able to cling to her feeling of happiness that the war was over and travel freely without responsibility; until she was eventually arrested on July 3 rd.

In comparison to the inmates of the National Socialist concentration camps, Maschmann describes the American concentration camps an extremely comfortable. However the time in the camps only served to fortify the inmates' self-righteousness. Many of the Hitler Youth leaders were struck a blow when some of the top officials admitted to using children to participate in mass murder. Maschmann also believed that the pictures of the Jewish concentration camps were extreme exaggerations. With the collapse of the Third Reich, her fear was wrapped up in the apparent pointlessness of all her experiences. It took her twelve years to complete her inner break with National Socialism. When she became a follower of Christianity she realized that her former ideology was based on fiction not fact. Furthermore the forgiving love that she now felt gave her the strength to accept Germany's and her own guilt.

Maschmann concludes with an attempt to explain the populace's participation in the various crimes committed. People had allowed themselves to be carried away by the romantic ideas of Germany's future and avoided informing themselves about the politics. It is her strong belief that human kindness is the yardstick that should be used to measure the correctness of politics (p.201). Although this may sound like a justification, she makes sure to emphasize that she has striven to describe a painful process of inner reorientation. She also recognizes that this is only one step of the process and that if the reader thought that it was an attempt at justification; it would fill her with shame.

Although the author continually states that this letter to her Jewish friend is not a justification for the actions of the National Socialist party, it is hard to ignore the underlying irony. Account Rendered can be viewed as a prime example of the effort of one woman to explain and justify her actions. However I believe that the book is just an attempt to explain the story from a different point of view. In each instance of aversive action, Maschmann describes her rationale for acting the way that she did. It seems that in her specific case, she was drawn to the cause by her love for the national community. On the contrary this can not be the explanation for all parties that took part in the mass murder of his fellow man; there is still much left to be explained. Maschmann creates a moving portrayal of a girl's transformation from an ordinary German farm girl to a dedicated Nazi. Her story is both intriguing and complicated, which is why I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in learning what effect the leadership of the Third Reich had on the most impressionable members of society.

Bibliography and Links (back to top)(links last checked 1/13/10)

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Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi:

Plagiarism—presenting someone else's work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw (including materials found on the web)—is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university. It hurts the one who commits it most of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on 3/20/07; last updated: 1/13/10 (page title only)
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