“The child intuitively comprehends that although these stories are unreal, they are not untrue.”
― Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, 1976
“A vast army of ghosts, cripples and monsters inhabited my dream landscapes, where cities were burned and forests were mowed down by a hail of bombs.”
―Melita Maschmann, Account Rendered: A Dossier on my Former Self, 1964.
In 1933 when Melita Maschmann was fifteen years old, she secretly joined the girls’ division of the Hitler Youth in a protest against her wealthy conservative parents. Her goal was to escape from her “childish narrow life,” and attach herself “to something that was great and fundamental.” For almost twenty years, she remained a committed, avowed Nazi supporter experiencing at times “overwhelming joy” as she worked in the press and propaganda sections during the 1930s and supervised the evictions of Polish farmers and the resettlement of ethnic Germans on their farms during the war years. By the end of the war, she exposed herself to danger expecting to die since she was unable to imagine “an existence robbed of the possibility an inner life.” Even after she spent three years in prison and underwent the compulsory de-Nazification program, she remained an unrepentant Nazi. Then over the next twelve years she underwent a profound transformation that culminated in her mea culpa memoir, Account Rendered, which attempted to understand not excuse “the wrong and even the evil steps I took.” It was likely the first time a former National Socialist publicly acknowledged that she had served “an inhuman political system,” and admitted that she had never thought for herself. The vast majority, like the parents in the novella and film adaptation Lore, burned any incriminating documents. They regarded Maschmann’s memoir as a form of betrayal and never forgave her.