– Winner, Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year: Younger Readers (2000)
– Shortlisted for 23 awards, both in Australia and internationally
Did Hitler's daughter, Heidi, really exist? What if she did?
The bombs were falling and the smoke rising from the concentration camps, but all Hitler's daughter knew was the world of lessons with Fraulein Gelber and the hedgehogs she rescued from the cold. Was it just a story, or did Hitler's daughter really exist? And If you were Hitler's daughter, would all the horror that occurred be your fault, too? Do things that happened a long time ago still matter?
First published in 1999, Hitler's Daughter has sold over 100,000 copies in Australia alone and has received great critical acclaim in the many counties where it has been published.
It has also been adapted into an award-winning play by Monkey Baa Theatre.
Watch Jackie Speaking about Monkey Baa Theatre's Adaptation of Hitler's Daughter
Inspiration for writing Hitler's Daughter
When I was 14, trying to do my German homework, I came across a passage I couldn't translate. My mother called a friend of hers who spoke German to help me.
It was late by then. He came over, and my mother went to bed, and we worked on the translation. But I think something in the story we were translating must have moved him (and perhaps he'd been drinking too – he hadn't known he was going to be called out to help a kid with her homework). Because there, in the silent house, he began to tell me quite a different story.
He told me about a 14-year-old boy in Hitler's Germany, who joined the Nazi Party because his parents were Nazis, and his teachers were nazis. All he had ever heard or read said it was good to be a Nazi. He believed it all – the duty to rid the race of anyone who was blind, or lame, who was Jewish or Gypsy or homosexual, or anyone who believed in their religion more than Hitler, or who disagreed with his policies and had the courage to say so.
He became a guard in a concentration camp because that is what 14-year-old boys were doing in Germany at the end of the war. And when the war was over he was illegally smuggled out of Germany with his parents, as many Nazi war criminals were.
He said to me, "When you are 14, and the world around you is insane, how do you know what is good and what is evil? How do you know?" (And I've changed some of the circumstances here, because he was a good man, who had spent his life trying to atone for what he'd done. And he had only been 14…)
I forgot his words for many years. Then ten years ago I took my mother, my brother, my cousin and my 14-year-old son to the theatre to see Cabaret for my mother's 70th birthday. The play is set in Germany, just as Hitler is coming to power. Half-way through, the teenage waiter sings the most beautiful song 'Tomorrow belongs to me.'
I watched as my son stared at the singer entranced.
Half-way through the song it changes. The lights come up...you realise the waiter is wearing a Nazi uniform. The orchestra stands, and they too are wearing Nazi uniforms. And my son sat there in shock because he had been identifying with a Nazi song. As he said to me later, "That song was about me and my friends. Tomorrow belongs to us." He said he realised how he so easily may have become a Nazi, if he had been 14 in Hitler's Germany.
How do you know what is good and evil when you are 14, and the world around you is insane?
If you are 14, and you realise evil is happening, what can you do? No one listens to 14-year-olds... or do they?
If you are Hitler's Daughter, after the war, do you have to say you are sorry for what your father has done, and that you had no part of?
(And no, I don't have answers to those questions. But I think they are good ones to ask.)