Hitler Youth: Membership


Figure 1.--The Hitler Youth was a rather small organization until Hitler seized power. After the NAZIs seized powe in 1933 this changed. They rapidly turned the Hitler Youth into a huge organization which came to increasingly influence German youth beyond the control of their parents.

The Hitler Youth grew from a group with a handful of boys to one of the most important uniformed youth froup in Europe. No group so thoroughly suceeded in their stated purpose. Had the NAZIs suceeded, the elite of Europe would have been raised and trained through the Hitler Youth. Membership increased from about 1,000 in 1923 to nearly 8 million in 1939 when Hitler launched World War II. Very detailed statistics are available on the growth of the NAZI Party youth organizations, principally the Hitler Youth, as the NAZIs were such good record keepers. Membership in the Hitler Youth was limited to Aryan boys. Here a basic understanding of NAZI racial laws. The principal laws were annoubced by Hitler on September 15, 1935 at the Nuremberg Paty Congress. Any understanding of the experience of German children during the NAZI era can not escape a basic understanding of the regimes racial policies. All Aryan boys could join the DJ and become HJ boys. Jews were excluded. Mischlings could legally join, but did not always desire to do so and were often not wanted. These were children with one (Mischling First Degree) and two (Mischling Second Degree) Jewish grand parents. Children with three Jewish grandparents were classified as Jews and could not belong to the HJ.

Annual Membership Numbers

The Hitler Youth grew from a group with a handful of boys to a mass organization, the most important uniformed youth froup in Europe. Hitler from an early stage placed considerable importance to recruiting youjng people. Few other German politicans saw this as important. And he knew how he wanted them organized. He wrote, "The weak must be chiselled away. I want young men and women who can suffer pain. A young German must be as swift as a greyhound, as tough as leather, and as hard as Krupp's steel." No youth group so thoroughly suceeded in their stated purpose. Had the NAZIs suceeded, the Aryan elite of Europe would have been raised and trained through the Hitler Youth to rule over Slavic heliots in the East. Membership increased began with about 1,000 (1923) abd skyrocked to 2.3 million when the NAZIs seized power (1933). A further junp to 5,4 milliom occured when membership was made compulsory (1936). Membership exceeded 8 million youth during the first full year of the War (1940). Very detailed statistics are available on the growth of the NAZI Party youth organizations, principally the Hitler Youth, as the NAZIs were such good record keepers. There are no precise records after the outbreak of the War, but even if collected they would be lsargely meaningless. The HJ members were gradually deployed into a range of efforts supporting the war effort. So even if they were theoiretically HJ members, they were no longer engaged in youth group activities.

NAZI Racial Laws and Policies

Membership in the Hitler Youth was limited to Aryan boys. Here a basic understanding of NAZI racial laws. The principal laws were annoubced by Hitler on September 15, 1935 at the Nuremberg Paty Congress. Any understanding of the experience of German children during the NAZI era can not escape a basic understanding of the regimes racial policies. As the boys in the images posted in HBC can not speak to us, such background is needed to understand what was hoing through their heads and the experiences they had. The NAZI attitude toward the Jews is best known, but other groups were also affected. Then there was the complication of children who were of mixed ancestry--"Mischlings". Racial background affected one legal status and standing in the society. For boys a primary consideration was membership in the Hitler Youth and the right to wear the uniform--a uniform that even many children from anti-NAZI or non-Aryan families often desired to wear.

Eligibility

All Aryan boys could join the DJ and become HJ boys. HBU not certain about Mischlings. These were children with one (Mischling First Degree) and two (Mischling Second Degree) Jewish grand parents. Children with three Jewish grandparents were classified as Jews and could belong to the DJ and HJ. The HJ Laws prohibited Jews from joining. It did not mention Mischling. Thus they could legally join, but whether they wanted to join or local HJ leaders wanted them is a different matter. Ilse Koehn described her experiences. She was a Mischling Second Degree. Her beloved grandmother was Jewish who disappeared suddenly during 1943. The family later found she was murdered at Theresienstadt. Ilse was allowed to join the BDM although she herself at first did not know she was part Jewish. [Koehn.] Another Mischling Second Class tells us, "I grew up in Vienna, Austria and when I reached 10 years of age in 1943 I like any other child had to report ready to join the junior version of the local group of the Jungmaedel (BDM), boys between 10-14 years were called Pimpf). Woe to any child which did not report as it was compulsory and disobedience could lead to a labour camp. I had to fill in a form containing amongst other details who were my parents, grandparents, great grandparents and their religious beliefs. Now my great grandparents on my fathers side were Jews and as soon as this was noticed I was told that I was not good enough to join up, but if ever necessary they would get in touch with me. If my memory serves me right I was somewhat upset by this because it made me different from the other kids my age." [Evans]

Gender

NAZI related girl's units began to form in 1923, but only small numbers of girls were involved. The Hitler Youth was at first primarily a boy's organization. There uniforms were similar to the Brown-shirted SA and thus had a rather unsavory image. Few parents would want their girls to join such an organization. The HJ girls' division was the The Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM). The BDM was not founded until 1930 ad was not integrated into the HJ organization until 1931. The male orientation of the HJ organization meant that at first the BDM was not very popular with girls. The number of girls were limited, significanbtly trailing that of the boys until 1936 when membership was made compulsory. Both boys and girls after the NAZIs were in firm control were required to join the HJ. The girls like the boys were expected to join at age 10. The units were separated from the boys and activities and program quite different in keeping with the NAZI view that the proper role for women was motherhood--producing boys for the German Army. As with the boys, failure to join the BDM could be dangerous, both for the girl and the family. The programs were strictly separated, although there were ways that the older teenagers to get together, such as arts and theatrical programs. The strict separation is clearly shown in the photographic record. Images of HJ boys and girls together outside of the family or school are rather rare. They appear to be incidental occurances and not the result of programmed activities.

Membership Books

Hitler Youth members were issued membership books. The first page of the membership book had the diamond shaped logo of the Hitler Youth. The books included identity photographs and basic information such as the youth's birthdate and when he or she joined the HJ organization. There was also a page for recording the payment of dues. Here a small pink stamp with the letters HJ was pasted in, indicating that the member had paid the monthly dues. The text of the membership card was written in the old-style German script. This makes it difficult to read the text in the book with the existing scan that we have. We hope to eventually transcribe and translate the text. The membership book here was for a boy who joined in October 1933. He was only a member for about a year because he was already an older boy when he joined.

Sources

Evans, Lottie. "Lottie's Story," http://timewitnesses.org/english/~lotte.html

Koehn, Ilse. Mischling Second Degree: My Childhood in NAZI Germany (Puffin: 1981).

Massaquoi, Hans Jürgen. Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany (New York: Harper Perennial, 2001).






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Created: July 5, 2000
Last updated: 4:33 AM 10/9/2011