Hitler Youth


Figure 1.--The Hitler Youth Movement succeded in mesmerizing an entire generation of idealistic German boys with the NAZI ideology of racial and national superiority. These boys were the ones who carried out without question the barbarities of aggresive war and the Holocaust.

He alone, who owns the youth, gains the Future!

-- Adolf Hitler, speech at the Reichsparteitag, 1935

The Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth), the NAZI party's youth movement, indoctrinated German youth to perpetuate the "1,000 year Reich." The Hitler Youth movement emphasized activism, physical training, NAZI ideology, especially nationalism and racial concepts, and absolute obedience to Hitler and the NAZI Party. Indoctrinating children in National Socialist idelogy was a key goal of the NAZI Party. Once Hitler assumed control over the German state, he used the Goverment to make the Hitler Youth the country's all encompassing youth movement. Hitler and other NAZIs leaders saw the indoctrination of young Germans as of critical importance. In the same year that they took power, the NAZIs organized German youth organizations into two branches of the Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend), one branch for boys and one for girls. Membership was eventually made compulsory and all boys had to report to a neighborhood office to have his racial background checked and be registered for membership. There was then a typically elaborate introduction ceremony on the Führer's birthday. The Hitler Youth was not just a German version of the Boy Scouts. The Hitler Youth were more similar to the Soviet Young Pioneers, but even with the Pioneers there were major differences. Hitler from the beginning saw the Hitler Youth movement as a tool to hardening boys for their future role of soldiers. He wanted a generation of "victorious active, daring youth, immune to pain." There was to be no "intelectual" training for the boys of the New Order, Hitler saw intelectual pursuits as damaging to German youth. The NAZIs used the Hitler Jugend to educate German Youth " in the spirit of National Socialism " and subjected them to an intensive programme of Nazi propaganda. The NAZIs established the Hitler Jugend as a source of replacements for Nazi Party formations. The Hitler Youth leadership in October, 1938 entered into an agreement with Himmler under which members of the Hitler Jugend who met SS standards would be considered as the primary source of recruitment for the SS. The NAZIs also used the Hitler Jugend for pre-military training. Special units were set up whose primary purpose was training specialists for the various military branches. HBC has compiled the following information on the Hitler Youth movement and the uniforms the boys wore.

Background

The NAZIs seized power in 1933. Independent youth groups were absobed into the Hitler Youth or abolished. The NAZIs by 1935 had enrolled 60 percent of Germany's youth into their youth movement. There were programs for both boys and girls, but they were very different given Hitler's concept of the proper role of women. Joining at the age of ten, boys were indoctrinated in all aspects of Nazi ideology, and particularly brainwashed in anti-Semitism. Encouraged to translate ideas into action, many later became active participants in the NAZI's mass murder of European Jews and other groups they considered undesirable.

Chronology

NAZI youth organization began in 1922. The task was taken on by the SA. The Hitler Youth were officially formed at the second Reichsparteitag (National Party Day) on July 4, 1926. Shortly after seizing power in 1933, the NAZIs broke in to the German Youth Ministry and explained that the workers were now employed by the Hitler Youth. Anti-NAZIs were ejected. Most of the existing German Youth organizatons were either banned or incorporated into the Hitler Youth. Most boys had to join the Hitler Youth, although membership was not officially compulsory until 1939. In 1942, physical training became more rigorus. Many basic military skills were incorporated such as camouflage, crossing rivers, digging fox holes laying down, etc. Hitler Youth Leader Arthur Axmann on Hitler's birthday (April 1944) presented him with a newly formed division--the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. The Division was composed of HJ youth born in 1926, meaning that they were 17-18 years old. The senior NCOs and officers were mostly SS veterans from the Eastern Front. The Division played a prominent role in the Normandy fighting.

History

The Hitler Youth movement changed over time from one of many competing youth movements to a powerful state-sponsored youth movement. Hitler from the beginning conceived a youth program as esential to the NAZI program. The Hitler Youth program was guided by an early NAZI convert, Baldur von Schirach. The Hitler Youth program had four different phases, the predecessors (1923-26), the early years (1926-32) when they had to compete with other youth groups, the Government years (1933-39) when independent groups were supressed and young Germans were indoctrinated in preparation for the War. and finally the War years (1940-45) when the Hitler Youth played an important part, including the formation of combat units.


Figure 2.--Nationalist youth groups stressed military drill and as they got older more and more military training was added to the programs, including handling fire arms. We at first thought these were Hitler Youth boys. But the uniform is not right. Note the tassle on the one boys's cap. I'm not sure what that meant. Also note that the other boys are not wearing black shorts. I'm not sure just what uniform they are wearing. The emblem on one boy's cap looks like a Luftwaffe emblem. Click on the image for a fuller discussion.

Membership

The Hitler Youth grew from a group with a handful of boys to one of the most important uniformed youth group 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 boys in 1923 to nearly 8 million in 1939 when Hitler launched World War II.

Legal Status

Hitler Youth members seized the German Youth Ministry within a few weeks of Hitler's appointment as Chancellor (1933). Membership for a few years was more or less voluntary. This changed with the promulgation of three laws (1936, 39, and 41) which among other matters made membrship compulsory for all German children beginning at age 10 years. The First Hitler Youth Law announced, "The future of the German people depends on its youth. Therefore, all of the German youth must be prepared for its future duties." The subsequent two Hitler Youth Laws were designed primarily to prevent families from evading the requirement to enroll their children in the HJ.

Organization

The NAZIs within only months of sezing power in 1933, organized, all German youth groups and clubs for boys and girls between the ages of 10-18. Independent groups were consolidated by the Reich into the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) and organized along military lines. The NAZI youth program began for children at 10 years of age. The Hitler Youth program was for all German youth, boys and girls. The program, however, was not coeducational. There were separate groups for boys and girls. The activities of the two programs were very different. Both stressed health and outdoor activities, but the girl's program stressed the home and family and the duty to bear children. The boy's program stressed building a healthy body and skills that would serve a future German warrior.

Utility

Hitler considered the NAZI youth movement to be very impportant. Politicans are known to give lip service to children's programs, but their priorities were elsewhere. Hitler was very serious about the Hitler Youth program. It was a very important part of the Third Reich because it was so useful for the regime. There are several reasons Hiter gave considerable attention to youth. Hitler was a politican. He was a very astute politican, but ironically hated the give and take of politics. He was keenly aware of the difficulties he had to overcome to seize power and even in the tainted March 1933 election that he failed to obtain a majority vote. He realized that he would never be able to convert all Germans to National Socialism. He converted many, but many others saw through the official propaganda. The younger generation was a different matter. They came to the Hitler Youth as more of a clean slate which were much more vulnerable to ideological manipulation. He was sceptical about the schools, especially the schools he inherited in 1933. The Hitler Youth was a program that the NAZIs could completely control. Not only did the Hitler Youth provide the vehicle which the future geneation of Germans could be shaped, but the youth could be used n many other ways by Hitler and the NAZIs.

Principles and Ideology

The two major principles the NAZIs constantly preached at the Hitler Youth boys was the superority of the German nation and Aryan race and the need of the Germand people for Lebensraum ("living space") in the east. There were other principles such as the recovery of territory lost in Wold War I and of Germany's overseas colonies.

Events and Ceremonies

There weere a variety of events in the lives of Hitlker Youth boy, beginning with their induction into the Hitler Youth at 10 years of age. Curiously although there is a huge body of photographs depicting the Hitler Youthboys and their activities, images of the major events are quite rare. Given the NAZI penchant for pagentry we are somewhat surprised at this. We think it may relate to the fact that such events were commonly staged indoors and indoor photograph was more complicated. Almost all the HJ photographic record is outdoor photography. There are some indoor photographs, but these seem more propaganda images taken by professional photographers. The induction ceremony was only the first event in a boy's HJ careers. Boys were promoted as they demonstrated leadership capabilities and political commitment. Unfortunately we do not have any images of these ceremonies. After induction, the new boys spent a few months on probation. During this period the boys were trained by older HJ boys. They had to pass a test reciting all the verses of the Horst Wessel Song, the NAZI anthemn about a martyred HJ boy. They also had to answer basic questions about both Hitler's life and NAZI Party history and ideology. The boys also had to demonstrate their physical fitness by running 60 meters in at least 12 seconds. And they had to complete a cross country hike lasting a day and a half. The boys also had to successfully complete a Mutprobe (courage test). This varied somewhat. A common component was was then given such as jumping from a first or second story ledge into a large canvass held by older HJ boys. After he passed these tests, the new boys were deemed entitled to wear the brown shirt with the the Jungvolk insignia and a leather shoulder strap. We think the boys could wear the uniform at theur inductioin ceremony. It was the Jungvolk badge and shoulder strap that they had to pass the tests to wear, but this is a subject we are still working on. We ae also not sure what was meant by the Jungvolk badge, this may refer to the sports or performance badge, butv this was not normally worn on the uniform. The shoulder straps became less common by the time of the War. What the boys coiveted more than anything was the Hitler Youth knive worn with the uniform. The knive had the inscription -- ' Blut und Ehre ' (Blood and Honor).

International Activities

The Hitler Youth movement was a German nationalist movement. There was nothing like the Boy Scout effort at internationalism. This would be rather difficult in an organization named after and idealizing the national leader and which proclaimed the German nation and people as the greatest in the world. Nor were the NAZIs interested in giving young Germans experiences with foreigners which might dilute the NAZI nationalist mindset. There were, however, for the NAZIs some complications. First there was the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan and with junior parners in Eastern Europe. Second, the NAZIs saw the world in racial terms. Thus there were several foreign countries with Aryan populations. These were countries or regions which, had Germany won World War II, would have been incorportated into the Reich (Flanders, the Netherlands, and Scandanavia). Here the approach of the Hitler Youth was to provide children in those countries experiences within the Reich, although after the war began to go against Germany this effort had to be curtailed. Third, after the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler presented Germany as leading a great crusade against Bolshevism. Thus there were some propaganda attempts to portray a kind of NAZI led pan-Europeanism.

Approach

An important part of the Hitler Youth system was authority given to the members. The Hitler Youth made a point that "youth must be led by youth". This was an important part of the Hitler Youth ethos, meant to cultivate the image of unsullied German youth rejecting the failed old leaders and their failed policies and principles. In fact, boys and girls were given leadership positions. The slogan, however, was misleading. The boys were encouraged to question or even reject some authority figures, such as parents or church leaders, which appeled to many boys. They were required, however, to accept NAZI principles without question. Hitler Youth leaders did not represent an autonomous youth culture, but were in effect functionaries of the NAZI Party bureaucracy. They were tighty regimented by rules and regulations. [Noakes and Pridham, p. 422.]

Activities

The Hitler Youth program was based on Hitler's anti-intellectualism. Hitler was a notorious anti-intelectual. The best example of this is Hitler's ban in 1940 on weapons programs which could not be completed within a year. Thus decision by the Führer put back the development of key radar, jet, and rocket systems so that by the time they were finally operational, they had minimal impact on the war. Intelectual persuits were not encouraged in NAZI Germany. In fact it could be quite dangerous in NAZI Germany to speak one's mind, especially on matters of interest to Hitler and the NAZIs. The Hitler Youth program reflected Hitler's distrust of intelectuals and lack of interest in intelectual pursuits. Physical, rather than mental development was stressed and outdoor activities dominated the program--including activities of indirect or direct value to the military.

Programs

There were many special programs associated with the Hitler Youth. The basis activities of marching, camping, games, and other activities is described above. In addition there were special programs including labor service, assisting the Getstapo, and heloping with various aspects of the war effort.


Figure 3.--The boys in the center wear the Hitler Youth winter uniform. They are being presented Iron Crosses for bravery in 1943. They are being congratulated by youth leader Arthur Axmann who lost his right arm during fighting on the Eastern Front.

Mindset

One can not help, but wonder what the boys themselves thought about the Hitler Youth and the New Germany. Information from diaries, letters, interviews of adults looking back on their Hitler Youth days, and other sources provide often chilling insights on what the boys in these photographs were thinking. We will also archive here what ever we find about what the boys thought about their uniforms. It was not just Aryan German boys to which the Hitler Youth appealed.

Uniform

We have not had the opportunity to thoroughly research the uniforms of the Hitler Youth. WE don't have any written material describing the history of the uniform and actual uniform regulations. We notice some chronological trends in the Hitler Youth uniforms. The early uniforms of the Jugendbund could vary. Once the NAZIs seized power and the Hitler Youth became a state youth program, the uniform became much more standardized. The basic uniform of brown shirt and black short pants varied little over time. We have seen some variations, but are unsure if that represents expected variations in any large number of boys, regional variations, or changes in national regulations over time. The uniform was very popular among the Hitler Youth boys. In our modern era of sophisticated, jaded youth who object to the idea of a uniform, it is difficult to fully comprehend just how important the uniform was to boys at the time. This was perhaps especially true in Germany, but Scouts in other countries also felt strongly about their uniforms. There were two sections to the boys units of the Hitler Youth, the Deutsche Jugend for the younger (10-14) boys and the Hitler Jugend proper for the older (15-18) boys. There were differences in the uniforms of the two groups. Some of the uniform items were identical, but there were important differences. The most obvious uniform item was a brown shirt.

Banners

The basic banner of the Hitler Youth was black with a single rune. This was a contrast to the SS which used a double rune as its symbol. The HJ single rune flag was commonly carried at the front of the column when HJ units paraded. Often we see the standard bearer flanked by color guards. Notably we do not see the boys carrying the swastika flag, even adter 1935 when it became the official national German flag. We note that often the single rune banner was the only banner or flag that the HJ units carried. We do note other banners, but we are not sure just what they represented. Hopefully HBU readers will be able to provide some insignts.

Documents

There were a range of documents associated with a child's membership in the Hitler Youth. We notice a form called an Einberufung. This appears something like an induction certificate. The most important document was tge child's membership book. Every Hitler Youth member wa issued a membership book. This was entitled a Mitgliebs=Musmeis. The first page of the membership book had the diamond shaped logo of the Hitler Youth and the membership number. 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 stmp was pasted in that indicated that the dues had been paid. The text of the membership card was written in the old-style German script. We also notice documents confirming satisfactory service which were needed to enter secondary schools and university.

Requirements

The HJ set requirements in exercise, shooting, communications, map reading, first aid, and other areas that the boys were expected to achieve. We do not yet have details on those requirements which presumably were staggered accoing to the DJ/HJ levels or age. We believe there was some sort of handbook establishing these requirements. We assume that the boys were instructed in the weekly meeings. We also note training exercises at summer camps. We are less sure how the testing was conducted or what happened to boys who did not meet the requirements. One interesting aspect here is that the boys did not have merit badges on their uniforms to show their accomplishments. Nor did they have the achievevevt-based ranks reflecting their accomplishments like the system in Cub/Boy Scouting.

Publications

Hitler Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach stated that, "It was my task to educate the youth in the aims, ideology and directives of the NSDAP, and beyond this to direct and to shape them." [Nizkor Project, 3302-PS.] The Hitler Youth developed an elaborate propaganda apparatus to accomplish this. They published numerous periodicals, ranging from a daily press service to monthly magazines. Through liaison agents the Hitler Youth Propaganda Office had permanent contact with Dr. Goebbels' Propaganda Office of the NSDAP and with the Ministry of People's Enlightenment and Propaganda. [Nizkor Project, 3349-PS.] The Hitler Youth organization published a series of magazines including Youth and Homeland, The Young World, The German Girl and Girls Your World. Another magazine, Will and Power, was produced for HJ leaders and female guardians.

Portraits and Snapshots

HBU looks on photographs as small historical documents, a moment in time frozen for posterity. Photographs are especially valuable if we know who the individuals are and a little about their fmily. Unfortunately this is often not the case. Even so, the photographic record does I think provide valuable insights into the Hitler Youth. Here we are especially interested in two aspects of the HJ. First we are interested in how the HJ was perceived with German families. There are quite a number of personal accounts. But because of the associations involved with the NAZIs, it is not always possible to take personal accounts at face value. Family attitudes are especially interesting because part of the purpose of the HJ was to break down family allegiances and cement loyalty to the Party and Führer. Second we are interested in the camraderie fostered by the HJ, a powerful force for youth, especially teenagers. Readers may have other ideas and insights that can be garnered from the available photograohic record.

Critical Charges

The Hitler Youth movement continues to be of interest to historians studying the 20th centurty. The NAZIs and their sympathizers after World War II claimed that charges concerning the evil nature of the Hitler Youth were unfounded, that they were nothing more than a youth movement comparable to the Boy Scouts. Hitler Youth organizer Baldur von Schirach used this argument at his Nuremburg trial, although he did admit the organization had been misused during the War, when he was no longer the leader. HBU has noted numerous accounts about the Hitler Youth both before and after the War. Some relate to actual HJ programs, other to the individual actions of HJ members which may or may not have been instigated or tolerated by HJ leaders. Some of these charges are widely know and well documented. Others are based on individual observations and thus less open to confirmation.

Personal Accounts

Interesting details about the Hitler Youth are available from the children involved looking back as adults on their experiences. The reflections are quite varied. Most boys were at first eager to join. Parents had more mixed feelings, especially anti-NAZIs. In many cases the boys from these families could not understand their parents misgivings. Often it was not safe for their parents to explain why to their children--both boys and girls. Many boys enthusiastically participated. Other boys hated it, especially smaller boys and boys who did not have an atheletic bent who might have difficulty. And of course some boys were excluded such as Jewish boys or part Jewish boys (Mischling). We hope to archive a variety of accounts here. We would be very interested in hearing from our older German readers about their experiences. We are also interested in any personal accounts which may have been published. Millions of boys were involved. We think many have been hesitant to write about their experiences which is unfortunate. A few parents managed to keep their children out of the Hitler Youth or the children could not participate because they were not Aryan. In many cases these boys envied the Hitler Youth boys with their fine uniforms and comradship.

Important Legal Notice

The information here on the Hitler Youth movement is for educational purposes, scientific and artistic historical research, and military and uniform research. The reader should only enter this section if he or she is planning to use the information for these legitimate purposes. Please note that many of the images display Third Reich emblems and the emblems of various NAZI organizations. There are also photographs of Hitler and other NAZI officials. We strictly prohibit any of this material to be used for propaganda or subversive purposes. Such a use would make violators liable for procecution under S 86aStGB (German Penal Code). Readers should not enter this section if they have any such intention. The Webmaster will report any violations of German law that come to our attention to the appropriate German authorities.

Sources

The Hitler Youth has engendered considerable interest. A substantial body of personal accounts and scholarship exists on the NAZI youth group. Informative studies of the Hitler Youth are listed here. HBU is just begining to peruse these sources and would be interested in hearing from readers who are familiar with any of thyese works. We are also interested in any additional sources with which readers may be familiar.

Reader Comments

We note that the Hitler Youth (HJ) pages here are one of the most used section in our HBU website. Clearly readers are using these pages for various reserch projects. We would be very interested in the reader comments or the results of these research projects and any addition information developed on the HJ. We welcome reader comments and contributions to help develop the HJ pages that we have developed here. The first paper submitted by reades is: "Hitler Jugend".







HBU






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Created: November 15, 1998
Spell checked: 4:02 PM 12/5/2009
Last updated: 9:59 PM 7/30/2012