Hitler was a notorious anti-intelectual. In fact it was 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. 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 Furrer put back the development of key radar, jet, and rocket systems so that by the time they were finally operation that they had minimal impact on the war.
German youth were fully incorporated into Hitler's dream of a Nazi society within months of seizng power in 1933. (The one exception was the the Catholic youth groups, but they too were eventually absorbed into the Hitler Youth. German Youth now had one uniform and one creed and many saw themselves as marching together to foge a new Germany. They had their own uniform and a creed that officially recognized them as an organization.
Hitler in December 1936, in order to complete his dream of a sound future in the youth of Germany, issued this decree:
The Hitler Youth program stressed 1) physical conditioning, 2) skills training, especially military or para-military training, and 3) ideologiacl preparation. Von Schirach wrote, "I am responsible to the Reich that the entire youth of Germany will be educated physically, morally and spiritually in the spirit of the National Socialist Idea of the State." HJ activities were centered around achieving these onjectives. Some of the HJ efforts were crude propaganda, but there were also many sophisticted approaches. The HJ program proved remarably effective in accomplishing these objectives. Scholars today debate as to just to what extent the NAZI program was enbraced by the German people. No one questions the fact that young people were among Hitler's most devoted followers.
The HJ conducted a wide range of activities to achieve its primary objectives. Here there were a lot of similarities with the Scouting program. Both heavily emphasized outdoor activities, especially hiking and camping.. Major difference was fund raising and religion. There were also differences in emphasis, such as para-miltary training and pagentry. To a large extent, however, the two programs pursued many of the same activities. This of course was it part determined by the activities which interested boys. The difference between the HJ and Scouting were more with how the program was run and family involvement.
The Hitler Youth was virulently nationalistic. There was no international idea as was the case of Scouting. The Hitler Youth were not interested in meetings with other groups while the NAZIs were rising to power. In facts there were fights with rival groups, especially the coomunists and socialists. There was a great interest in meeting with other Hitler Youth groups and the annual NAZI Party Congress at Nurembyrg provided the opportunity to do so. The NAZis who abolished Scouting in Germany for a brief period tried to foment meetings with English Scouts in an effort to woo the English. There were also efforts to develop links with like-minded youth groups in Nordic amd, after 1940, some occupied countries.
HJ boys and BDM girls did 8 months service of farms which was called Landjahr. This was apparently for children who finished school at age 14 as well as older youths. The Landjahr program was only mandatory for university students. There were apparently boarding facilities in rural areas. At a typical camp the children were awaken at 6:00 in the morning for catlestetics or sport. Accommodations varied. Some were newly built or modernized facilities. Others were more make-shift arrangements. This involved a morning salute, farm work, care of animals, marching, singing, outdoor games, and communal living. The program was different for boys and girls. There was also some military training like rifle training for the boys. The children were sometimes rausgejagt at night at 1 o'clock for a night march. There were outdoor campfires. The size of the groups. Varied. One source reports a group of 80 youths. I think the Landjahr could also be satisfied by arrangements with individual farmers. The Landjahr grew out of a much smaller program initiated in the 1920s. We notice various editions of Wir erleben das Landjahr published in 1939 and 1942 to promote the program. We do not fully understand this program, but have begun to collect some information.
The Hitler Youth program invluded activities that involved them with World War II in a number of ways. In reality the whole purpose of the Hitler Youth was to prespare German boys spirtually and physically to make war. In this regard from the NAZI point of view, the whole enterprise was enormously successful. German boys from many diverse backgrounds fought diligently for the Führer. This included boys from Communist and Socialist families. Most HJ activities such as hiking, ohysical exercise, camping, etc. prepared boys indicretly for war. Many of these activities wre not greatly different than those that Boy Scouts might pursue. Others were different, such as encourgaging organized and some not-so organized physical conflict among the boys through wide games or actual boxing and wrestling bouts. All this prepared the boys indicretly for the physically for the demands of combat. There were other activities, however, that were more directly associated witn preparing for war. Boys trained in a range of military skills such as shooting, laying and penetrating barbed wire, entrenching, laying communications wires, and other military skills. As a esult, when these boys were coinscripted, they showed up for basic training in excellent health and already possessing a range of military skills.
Then when Hitler launched the War, the Hitler Youth was used in many different ways to support the war effort. The Hitler Youth after the outbreak of the war in 1939 began a variety of war work. At first it was home front duties much like the Scouts in Britain, collecting scrap metal, warm clothing for soldiers on the Easter Front, charity donations, or other similar activities. Hitler Youth were also involved in farm work. We believe that there was also farm work before the War, but as more and more men were drafted into the military during the War, more workers were needed. We note accounts of HJ farm workers both living with farm families as well at HJ camps. Many Hitler Youth boys did more than just home front war work, but actually saw military service. The Hitler Youth was important in the German military effort. It no only prepared boys for military service, providing physical and ideological conditioning, but also was a conduit for chaneling the boys into the various service branches. But once accomplished the boys were no longer HJ members. Some boys acutually participated in the War as active HJ nembers. This was accomplished in sevedal ways: 1) anti-air craft batteries, 2) Volksstrom (Home Guard), and 3) other ways. Whole military units were formed from Hitler Youth boys. I'm not sure if the boys in these units continued to be HJ members once their military unit was formed.
We have collected several images of Hitler Youth activities that we can not readily identify. They clearly show some sort f activity going on, but we are not positive just what. Hopefully HBU readers will be able to offer some insights as to just what is going on.
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