Hitler Youth: Activities--War Service


Figure 1.--The Hitler Youth was seen by the NAZIs as aearly preparation for military service. It was also useful to channel the boys into the various military services. The HJ boy is shown here with a soldier in a Panzer crew uniform. I'm not sure what the uniform in the center is, perhaps a uniform for an older HJ boy or adult leader.

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 several ways: 1) anti-air craft batteries, 2) Volkstrum (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.

Training

The Hitler Youth not only provided military training, but the emotional and phusical preparation for war in addition to ideological indoctrination was, after the NAZIs seized power, the primary purpose of the organization. The NAZIs did not tell the boys and their parents that they were being prepared for War, but in reviewing the program that conclusion was obvious. The Hitler Youth was carefully organized to feed older boys directly into military service. Military training was an important part of the Hitler Youh program. All Hitler Youth boys received weapons training as well as training leadership skills and other skills useful to the military. There were even special Hitler Youth divisions to provide specialized training for the Luftwaffe, Krigsmarina, motorized skills for the Wehrmacht, and other skills in smaller programs.

Participation

Some boys acutually participated in the War as active HJ nembers. This was accomplished in several ways: 1) anti-air craft batteries, 2) Volkstrum (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.

Flakhelfer

The HJ also had a major Flakhelfer program of anti-aircraft helpers which made a major contribution to the German anti-aircraft defense network, I'm not sure when the HJ Flakhelfer program was initiated, but it became a major program during 1943 when the Allied strategic bombing campaign intensified. I'm not sure if this was a program before the War. HJ boys were used to man anti-air craft batteries. The older boys HJ boys actually manned the guns. The younger boys manned the searchlights and served as messengers. This freed soldiers for front-line duty. This was a significant contribution to he War because the Americans joined the British in bombing Germany during 1943. The Germans began building a very extensive and highly effective anti-aircraft defense system in 1942. Allied losses were very heavy, especially among the Americans who bombed suring the day. At first Luftwaffe fighters were the principal defense. The ibtrodyction of long-range P51 escorts at the end of 1943 and beginning of 1944 led to the defeat of the Luftwaff. This left the HJ Flakhelfer as Germany principal anti-aircraft defense for the remainder of the War.

12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend

Hitler Youth boys were fed into the Wehrmacht. One panzer division was actually organized from HJ recruits. The decission was made to form the unit in 1943. Youth Leader Axman organized it as a birthdate present for the Führer. It was the famed 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend of the Waffen SS. The Division was commanded by Germany's youngest general, Kurt Meyer. There were 50 Wehrmacht officers selected that had been Hitler Youth leaders were assigned to the new Division and were used to form the core of it. HJ boys that demonstrated leadership skills were selected for NCO school. The SS ordered 10,000 boys in the Summer of 1943 to report for basic training. Many of these boys were still 16. Most of the rest were 17 years old. The training was just like any Waffen SS unit, with one exception. The HJ boys received a candy ration rather than the cigarette ration normally given to soldiers. The division was deployed to France in preparation for the anticipated Allied invasion. The Division went into action in June 1944 against the Canadians trying to take Caen during the Normandy campaign. The reckless courage the boys showed fighting the British before Caen was legendary. The Division itself was desimated. They managed to destroy 28 tanks while losing only 6 of their own. The ferocity of this division was said to be "seldom equalled and never excelled during the whole campaign." The Division suffered high casualties, in part because of the reckless courage og the HJ boys. After only the first month of figthing, the Division lost 20 percent of its strength killed, 40 percent were wounded and 50 percent of its armored vehicles were lost. By July 1944, the division was in retreat. Only about 600 men left managed to get back to the Reich. All of their tanks were lost. Field Marshal von Rundstedt said, "It is a pity that this faithful youth is sacrificed in a hopeless situation."

Defence construction

As Allied armies bore down on the Reich from east and west, Germany began preparing defense lines. The task as beyond the capabilities of the RAD. Civilians were organized and HJ units mobilized. The preparation of these defenses began in earnest during the Summer 1944. Many HJ units were deployed in eastern Germany to assist in the construction of anti-tank traps in an effort to stop the Russian tanks. These traps were essentilly just big ditches. One boy in a Flieger-HJ hastily deployed to a tank trap digging project is reported to have said that he hoped to get home soon because, "my mother will give me a mighty good thrashing. She will never believe me when I tell her that they sent us to dig trenches." The HJ virtually rebuilt the Westwall (the Siegfried Line) in 1944.

Changing membership

The HJ changed drastically in 1944. The military had drafted the older boys that had provided the leadership corps of HJ units. Younger and younger boys were promoted to leadership posts. By 1944 boys of 16 were commonly appointed Gefolgschaftsführer in command of a unit of 800 boys. The Unterbannführer in charge of the Westwall was only 17 years old and in charge of over 2,800 HJ boys. The Westwall and eastern defenses of course barely caused the Allied armies to pause. As the Allies poured into the Reich, HJ boys in the Volkstrum were orderd to to defend their towns and villages by die-hard NAZIs.

Volkstrum (Home Guard)

Hitler Youth boys, along with old men, were hastily trained, ill-equipped and not terribly well led were the major recruits for the Volkstrum in the closing months of the year. The HJ boys, however, went into battle with a fervor even beyond that of the Waffen SS. Many accounts exist of battle hardeneded Wehrmacht and and SS troops who met these boy soldiers on the way to battle. Their advise was almost often "Its over. Go home!" The boys, however, armed with a few anti-tank weapons like Panzerfauts and perhaps a machinegun if one could be found, these Hitler Youth schoolboys went into battle. Often they performed amazingly well, even when given hopeless assignments. A book and movie addressing this is The Bridge. Many HJ boys, of course, did not survive. For many, their commiment to Hitler was absolute, even in the boys involved in the hopeless defense of Berlin (April-May 1945). [Hans Holztrager, In a Raging Inferno, 2001.]

Werwolf

Werwolf (Werewolve) was a code name for a secret organization established by SS ciommander Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler to keep National Socialism alive underground in areas occupied by the Allies. Himmler ordered SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Prützman to set up the organization in the Ukraine and South Russia. Prützman assigned Jürgen Stroop the task of carrying it out. The idea according to Stroop was to train "... soldiers and civilians, SS-peopke and non-Party, youths and girls, even women and children". They would learn to conduct sabotage, kill enemy agents, poison food and water, and attack transport. [Moczarski, pp. 362-363.] Himmler was apparently apauled at the failure of Germans in areas of the Reich occupied by the Allies to continue resisting. He ordered that the Werolf organization to target traitors. [Himmler letter quoted in Heiber, p. 291.] A reader writes, "My father served in the Canadian Queen's Own Rifles and was in Europe until he was "de-mobbed" in 1947. He told me the story of how shortly after the end of the war, ( he was stationed in Germany) he was pelted with stones by a bunch of HJ lads-probably pimpfs in the JungVolk." [Thompson]

Other ways


Uniform Trends

HJ boys joining German military uniforms of course wore regular service uniforms. Those boys recruited for special units of all HJ members also wore regular uniforms--but with special devices or badges recognizing the importance of the Hitler Youth organizations. Those boys participating in the War while still HJ members would have worn their HJ uniforms. This would have been primarily the winter uniform. This is because, HJ members were only deployed in combat when the allies aproached the boundary of the Reich itself. This ocurred in late 1944. The western Allies seized Paris in August 1944 and by September were nearing the German border in several areas. The Russians seized Warsaw in October 1944 and began to move toward the German border. (German areas of East Russia were engaged earlier.) As a result, by the time the allies moved into Germany proper the cooler fall weather had begun. The Germans surrended on May ?, 1945 just as the weather had begun to turn warm. Most available images generally show the HJ engaged in the Volkstrum wearing the long pants uniform. There were some boys, however, that wore the short pants uniform as well.

Personal Accounts

A HBC contributor reports on his experiences in Germany after World War II: While in Germany after the war I was best man for my GI buddy and a German young lady. She had three brothers, the oldest was killed on the Russian front, the second brother was captured at age 15 years when he crashed landed his rocket plane near Belgium in 1945. He was in the Hitler's Youth Corps and was trained in flying gliders when he was fourteen. He had several training flights with the rockets before he made his only one combat flight. He made a couple remarks that I still recalled, the first one was the instructors were trying to keep the rocket planes in formation, but that was impossible since the rockets pods had different burning thrusts. He said they had six pods, one for take off from a launching slide to high gliding altitude, two pods for the attack and two pods to return towards their line to land. The second remark was his only combat flight against a formation of American B-17's. He fired his two pods to attack and before realized he went through the American formation so fast that he was unable to fire his weapons. He fired the last two rocket pods, but he was too far away from the German lines and crash landed in area controlled by the British forces. He was captured still wearing his short pants Hitler's Youth uniform. The British were amazed of Hitler using children in combat. When the war was over the British let him go home.

History

Historical information is available on the Hitler Youth's War activities. The Hitler Youth during World War II were much more directly involved in the War than Scouts in allied countries. They did many of the things Scouts did like collecting scrap metal. They did much more. The Hitler Youth conducted many training programs focused on military skills. The Hitler Youth was also a medium for indoctrinating boys and recruiting future NAZI leaders. Eventually they became much more deeply involved, seving as air raid wardens and eventually as crews on anti-aircraft gun crews. At the end of the war, the boys were the backbone of many Volksstrum units." [Mcg]

Berlin Syndrome

Some historians believe that many Hitler Youth boys involved in military opertions were affected by Berlin Syndrome. A reader writes, "I would like to hear from anyone, particularly child pschologists, who knows of Hiter Youth members suffering from a condition sometimes referred to as Berlin syndrome. There is a medical German name for the condition. It causes memory loss, impulsive anger and a biological change in the brain leading to a high level of intellectual maturity for age of the victim. ie a 13 year old boy soldier can develop the mental maturity of a 30 year old due to terror trauma."

Sources

Heiber, H. Reichsführer: Briefe an und von Himmler (Deutsche Verlag Ansalt: Stugart, 1963).

Holztrager, Hans. In a Raging Inferno (2001).

Mcg, Henry. E-mail message, April 23, 2005.

Moczarski, K. (Droste: Düssledorf, 1978).

Thompson, James. E-mail message, January 27, 2007.






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Created: June 30, 2000
Last updated: 7:51 AM 8/8/2012