Hitler Youth Uniforms


Figure 1.--This Hitler Youth wears the summer uniform with black lederhosen, a popular choice for boys involved in outdoor activities.

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. One 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 am 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 oject 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.

Uniform Development: Chronological Trends

We notice some chronological trends in the Hitler Youth uniforms. The early uniforms of the Jugendbund could vary. The first attempt to establish a youth section of the National Socialist Movement was started in 1922 with the creation on the 13th of May of the Jugendbund der NSDAP. As a junior branch of the SA, it came under the command of the SA. Members of the youth section wore an almost identical brown uniform to that worn by the SA, and this gave rise to certain problems. Many of the older boys of 16-18 years of age in the group known as the Jungsturm Adolf Hitler were often involved in street brawls with the political opponents of the National Socialists, some even being killed, when they were mistaken for members of the SA. To distinguish the youth section from the adult members of the SA, in 1924 the Jungsturm took to wearing a separate uniform with a Swastika armband of a special design a-- the pattern eventually adopted by the Hitler Youth -- different to that of the Kampfbinde worn by the rank and file members of the SA Detachments." One the NAZIs seized power and the Hitler Y outh became a state youth program, the uniform became much more standardized. The NAZIs in 1933 after Hitler seized power ofiifically formed the Hitlerjugend as an independent organisation of the NSDAP no longer under the command of the SA. The same year saw the incorporation of all German youth clubs and youth formations into the Hitler Youth, with the international Boy Scouts movement being banned in Germany. Baldur von Schirach was appointed Reich Youth Leader. With the passing of the Youth Service Law--Jugenddienstgesetz on the 25th of March, 1939, service in the Hitler Youth became compulsory for every male child in Germany between the age of 10 and 18 and every female child between the age of 10 and 21. Most of the changes came in the early period after the NAZIs seized power. The basic uniform of brown shirt and black short pants varied little over time. There were, however, some differences, especially with the headwear.


Figure 2.--This Deutsche Jungvolk boys wears the winter uniform with the blue or black jacket. Older boys might wear long pants.

Variations

The HJ uniform was not at first as standardized as it was to become. The first issue shirts were brown army shirts left over from World War I. White shirts were permitted as were black or white socks, shoes or boots. various headwear including berets and soft and hard peaked caps and so forth were also worn. Other variations occur because units varied as to how strictly they enforced the HJ regulations. Commonly for example there are differences in the hjosiey and shoes. We also note that boys did not always have all their badges sewn on their shirts, even the basic one like the triangular unit patch and the oval patch. Another complication is that sometimes variation occurred as an effort to vreate a kind of dress uniform. One common convention here was white kneesocks. If the details of a photograph is not available, these variations can sometimes give the idea that the phjotograph shows another youth group and not the HJ.

Boys' Attitudes

The uniforms were a very popular aspect of the Hitler Youth. Most boys saw the right to wear a uniform as very desirable. 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. Looking back, many Germans still destinctly remember their uniforms when they were in the Hitler Youth and how important those uniforms wer to them at the time. One former membember explains, "The uniform was a big attraction for us boys. Uniforms were very popular for us. The getting of the uniform was enough to attract many boys. My friends were very envious when I turned 10 and got my first uniform." Another former Hitler Youth boy, Hans Juke? Voge echos this, "Our uniform was a major attraction. Uniforms were very popular and the right to wear one an important incentive to join." Another former member tells us, "The ceremonies were awe inspiring. There we were in our smart uniforms, an important part of the ceremonies. I can remember them to this day. " Another formr HJ boy says, "The uniform was very important. The whole mix of activities, the uniform along with the flags, flames, and fanfare was intoxicating for us boys. The flag for us stood higher than death." A Jewish boy, Imo? Mussakowiez, reports, "The uniform was a strong attraction. Even boys who wern't ardent NAZIs joined because of the uniform."

Uniform Items

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. The Hitler Youth began as a unit of the SA or Storm Troopers. The SA was known as the Brown Shirts. This ame brown shirt was used by the Hitler Youth. THe uniforms items were no only affected by the age level, but also there were seasonal uniform items. The other major uniform item was black short pants. There were also a variety of accessories and patches. Members of the DJ wore only a single shoulder strap on the right shoulder of their tunics and blouse. It was black with a black edging and showed the number of the DJ unit in white cotton.


Figure 3.--This Deutsche Jungvolk file leader wears the summer uniform without the blue or black jacket. Notice the lanyard leading to a whistle in his pocket. That indicated he was a DJ youth leader. Boys of all ages wore short pants with the summer uniform.

Seasonality

The Hitler Youth movement had seasonal uniforms. Germany has a temperate climate. Thus there are warm summers and cold winters. The Hitler Youth thus had different uniforms for the warm and cold weather. As many HJ activities were outdoor activites, a light-weight uniform was needed for the summer and a heavier, warmer uniform for the winter. These uniforms differed somewhat depending on the boy's level. The male side of the Hitler Youth was divided into two sections. The younger section, the Deutsche Jungvolk (DJ) consisting of boys from the age of 10 to 14. The older section, the Hitler Youth (HJ) , consisted of boys 14-18 years of age. The Deutche Jungvolk and the Hitler Youth had destictive uniform features for both the Winter and Summer. The basic summer and winter uniform for the two levels were similar, but there were important destinctions.


Figure 5.--Many of the older DJ members and HJ wore long pants wore long-cut ski pants with the winter unifom. This boy was a musician. Notice the shoulder device.

Musicians

Pagentry was an important part of the HJ program. And HJ units played a role in NAZI pagentry in municipal and other events. Thus there was a need for musicians in the HJ. This was especially true for drummers and bugglers. Most HJ units had a small musical unit. Boys interested in music eagerly competed for these places. Many boys interested in music were not interested in competitive sport and in many cases not good at them. Boys particularly inept could be teased or even taunted by the more sports minded. Boys involved in the music unit were often excused from some of the more physically rigorous activities. The HJ music program was not limited to frum and buggle units involved in pagentry. According to one NAZI source, claimed that there were over 900 musical groups overseen by the Hitler Youth movement, including many youth choirs. Many of these groups were not created by the HJ, but already existing groups incorporated into the HJ as the movement took over cotrol or closed all youth organizations in Germany. There were “orchestras, instrumental groups, groups of wind-playing comrades, music teams, sport and fanfare teams, song-playing and puppet shows, and radio groups.” [Stumme] In contrast to many other aspects of the HK program, the music effort was expanded during the War as it was perceived as a morale building activity. One former HJ boy, Lennie Cuje, recalls attending a NAZI-run muic school. The history of music in the Third Reich is a major subject. The Hitler youth music progrm is only a small part of it. The NAZI regime promoted music as an example of German culture. Music in fact florished in NAZI Germany, as one author explains, it provide a useful facade for the atrocities underway. [Kater]

The Bund Deutscher Maedchen

The uniform of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) consisted of a dark-blue skirt (lengths varied with the fashions over the years), a white blouse (mostly shortsleeved, but we see long-sleeved ones in winter), and a black neckerchief. They wore a knotted kerchief and a skirt as part of their uniform, just like the boys. In addition, the BDM had a brown "climbing jacket" for winter, as well as a long brown overcoat for when it was even colder. The BDM had a black wool beret early on which was mainly worn in winter and not very popular. The BDM in 1939 introduced a leader's uniform which consisted of a dark blue costume worn with a white shirt (no neckerchief or tie), a dark blue hat, and a blue cape or overcoat. A white costume jacket was worn for high summer as well. [Crawford]

Hitler Youth Divisions

There were major uniform distinctions for the Divisions of the Hitler Youth specializing in different military specialties, naval, air, signals, motorized, etc. Some of these Divisions, such as the Marine Division, wore distinctive uniforms. Other Divisions wore different color shoulder straps to identify their division. The patterns introduced in 1938 back with different color piping:
Allgemeine-HJ (General HJ): in bright red
Marine-HJ: dark navy blue shoulde straps (the only exception) piped yellow
Motor-HJ (Motorised HJ) in pink
Flieger-HJ (Aviation HJ) in light blue
Nachrichten-HJ (Signals HJ) in lemon yellow,
HJ-Streifendienst (Special Patrol Service HJ): in white
NPEA (National Political Education Institutes): in white
Landjahr-HJ (One Year Land Service HJ): in green,
Gebietsstäbe/RJF (District Staff Headquarters and Reich Youth Leader Staff Headquarters) in crimson.

Marine Division

The naval branch of the Hitler Youth Movement was created to foster and promote an interest in ships and sailing. Boys from coastal areas around Germany and those parts of Germany near large expanses of inland water and waterways were encouraged to join these Marine-HJ units. When membership of the HJ became compulsory in 1939, these naval units became a valuable means of teaching these youngsters the art of seamanship in preparation for their possible or eventual entry into the regular wartime Kriegsmarine. Many aspects of the uniforms worn by members of the Marine-HJ were based on those uniforms to be found in the German Navy. However, the most notable difference was the use of white metal insignia and fittings in place of the gilt coloured items used by the Kriegsmarine, and for that matter the Marine-SA. The leadership of the Marine-HJ was furnished by qualified older youths or adults, normally acting as instructors (59). Their uniform was very similar to that worn by members of the Marine-SA. Shoulder straps worn by members of the Marine-HJ which were the only systematic visual method employed to indicate rank differed from the final pattern shoulder straps used by the rest of the Hitler Youth and introduced during 1938. The Marine-HJ shoulder straps were of dark navy blue piped yellow whereas the rest of the HJ were in black and piped in various colours according to their branch of HJ service.

Special Duties

Flakhelfern

Flakhelfern were members of the Hitler Youth who volunteered for war work assisting on antiaircraft gun sites. They served as messengers, signallers, weather observers and ammunition carriers. In some cases they were even employed as gunners, locaters and searchlight operators with both antiaircraft batteries and with gun crews of flak towers.

The Flakhelfern wore a special blue grey uniform consisting of a short battle dress style blouse and long trousers gathered at the ankles. On this blouse was displayed special insignia together with the familiar HJ arm band. A blue grey greatcoat and side cap was part of this uniform.

Fire fightening squads

Special fire fighting squads were organised in those German towns and cities that had large numbers of industrial concerns and which were being increasingly terror bombed by the Allies as the war progressed. These squads which supplemented the regular fire police brigades were made up of volunteers from the Hitler Youth who were aged fifteen years and over. They were distinguished by a special diamond shaped badge worn on the lower left cuff of their tunic which incorporated the Hitler Youth emblem set against a background of carmine red flames. They wore khaki brown uniforms with a black side cap on which was displayed a police eagle cap emblem.

Streifendienst

The Hitlerjugend Streifendienst was a special patrol service consisting of older members of the Hitler Youth. It was set up for the purpose of policing the Hitler Youth, but during the later stages of the war years it became an armed body of patriotic youth members who assisted the Police and the SS in hunting down escaped prisoners of war, allied aircrews who had baled out of their aircraft, and anyone else that was suspected of evading the authorities or were considered as enemy agents working against the National Socialist regime. These boys wore the standard pattern HJ uniforms, and were distinguished by the use of a special cuff title bearing the words HJ Streifendienst together with white piping to their shoulder straps. When on patrol service they wore a special Streifendienst gorget. They were trained to use small arms and rifles, and carried rifles when on duty.

Purchasing the Uniform

Like the Scouts before them, the Hitler Youth uniform had to be purcahased by a boys' parents. Many parents enthusiastically outfitted their children. This also created some problems. Some parents had difficuty with the cost of buying the uniform and other gear. Some parents objected for politcal groups. After all the brown shirts of the Hiter Youth boys was styled like those of the thugish NAZI S.A. Storm Troopers. The parents diidn't dare say that and often claimed that they couldn't afford to buy the uniform.

Wearing the Uniform

We are not entirely sure just where HJ boys wore their uniforms. The most obvious was of course when the boys were going to a HJ meeting or some other activity like a parade. Boys also wore their uniforms at HJ summer camps. Here we are not sure how much attention was given to the uniform, wearing it correctly and making sure the boy had all the items making up the uniform. What we are unsure of is where the boys wore their uniforms outside of HJ activities. We do not see many boys wearing their uniforms to school. A few school portraits show boys in their HJ uniforms, but this based on the photographic record was not common. We are not sure if the schools or HJ had a rule about this. We also do not think it was common for boys to go to church in their HJ uniforms. Attending church was much more common in Germany at the time, but the HJ discouraged church attendamce. Some HJ units would schedule activities such as hikes on Sunday. We do note a few images of boys having their conformation portraits taken in their HJ uniforms. We are not sure about other special occassions such as weddings. We note children evacuated during the War because of the Allied bombing, commonly wore their HJ uniforms. This was in part because the children evacuated were in part overseen by the HJ.

Sources

Kater, Michael H. The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich (Don Mills, Ontario, Oxford University Press, 1997), 327p.

Stumme, Wolfgang, ed. Musik im Volk: Gegenswartsfragen der Deutschen Musik (Berlin: Berlin-Lichterfeld Verlag, 1944).






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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 3:18 AM 6/28/2007