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 idealized 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 wre, however, for the NAZIs some complications. First there was the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan and with junior parners in Eastern Europe. We note no contcts between the HJ and Japanese youth, but there some with the Italians. Second, there were foreign Germans. Third, the NAZIs saw the world in racial terms. Thus there were several foreign countries with Aryan populations. These were countries that had Germany won World War II that probably would have been incorportated into the Reich. 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. Fourth, 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 promoted pan-Europeanism. Our informtion on this subject is still quite limited. A reader tells us that the international outreach of the Hitler Youth was more extensive than we suggest.
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 idealized 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.
The extreme nationalism of the NAZIs and HJ obviously posed complications for any kind of international outreach. When you maintain that your country and people are superior, it is obviously not a good beginning point for internationl understanding. Nor after the War began was invading other countries. Even so NAZI diplomacy before the War did try to portray Germany as an agreived nation just trying to achieve its proper place in Europe and rescue Germans that had been separated by the Versailles treaty. After the War began, NAZI diplomacy persued racial afinities and the need for a pan-European crusade agaimst Bolshevism, both of which provided some basis for promoting international exchanges. Our information on the extent and nature of these exchanges is still quite limited.
Part of the NAZI diplomatic effort was to promote NAZI ideals in other countries, especially other European countries. Many of these countries had Fascist movenents of varying impotance or German populations. The Hitler Youth invited Boy Scouts from selected countries to Germany. I do not have details on this. I think they were invited to a Hitler Jugend event, although I do not have details on the event, other than the fact it was held in Kuhlmuhle near Rheinsberg. The boys participating seemed to have come from countries with NAZI sympathizers, countries with Aryan (especially Nordic populations), and countries of diplomatic imprtance (Turkey). We are not sure just how the HJ selected the boys to participate. Nor do we know how common these events were.
There was the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan and with junior parners in Eastern Europe. We note no contacts between the HJ and Japanese youth. Here the distance and cost of such exchanges were probably the main factor, although racial differences might have caused a problem if exchanges had been possible. NAZI Germany's principal ally was Italy and after the Anchluss, the two countries shared a common border. Thus here exchanges were feasible and could be conducted at reasonable cost. We know that there were some such exchanges. We are not sure, however, about the extent of the contacts between the Hitler Youth and the Italian Balilla. We note HJ and Baliall leaders attending a celebrtion together, but have no details on an actual meting together. We have no information at this time as to the extent to which joint activities were planned. We also note photographs of HJ and Balilla boys. The one on the page here is a good example (figure 1). We are unsure to what extent there were actual joint activities conducted by the two groups. Many of the images of HJ boys with foreign boys are with Balilla boys. "The Italian fascist youth and the BDM didn't have very much in common. [Ruediger] Another observer writes, "The BDM vistors were pretty shocked when they saw that the Italian girls were being trained to shoot rifles and drive trucks, and prior to their going to Italy, they were warned not too closely associate with the Italian youth." [Crawford]
Germans outside the Reich organized Hitler Youth units. The attititudes of overseas Germans to Hitler varied. There clearly was considerable support, especially in some countries with etnic German populations strongly identified with Germany. Support was especially high in Austria and Czechoslovakia, but more varied in other countries. There were alsoquite a number of ethnic Germans in Poland. There were large numbers of Germans in America, but very little support for the NAZIs. There were also large numbers of Germans living in the Soviet Union, but they were not as politicized, in part beause basic freedoms were so limited. There were Hitler Youth units organized in 52 countries. [Littlejohn, pp. 289ff.] Membership except for Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland was composed primarily of German nationals living oversea. In some countries there were restrictions placed on these units by the local governments. Some of these overseas HJ youth attended HJ events. This was in part because the HJ was more interested in attracting these boys to Germany, but also because several foreign countries placed restrictions on HJ activities and in others HJ youths because of their obvious relation with the NAZIs would have veen unwelcomed. Some of the yothgs who visited Germany were from Austria and Czechoslovakia in which the HJ was outlawed. Austria of course was incorporated into the eich by the Anchluss. The Sudentenland where many Germans lived was also incororated into the Reich. The HJ was allowed to operate in some countries such as the Netherlands, but only for the children of Germans resident in the Netherlands. We also notice that some Americans of German ancestry attended HJ activities, mostly summer camps. We know, however, of very little published information on this. A friend of mine of German ancestry from Puerto Rico attended a HJ camp in Germany before the War. The fact that these boys were German nationals or of German ancestry rather limits the international nature of such exchanges. A reader writes, "I would consider exchanges with HJ units in foreign countries international. Just because someone is of German ancestry does not make them the same as someone living in Germany at the time. That's like the 6th generation
American saying, "I'm German." He's about as German as Mexican food at that point." [Crawford] Here we would differ somewhat. While our information is limited, the overseas Germans who joined HJ units were not from 6th generation, assimilated families. They were peimarily: 1) German nationals, 2) relatively recent immigrants, or 3) living in unassimilated German communities.
The NAZIs saw the world in racial terms. Thus there were several foreign countries with Aryan populations. These were countries that had Germany won World War II that probably would have been incorportated into the Reich. Here the NAZI approach was to promote right-wing nationalist youth goups. Befgore Wotrld War II the Boy Scouts had been the primary youth group in these countries. NAZI occupation authorities abolished the Scouts and promoted nationalist groups modeled on the Hitler Youth. The Hitler Youth made some effort to provide children in those countries experiences within the Reich. We have few details here, but the effort to provide such experiences appears to have been based on the racial makeup of the occupied country. We notice, for example, Danish boys on their way to summer camp in Germany.
We also see older Norwegian boys at some kind of sports event or summer camp in Germany during the War.
Here we need additional information. Several questions occur to us. Was the effort focused on countries with Nordic ethnicity such as the Dutch and Danish more than Axis allies such as the Hungarians and Romanians. Of course Germany;s principal European ally was Italy. We know there were exchanges with the Italian Balial. We have, however, few details on the extent and nature of these exchanges with Italy. Nor do we know much about the exchanges with other countries. Was it mostly bringing foreign youth to the Reich or taking German houth to these. Nor do we know anything about the age and gender of the youth involved as well as the nature of the exchanges. We do know that sime foreign children were brought to the Reich for summer camp experiences. After the war began to go against Germany this effort had to be curtailed.
The relationship between the HJ and Scouting is an interesting topic that we do not yet fully understand. The relationship within the Reich is well understood. The HJ absorbed the Scouts soon after the NAZIs seized power (1933). Scoting itself was banned. Scout leaders were no persecuted unless they attempted to continue as independent youth leaders. The Catholic Scout movement was cntinued to operate for a few more years. Less well understood is the relation between foreign Scouts in the pre-War era. In the early years before Germany rearmed, the NAZIs were vulnerble, thus Hitler attempted to assure other countries that they had nothing to fear. This effort included a variety of iniatives such as the Berlin Olympics. There were contacts between the HJ and Scout groups. This varied from country to country and we have very little information at this time. We note American Scouts visiting NAZI Germany, we think in 1936 or 37. Unfortunately we do not yet know the occassion. Nor do we know if the HJ was even involved.
We have some reports about the British Scouts, but can noy verify the information yet. A British reader writes, "I recall a conversation with a fellow travellers saying that in the 1930s there had been some sort of international Scouting or youth activity in the south of England that Hitler Youth had attended. The person was a Scout at the time and he remembered admiring the HJ's smart uniform and enjoyed their company. I recall him saying that the HJ group had been billited out to local families. I also recall reading that BP who was elderly by the 1930s was not to involve the Scout movement with the Hitler Youth movement. Unfortunately I can't recall the details or where I read that." After the War began, the German occupations authorities generaly supressed the Scout movement, but this varied from country to country. These were of course NAZI occupation authorities and not contactswith the HJ. Scouting was allowed to contnue in the NAZI allied countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania).
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 promoted pan-Europeanism. Thus we note photograpohs in NAZI publications of various youth groyups from other countries. For many countries, this was part of creating an image of a new united Europe. There were no real effort ny the Hitler Youth to promote a European outlook anong German youth. We notice, for example, an image of a Spanish boy in the Phlange, the Spanish Fascist youth group, visiting Germany in 1942. A good example here is the article which had the picture of the Spanish boy with his violin. On the same page there are pictures of Belgian, Italian, Rumanian and Croatian boys and girls who attended an "international" music competition in Weimar (1942). No matter how terrible the Nazi regime was, German musical life remained at the highest level. Wilhelm Furtwängler and Karl Böhm stayed in Germany and conducted the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras at numerous concerts, also in occupied countries. Herbert von Karajan started his career during World war II. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf also never left Nazi-Germany. Many other opera singers and conductors stayed and had to undergo de-nazification after the collapse of the Third Reich, but nearly all could resume their careers very soon. The composer Richard Strauss, who was in his 80s, was hardly bothered with a questionnaire.
The NAZIs founded a European Youth Association in Vienna during 1942. We do not know very much about the Association at this time. One source writes, "The mutual getting to know each other and respecting the uniqueness of youth from other nations, but also the realization of similarities within Europe lead to building real freindship during the exchange of youth groups and set the groundwork for the European Youth Association that was founded in Vienna in 1942." [Ruediger, p. 79.]
Much that we have found concerning HJ international exchanges concerns boys. We wondered if these exchanges were primarily conducted with boys. An observer tells us, "No, I don't think the exchanges were more with boys than girls. There are plenty of pictures and articles about BDM girls and particularly BDM leaders travelling abroad to meet girls from other countries, or girls coming to visit them. Some of my issues of
Das Deutsche Maedel, the BDM's magazine, have long articles about those visits." [Crawford]
An observer writesd, "You state that the Nazis were not interested in having international units and that they were not interested in giving young Germans experiences with foreigners. Both are absolutely incorrect. The Hitler Youth had plenty of foreign members who were either racially Germans or at least close to being racially German. The Hitler Youth had groups in
52 countries including the following: Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Alsace-Lorraine (it should be noted that membership in Alsace-Lorraine was voluntary until 2 January, 1942), Denmark, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, USA, South Africa, China, Japan, Turkey, Estonia, Belarus, Latvia, and Bulgaria. [Littlejohn, pp. 289ff.] In addition to having foreign units, the Hitler Youth did a lot with foreign youth groups prior to, and even still during the War. BDM leader Jutta Ruediger travelled to Romania, Italy, and Spain in 1938, to name just one year. The BDM field hockey team went to play the Spanish Falangist field hockey team in, I believe 1937 (not sure on the date). In 1942, the Hitler Youth was a participant in the "Rally of European Youth" which was held in Vienna and in which youth from many countries participated." [Crawford] Here we need to define terms. My international efforts, we mean efforts to conduct exchanges with the general population in other countries. We are aware that the HJ had units in other countries, although the number of such units surprised us. The member ship of these other HJ units were mostly restricted to Germans living abroad or foreigners identigying themselves as Germans. We do not really see this is as an international effort. We do understand that the HJ had contacts with right-wing nationalist youth groups in Axis-allied countries. This is more of an internatinal effort, although some of these contacts were with groups that existed primarily because of German military action, thus not precisely the kind of international effort one might deally use to show that the HJ had an important international program to bring young Germans in contact with other nationalities. But unlike the foreign HJ units, they were exchanges with other countries. Here we hope to acquire more information to lear more about the characer of these exchanges. As far as we know except for the foreign HJ units and exchanges with right groups in Axi-allied or occupied countries, the HJ international effoty was very limited. (Note that in Europe, there was in several instances not a great deal of difference between being allied with the NAZIs and being occupied by them.) We note very few instances of exchanges between the Hitler Youth and Scouts which was the most important youth group in countries where it was not banned by Communist or Fascist regimes. We have seen phoyographs of a Hitler Youth group visiting London in the 1930s. I do not know if they visited with a Scout unit. I do believe, however, that such trips were very range. I do not know if the HJ ever hosted a viiting Scout unit. I suspect if such visits did take lace they were very rare.
Crawford, Chris. E-mail message, June 7-8, 2005.
Littlejohn, David. The Hitler Youth.
Ruediger, Jutta. Ein Leben fuer die Jugend.
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