Hitler Youth: Mind Set


Figure 1.--T.

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. It was not just Aryan German boys to which the Hitler Youth appealed. We will also archive here what ever we find about what the boys thought about their uniforms.

Parents

Some parents were committed NAZIs. Other parents were apolitical or even anti-NAZI. Boys in these homes often did not understand why their parents thought differently than what they were being taught at school and in the Hitler Youth.

One German looking back on his boyhood recalls that his father who had been called up for military service. He rembers hearing him taking with his mother in the kitchen. His father said that if someone doesn't shoot Hitler that he would "lead us all to ruin." The man recalls as a boy being shocked that his father would say such a thing. He wondered if he wasn't obligated to report his father.

The War

Most Hitler Youth boys saw the War as a great adventure. Many boys looked forward to entering military service. They had been trained to think that real men prove themeselves in war.

Elite Units

Many boys with their Hitler Youth training were impressed with elite German formations like the SS. There were swayed y recruitmentefforts into joining what theybsaw as elite units.

Racial Beliefs


Non-German Appeal

It was not just Aryan German boys to which the Hitler Youth appealed. HBU has noted reports from non-Aryan Germans, including Jews and blacks, for which yje Hitler Youth and the pagentry of the NAZIs had a seductive appeal. The same has been noted even in countries conqured by the NAZIs.

German Jews

The tragedy of German Jews was that they considered themselves Germams while the NAZIs and many other Germans did not believe a Jew could be a German. Jewish boys like other German boys were attracted by the nationalist retoric and pagentry of the NAZIs, of cource the racist tennants of the NAZIs made it impossible for them to participate. Many had desires to participate in the Hitler Youth. Many mischilings (part Jews) did participate.

Black Germans

Hans Massaquoi was a German boy of mixed African-German parentage. He grew up in the NAZI era. His moving account, Destined to Witness : Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany depicts the trauma of his childhood and his survival. He recounts that as a small boy how he was fascinated and even moved by Hitler. This is one of many examples of how even non-Aryan boys were moved by Hitler and NAZI pageantry. There were many examples of Jewish boys having the same feelings. This is testimony to the powerful affect that the NAZI movement had on German boys. Regardless of background, most German boys wanted to participate in the Hitler Youth movement, to wear the uniform and belong. Massaquoi admits that he was seduced by NAZI busywork and organized pageantry. Then as he grew older and began to realize that there was no place for a non-Aryan in the Third Reich, he felt betrayed.

French Alsatian boy

Tomi Ungerer has provided us a fascinating view of his Alsatian boyhood during World War II. His Tomi: A Childhood Under the NAZIs was published in 1998 and describes life in German-NAZI occupied Alsace. One interesting aspect of Tomi's account concerns the Hitler Youth (HJ). After the NAZI take over, all Alsatian children had to join the Hitler Youth. This included both French and German speaking Alsatians. Tomi should have joined, but his mother hated the NAZIs and would not let him. When HJ leaders would call to get Tomi, his mother would put him in bed and pretend that he was sick. (They would often come on Sunday to take boys away from Chirch and Church activities.) It is a little unclear what Tomi himself would have liked. His drawings show a mixture od support and distaste for the NAZIs. He does say that he envied his friends marching off "in splendid uniforms" for games and sports. Like German boys, the uniforms were a powerful attraction. In Germany parents had to buy the uniforms. In Alsace they were habded out free as part of the Germinization pricess. But what Tomi wanted even more than the uniform was the Hitler Youth dagger with its motto--Blut und Ehre ("Blood and Honor").

Others

Simone Weil, the French Jewish philosopher, admitted that the pageantry of the Hitler Youth seemed thrilling to her--their banners and their music. She had to remind herself that the parade was meant to destroy her and her people. Germn youth Martha Brixius, born in 1911, was not a NAZI supporter, yet she saw found it difficult to resist the lure of the movmen. "I was in Hanover when Hitler was there for a rally. I saw the crowd screaming with enthusiasm and throwing flowers. The crowd is so enthusiastic, it can infect you. And you think, could you be wrong and all the others be right?

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Christopher Wagner






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Created: August 15, 2001
Last updated: February 16, 2002