German Youth Groups: Organizations

Figure 1.--The German Scouting movement was revived after World War II. This Scout group in the 1960s was one of several different associations.

We have noted quite a wide range of uniformed youth groups in Germany over time. Germany at the time that the NAZIs seized power (1933) had one of the largest and most diverse youth movements in Europe. Unlike most other countries, Scouting was only a small part of the movement. There were several large groups, but a large number of smaller grops. In addition to national groups, there were also a number of small local groups like gun nd hiking clubs. The German youth movement becane highly politicized in the 1920s which was not the case before World War I. The movement also became highly divisive with many different political and religious groups involved. The NAZIs changes all this and built a single and mandatory national youth movements--the Hitler Youth. We have developed information on several of these groups, but quite a number are still unknown to us. After World war II the German Youth movement was not nearly as diverse as before the NAZI era. In East Germany the Young Pioneers like the Hitler Youth was madatory, but was not nearly as effective. In West Germany, Scouting was the principal movement, but was not mandatory and was a relatively small movement. It was also divided by different competing associations.

Boy Scouts / Pfadfinderbund

HBU has very little historical information on German Boy Scouts--Pfadfinderbund. We do know that Scouting developed in Germany in the 1910s as it did throughout Europe. As in many other European countries, separate Scout associations were fornmed by different groups, primarily on religious lines. After World War I, other competing youth groups formed. Many religious groups founded youth movements or sposored Scout units. In addition, several of the political parties, not just the NAZIs with the Hittler Youth, had their own competing youth movements. separate from Scouting. The Communists who had many adherents in the 1920s, taking their cue from the Soviets did not approve of Scouting. After the mid 1920s the Hitler Youth movement gained in popularity. With the coming to power of the NAZIs in 1932, the Scouts and almost other competing youth groups were abolished and boys had to join the Hitler Youth. Many facilities of the Scouts and other youth groups were seized by the Hitler Youth, a practice they followed in areas with German populatiions incorporated into the Reich. An intreaguing study of Scouting in occupied countries during the War is available.

Deutscher Jugendclub (GYA)

We note Deutscher Jugendclub at American military bases during the World war II occupation. This would translate as German Youth Association. All or most of the American bases had these clubs. We are not entirely sure who participated. They mad have been for the children of the German civilians working on the bases. We are not sure just when they were organized, but believe it was 1947. Conditions in German were still very difficult and there were not a lot of youth activities avialable. We know they were active in the 1950s. We are not entirely sure about the activities. They may have been more practical activiyies than recreation. We note girls involved in sewing and cooking. There were also handicrafts. Charity groups in America organized toy and clothing drives to be distributed through these centers. A 1949 press release from the group explained, German girls needed new interests because they "during Hitler's time, may have been 'even more susceptible to Nazi propaganda than were German boys. Uncertain as they are about their personal future as mothers and homemakers, German girls today need badly a varied program of interesting and democratic activities." [GYA, "GYA Girls ....] GYA groups seem to have been active in Berlin during the Berlin Airlift. Some groups met in the homes of American personnel.

Socialist Groups

There appear to have been several Socialist youth groups of varying sizes in Germany. This resulted from major divisions in the German Socialist movement. This is not unusual as there are great differences of opinion within the Socialist movement around the world, unless a ruling party as in the Soviet Union can impose a standard doctrine. German Socialists after World War I were particularly divided. The Socialists differed over the War, some supporting the Government while others opposing it. After the War there were divisions over the attempt by the Communists and more radical Socialists to seize power by force. The SPD's assiociation with Freikorps in suppressing the insurrections was resented by many other Socialists. We have been unable to find much information about Socialists youth groups which is curious because the Socialist Party (SPD) was the most important political party in Germany until the rise of the NAZIs. In fact, the NAZIs were only able to seize power because the Communists (KPD), following Moscow's directions, failed to cooperate with the SPD and insteaded worked along with the NAZIs to weaken the Weimar Republic. We have no information before World War I on Socialist youth organizatiions. We believe they were not very important or not existant until after World War I. The early German youth movement at the time was dominated by Wandervogel which was stridently non-political. After World War I, Germany became highly politicized and youth groups with political associations developed. The Hitler Youth was only one of many such organizations. What we find curious is that so little information is available on these youth organizations.

Fire Brigades

Mang German communities had fire brigades. Rather like voluntary fire brigades in America. The members included youths and teenagers. We have also noted quite young boys in fire brigade uniforms. This seems to have been the junior division of these brigades. A German reader tells us, "It is common that the voluntarien fire brigades of villages/towns have a youth group (not the professional fire brigades in the big towns and community centres." Many of these groups are very elabirately uniformed. Our German reader tells us, "Such a youth group participates in official ceremonies of voluntarian fire brigades in community events, e.g., annual celebration and the like. It has no relation to military organisations." I am not sure when these youth auxileries were first formed, bu we notice them in the early 20th century. We note these groups into the 1950s. We are not sure if they still exist.

Figure 2.--HBU have noted some groups, but as yet has little information on them. We have since learned that they were shooting clubs. We thougt that guns were very restricted in Europe, but there appear to be quite a few gun clubs in Germany where boys receive markmanship training and participate in target shooting contests. This is the Edelknabenkoenig 2002/03 from the city of Neuss.

Gun Clubs

HBU have noted some groups, but as yet has little information on them. We have since learned that they were shooting clubs. We thougt that guns were very restricted in Europe, but there appear to be quite a few gun clubs in Germany where boys receive markmanship training and participate in target shooting contests. As far as we know this was a West German activity, but since reunification in 1990 may have spread to East Grmany as well. We know of two different groups, Edelknaben and Pagencorps.

Hiking Clubs

We do not yet know much about hikeing clubs. We notice German children participating in hiking clubs. Hiking in the countyside was a major activity of the Wandervogel. Germans seemed especially attached to the countryside. We do not have a lot of information bout about hiking clubs. These appear to have been local groups without any major national organization. We suspect that many were organized in schools. Here a keen hiker on the faculty was probably an importsant factor. This would have meant that they were largely single gender groups, in contrast to Wandervogel. We see these groups innthe 1920s and early 30s. They probably declined in the 1930s with the rise of the Hitler Youth. They do not seem to have been revived after World War II.

Jewish Youth Groups

Blau-Weiss (Blue-White) was the first Jewish youth group established in Germany. It was founded in 1912. Jewish boys like other German boys were inspired by the German youth movement culture of outings, hikes, singing, and comradship. Many German youth moveements refused to accept Jews. Wandervogel left it up to the local units to decide. Jewswere also not accepted by many Scout groups and formed their own Scout association. All of the nationalist groups formed after World War I refused to accept Jews. We have few details, but assume that Socialist and Communist youth groups did accept Jews. Zionist groups were also founded. Blau-Weiss adopted a Zionist platform at its convention in 1922. Other Zionist groups were formed. Blau-Weiss was disbanded in 1929 evern before the NAZI seizure of power. After the NAZI takeover the Hitler Youth adsorbption of other youth movement and banning of most other groups meant that Jewish children could only belong to Jewish youth groups. The NAZIs gradually replaced more and more restrictions on their operations. Their facilities were seized, often by the Hitler Youth. The Reich Youth Leadership in 1934 prohibited German Jewish youth groups from wearing uniforms. The Baden Minister of Interior in 1935 prohibited group hikes and similar activities for all non-National Socialist youth groups. Other states adopred similar ordinaces. Finally all Jewish youth groups were ordered disbanded in 1938.

Nationalist Groups

HBU does not know of any uniformed German youth group in the late 19th century. The British Boys' Brigade foprmed in the 1880s, but the first German group known to the authors is the Wanfervogel which was organized in 1901. The Scouts followed a few years later. Baden Powell at first treated Wandervogel as the German Scout association. Many German political parties, especially the right and left wing groups parties formed their own youth movemenrs. The most famous of course became the Hitler Youth.


The most popular German youth organization of the early 20th century was the Wandervogel, which was popular due to the involvement of sports. Boys were able to go on weekend retreats, where they would hike and learn to survive on their own in the wilderness. Organized sporting events of soccer and other various competitions kept the interests of the children. The Wandervogel were noted for their love of the land, not the new, modern conveniences of the cities. Hiking and skiing were chosen over activities such as watching a movie or going to a dance. The Wandervogel reflected the main attitudes of the of the youth movement. The group was non-political, but the boys which joined were a cross section of German boys, many of which were highly nationalistic and convinced that their country had been wronged by the Versailles Peace Treaty and the older more politically conscious boys critical of the Weimar Government. The youth movement was a rejection of the Weimar government, which was one of the reasons why they were so easily supportive of the Hitler Youth and NAZI regime in general. They were also disenchanted with the older generation and their new sets of values: work and money. These and other attitudes made it a relatiively easy matter for the NAZIS in 1933 to fold them and most other independent youth groups into the Hitler Youth.

Young Pioneers

HBU at this time has no information on the Communist youth movement in Germany before the NAZIs seized power in 1933. Presumably Germans who had been associated with the Communists were either arrested are successfully hid their connections and beliefs. East German Pioneers after World War II had a basic uniform. Children wore whatever pants they wanted. In the 1950s-60s, shorts were common, but in the 70s-80s boys mostly wore longs. Boys and girls wore white shirts and blue (Young pioneers) or red (Thaelmann pioneers) neckerchief. The shirts (long or short sleeved) had the logo of the pioneer-organization on it, and additional one to three small beams for officials like group leaders. Those uniforms in the 1980s weren’t worn on normal school days. (This may have been different in the 1950s-60s. By the 1980s, however, the Pioneer uniforms were only worn for celebration days (Labor-Day, foundation of the republic and others). There was a second youth-organization for older kids (approx. from 12-26), called "Freie Deutsche Jugend" (FDJ: Free Germany Youth). As uniform they had only dark-blue shirts with the organization-logo on it. The rules for when to wear it were the same as for the Pioneers. An HBC contributor suggests not to ignore the FDJ. HBU concurs. The problem is that we have been able to find information about German communist groups yet.

Unidentified Groups

In the aftermath of Germany's defeat in World War I the appolutical Wandervogel movement splintered and large numbers of small youth groups formed with sectarian and political agendas--bith left and rigt wing. The Hitler Youth was but one of those groups. It is impossible to list all of these groups. Some of the most important were: Adler unf Falken, Bismark Jugend, Bund der Artamenen, Deutsche Falkenschaft, Deutsche Freishar, Deutsche Kolberg, Deutsche Pfadfinderbund, Freischar Junger nation, Freischar Schill, Geusen, Hidenberg Jugend, Jugenbund Graf von Wartenburg, Jugendverbande, Jungend-Internationalem Jungwolf, Jungdeutscher Orden, Jungstrom Kolberg, Scharnhorst Jugend, Schilljugend, Tannenbergbund, and many more. We have found images of some of these groups, but do not know enough about the uniforms to identify them. We note one unidentified group in the early 1930s.


GYA. " Girls Handicraft Contest" (April 19, 1949).


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Created: 3:14 AM 9/5/2007
Last updated: 2:43 AM 8/14/2011