The NAZIs within only months of sezing power in 1933, organized, all German youth groups and clubs for boys and girls between the ages of 10-18. Independent groups were consolidated by the Reich into the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) and organized along military lines. The NAZI youth program began for children at 10 years of age. The Hitler Youth program was for all German youth, boys and girls. The program, however, was not coeducational. There were separate groups for boys and girls. The activities of the two programs were very different. Both stressed health and outdoor activities, but the girl's program stressed the home and family and the duty to bear children. The boy's program stressed building a healthy body and skills that would serve a future German warrior.
The Hitler Youth was founded as part of the SA. Their uniform was essentially a junior replica of the SAunifotm, s brown shirt, but with short pants. The reputation of the SA was not one to encourage confidence among parents, unless they were ardent NAZI supporters. So after the NAZI take over the HJ even before the Night of the Long Knives which supressed the SA leadership, the HJ has emerged as indepedent body in the NAZI Party organization. Thus the HJ was indepedent of the SA or other bodies like the Ministry of Education. There were, however, very close ties with ther military and SS. Unlike Scouting which has a range of sponsors, the only sponsor the HJ units had was the NAZI Party.
HBC notes that most of the available images of Geman school children taken during the NAZI era show the children wearing their ordinary civilian clothes. We notice a few images suggesting that some children wore their Hitler Youth (HJ) to school. One report indicates that this was not common, but we have only limited information at this time. Unlike Scouts or even more so the Communust Young Pioneers, schools did not sponsor the HJ abd the asctivities were not school based. There were, however, some connections. Children desiring to enter secondary schools and universities needed certification that they were in the HJ abd had a good record of service. In addition, an ibncreasing number of pro-NAZI teachers were appointed as the NAZI era continued who would have encouraged the HJ children. They may have even encouraged the children to wear their uniforms to school. And those youth rising to positions of authority were given favorable treatemeny and were difficult to discipline.
The NAZI shoe parliament in December 1936, made membership in the Hitler Youth obligatory for all boys and girls between 10 and 18 years of age. On March 25th, 1939, the "Zweite Durchfuehrungsverordnung zum Gesetz ueber die Hitler-Jugend (Jugenddienstverordnung)" was published in the Reichsgesetzblatt, vol.1 , p.710 and put the provisions of the law into effect. This required boys to join regardless of whether somebody wanted to join or not, whether the parents approved or not. It could be dangerous to refuse to become a member, although there are no records of any child ever being killed for not joining. It was mainly bad because your friends and everyone in school was usually a member, and if you were not, they would make fun of you, tease you and often not even speak to you. Some children and their families were very brave and did not become members, but most did join did. Many boys loved it, and some were very afraid--especially boys who were not athletically inclined. It was particularly dangerous to avoid participating in the Hitler Youth after it became mandatory in March 1939. When membership became mandatory, parents were warned that the kids would be taken away and sent to other homes or orphanages. Parents, who were found guilty of keeping their children out of the HJ were sentenced to severe prison sentences. Membership in the HJ was remarkable. In 1932, 107,956 boys were enrolled. The end of 1939 enrolled almost 8 million boys enrolled in the HJ. Part of the reason enrollment grew so fast was that Von Schirach knew how to effectively play on the sympathies of the youth. He had gone through the youth movement as well and was only 26 years old upon being appointed leader of the HJ. He knew that sport, outdoor activities, and independence was important to the youth. He also knew that they had a striking nationalistic attitude. They were against the Weimar government and so were the NAZI’s.
We had thought that the HJ organization was divided into the major Gaus or NAZI Party administrative units. A HBU contributor reports that the HJ divided the Reich into five areas (Oberbann) for all three units: DJ, HJ and BDM. I am not sure of the relationship between the NAZI Gaus and the HJ Oberbann. The Oberbann was a larger unit than any Gau. A HBU contributor tells us , "The HJ organization divided the Reich into five areas (Oberbann) for DJ, HJ and BDM administration and sub-divided into smaller districts (Bann). Each Oberbann had a destinctlively colored rune all on tan cloth. DJ boys wore these rune patches. The bann were also grouped together into groups within the Oberbann. Groups of 10-30 Bann equaled one Gebiet and each Gebiet were indicated with a triangular patch worn high on the left shoulder with the name embroidered within the triangle e.g. Sud Wurttemberg, Nord Nordmark etc." [Muir] (We had thought that these were NAZI Gaus. While only DJ boys wore the rune patches. All HJ members (DJ, HJ, and BDM) children wore the trianular patches. "It was a complicated system and made even more so by the many changes pre war. There were many specialist groups also Naval and Air Force HJ, engineers, fire-fighters, medical, ski groups, etc and all wore badges and insignia for the section to which they belonged. The metal gordet was worn by the standard bearers for example." [Muir]
The Hitler Youth was organized upon military lines with military-looking uniforms, ranks, and titles. Units in a system devised by Schirach were modeled after the organization of the German Army (Whermacht). A Hitler Youth unit was composed of military-like units: squad, platoon, company, batallion, regiment, ect. These units in the Hitler Jugend were: Kameradschaft (Comrad stem) 15 boys; Schar (Crowd) 50 boys; Gefolgschaft (Following) 150 boys; Unterbann (Under band) 600 boys; and Bann (Band) 3,000 boys. The names were differnt for the younger Deutches Jungvolk: Jungerschadt (Youth stem); Jungzug (Youth band wagon), Fähnlein (????), Stamm (Root), and Jungbann (Youth band). Multiple Bannen and Jungbannen were combined into a Gebiet (District) 150,000 boys. Five Gebeit made up an Obergebiet (Higher or district groups) 750,000 boys. The BDM/JM were similarly organized, but with different unit names.
The units were within territorial formations based on the Gau. A Gau was the NAZI Party territorial divisions of the Reich. There were both Untergau (Lower Gau), and the Obergau (Upper Gau). They were all organized into the Gauverband (Association of Gaue) and subject to the authority of the Reichsjugendfuhrung (Reich Youth Leadership). BDM affairs were handled by the Reichsreferentin BDM (Official in Charge of the BDM), who was given broad authority.
Boys and girls joined the NAZI youth movement a 6 years of age. Serious activities, however, did not begin until age 10 and full membership in the Hitler Youth began at age 15. The NAZI youth movement was divided three age-specific sections.
One report suggests that boys could enter the program at the age of 6 years. HBU is not sure, however, if this is accurate. We do not see aby ecidence of this in the photographic record. HBU is not sure, however, if these eager younger boys had a special program, or if they just tagged along with the Deutches Jungvolk.
Boys at the age of 10 were conscripted into the DJ. As Jungvolk the boys had to swear an oath, basically saying that they were willing to give up their lives for Germany and Hitler. Membership at 10 was after the NAZIs seized power in 1933, at first incouraged. Social pressure was put on the boys in a number of ways. Some parents did not approve. Often boys did not understand their parents disapproval. Some boys had enough sence to leep quiet about their parents disapproval. Other boys, after all they were only 10 years old, did not understand what was involved.
Strictly speaking the "Hitler youth" was designated by the abbreviation HJ and was really only applicable to older teenagers (15-18 year olds). Boys stayed in the HJ until they were 18 years of age, then were encouraged to enter the army or forced to enter the labor service. The labor service was 6 months of compulsory work out in the country. Helping out on a farm, rebuilding roads, or beautifying parks were the usual forms of labor.
The Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) was the separate girls units of the Hitler Youth. NAZI related girl's units began to form in 1923, but only small numbers of girls were involved. Tthe BDM was not founded until 1930 ad was not integrated into the HJ organization until 1931. The male orientation of the HJ organization meant that at first the BDM was not very popular with girls. The number of girls were limited, significanbtly trailing that of the boys until 1936 when membership was made compulsory. The girls like the boys were expected to join at age 10. The units were separated from the boys and activities and program quite different in keeping with the NAZI view that the proper role for women was motherhood--producing boys for the German Army. As with the boys, failure to join the BDM could be dangerous, both for the girl and the family. We are adding some notes about individual experiences.
The HJ organization in 1938 had 8,000 full-time leaders. Of course a much larger staff was needed to properly guide the huge number of boys enrolled in the HJ movement. There were also in 1938 720,000 part-time HJ leaders, often schoolteachers, who had been trained in NAZI doctrine. By May 1939 that number had increased to more than 765,000 part-time adult staff. Youth leaders were thoroughly trained, many of them in special "Youth Leaders" schools.
Part of the Reason the HJ was successfull was that youth led youth. In other words, the youth were promoted to positions of leadership that enhanced their sense of independence. Hitler Jugend boys, for example helped out in the Dutche Jugend units. There were also leadersgip units within the two Hitler Jugend age-graded units.
There was one interesting linguistic aspect regarding the Hitler youth movement:
To understand it one has to realize that German spoken in Northern Germany, say in Berlin, sounds quite different to the German spoken in the Southern part such as in Bavaria or in Austria. In addition there is one letter of the alphabet (j) which is pronounced differently in Northern and Southern Germany. (Much like "z" being pronounced "zed" in England or Canada, but "zee" in the United States). In Northern Germany "j" is called "yot", in the South or in Austria it is called "ye". Since the official designations of the HJ and DJ groups originated in Berlin, they were known all over as "huh-yot" and "day-yot", which reminded the Viennese of the typical, disliked Northern Dialect. (A similar dislike for the southern pronunciation exists in the Northern part of Germany. Many jokes in German are told in both areas making fun of the pronunciation of the language in the other part). Although the German propaganda machine was known to be efficient, they slipped up by not picking a name without "j" for their youth movement. As it was, half the country perceived HJ and DJ as somewhat "foreign" sounding, which certainly would not have been the intention of the creators of the youth groups.
One of the most important roles of the Hitler Jugend was to prepare German boys for membership in the Party and its various Party formations. Thus the HJ was used to identify and recruit potntial future NAZI leaders and to channel them to the appropriate party schools. Th HJ also helped the military find an recruit boys. There were many specialized HJ divisions that led to various military servives. The organization of the HJ esentially enabled the NAZI Party to control and supervise German youth from age 10 until they entered the military. Of course school was important and the Party controlled German education. Hitler never, however, trusted the schools as much as he did the HJ organization.
Once they entered the Hitler Jugend, the Deutsche Jugend (DJ) boys could chose to enter a specialized branch within the organization. Those interested in flying could enter the Flieger-HJ (Hitler Youth Flyers) or if motors and automobiles were of interest, there was the Motor-HJ (Motorized Hitler Youth). The Marine-HJ (Naval Hitler Youth) and the Waffen-SS (weapons and protection squad) were branches for the more military-oriented youth. Signal (Signal Hitler Youth), medical, and musical units were also options for the youth.
According to an official document published by the Reich Youth Leadership under Hitler Youth leader Schirach, the object of these divisions was to prepare boys for the German merchant marine and Navy, the National Socialist Motorized Corps (NSKK), for civil and military aviation, and for service with signal troops.
The NAZIs also used the Hitler Jugend for extensive pre-military training of youth. The Hitler Youth in 1933, in cooperation with the SA and the Wehrmacht, initiated a secret program of extensive pre-military training. Extensive premilitary training was carried on in all age groups of the Hitler Youth in close cooperation
with the Wehrmacht. For older boys thre was actual weapns instruction. Thisof course was greatly intensified once the War began.
German boys upon reaching 19 years of age were drafted into the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labor Service), which stressed physical work and iron discipline. Thousands of German youngsters put to work on the land. After completing their year of labor service, the
young men, already in top physical condition, enlisted in the military. They often chose servives based on specialties previously pursued in the HJ.
Boys that did not join one of the specialized divisions, but showed leadership potential and had espcially pure Aryan ancestry could be chosen to join the SS instead of the army. The SS had emense prestige within NAZI Germany. An especially close relationship developed between the HJ organization and the SS. The Streifequlenst, a special formation of the Hitler Jugend, was organized as a reslt of an agreement between Himmler and Schirach to secure and train recruits for the SS, with special emphasis on securing recruits for the Deaths Head Troops of the SS (concentration camp guards). The farm service section of the Hitler Jugend became a cadet corps of the SS as a reltof 1938 agreement between Himmler and Schirach. This formation was to train youths especially suited to become Wehrbaer (militant peasants) for SS service. They were to be settled in places where the Nazis needed especially trained farmers.
The HJ provided oportunities to identify boys with leadership impotential that would be suitable for party leadership schools. The Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalt (NPEA or NAPOLA--National Political Educational Establishment) were an early creation of the Third Reich. The NAPOLA program was initaiated in 1933, the year the NAZIs seized power, under the leadership of the Joachim Haupt. The NAPOLAs were based on the Imperial Germany Kadettanstalten. The schools were higly selective. Only 20 percent of applicants were accepted. Selection criteria included racial origins, physical fitness, and membership of the Hitler Youth. I'm not sure what the academic qualifications were. The program was very demanding. Onlyabout one-third of the students who entered the NAPOLAs actually finished the program and graduated. The NAZIs planned to train a new generation of German leaders at these schools. The NAZI Pary in 1937 set up Adolf Hitler Schools train and further indoctrinate boys selected to be future party leaders. The schools were operated by the Hitler Jugend for the Party. Boys entered at the age of 12 and remained in the school until 18 years of age. They were boarding schools to make sure that parental influence was minimized.
Muir, John. E-mail message, September 16, 2005.
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