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The Hitler Youth Movement

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German Youth Camp Scenes (1937)

The Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls were the primary tools that the Nazis used to shape the beliefs, thinking and actions of German youth. Youth leaders used tightly controlled group activities and staged propaganda events such as mass rallies full of ritual and spectacle to create the illusion of one national community reaching across class and religious divisions that characterized Germany before After , however, youth leaders sought to integrate boys into the Nazi national community and to prepare them for service as soldiers in the armed forces or, later, in the SS. In , membership in Nazi youth groups became mandatory for all boys and girls between the ages of ten and seventeen.

After-school meetings and weekend camping trips sponsored by the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls trained children to become faithful to the Nazi Party and the future leaders of the National Socialist state. By September , over , young people served in leadership roles in Nazi youth organizations which prepared them for such roles in the military and the German occupation bureaucracy.

The Hitler Youth combined sports and outdoor activities with ideology. Similarly, the League of German Girls emphasized collective athletics, such as rhythmic gymnastics, which German health authorities deemed less strenuous to the female body and better geared to preparing them for motherhood. Their public displays of these values encouraged young men and women to abandon their individuality in favor of the goals of the Aryan collective.

Upon reaching age eighteen, boys were required to enlist immediately in the armed forces or into the Reich Labor Service, for which their activities in the Hitler Youth had prepared them. Propaganda materials called for ever more fanatic devotion to Nazi ideology, even as the German military suffered from defeat after defeat. We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia.

View the list of all donors. Trending keywords:. Featured Content. Tags Find topics of interest and explore encyclopedia content related to those topics. Browse A-Z Find articles, photos, maps, films, and more listed alphabetically. Jewish children were banned from participation. Banning scouting sent a message—obey, or be punished. It had a practical effect, too: Since other scouting organizations were banned, the only way for kids to get scouting experience was to join the Hitler Youth.

As Germany hurtled toward war, children who refused to join were alienated, then punished. By , over 90 percent of German children were part of the Hitler Youth organization. From the sixth year of age, German boys have to join the Nazi organization of youth. Equipped with uniforms and flags, they undergo strenuous physical training that leaves them well prepared for the two years they will later serve in the Wehrmacht. For the Nazis, the group had other benefits.

Not only did it allow the Third Reich to indoctrinate children at their most impressionable, but it let the Nazis remove them from the influence of their parents, some of whom opposed the regime. The Nazi Party knew that families—private, cohesive groups not usually under political sway—were an obstacle to their goals. Though the Boy Scouts were banned, the Nazis co-opted many of its activities and traditions. Hitler Youth took part in typical scouting type activities like camping trips, singing, crafts and hiking.

They went to summer camps, wore uniforms, recited pledges and told stories over campfires. But over time, the activities changed. They imposed military-like order on members and trained young men in everything from weapons to survival. It took him years to step away from that indoctrination after the end of World War II. Adolf Hitler with Nazi party Hitler Youth at a gathering. As a negative counter-image Nazi propaganda projected the combative, man-hating suffragettes of other countries.

Melita Maschmann joined the League of German Girls on 1st March in secret because she knew her parents would disapprove. Like the other girls she was ordered to read Mein Kampf but she never finished the book. She argued that the BDM gave her a sense of purpose and belonging. Maschmann admitted that "she devoted herself to it night and day, to the neglect of her schooling and the distress of her parents". We were all given the entry forms in class to fill in there and then, and told to take it home for our parents' signature We had to attend classes after school and learn about Adolf Hitler and his achievements.

We did community work, singing to soldiers in hospitals and making little presents for them like bookmarks, or poems written out neatly. We also went on hikes and collected leaves and herbs for the war effort. In a speech soon after taking control of the organisation she argued: "We need a generation of girls which is healthy in body and mind, sure and decisive, proudly and confidently going forward, one which assumes its place in everyday life with poise and discernment, one free of sentimental and rapturous emotions, and which, for precisely this reason, in sharply defined femininity, would be the comrade of a man, because she does not regard him as some sort of idol but rather as a companion!

Such girls will then, by necessity, carry the values of National Socialism into the next generation as the mental bulwark of our people. Adolf Hitler encouraged British sympathisers to invite the Hitler Youth to visit their schools. Worthing was the first town in the country to elect a Fascist councillor, Charles Bentinck Budd. Worthing was now described as the "Munich of the South". They arrived in March The local historian, Freddie Feest , argues: "It has since been well documented that there were ulterior motives for most such visits and that German youth with strong Nazi-influenced motivation were surreptitiously — though with various degrees of success and reliability — collecting information, documents and photographs during their tours that might prove invaluable when the time came for Nazi forces to carry out an invasion of that country.

Martin, the headmaster, later observed that the Hitler Youth boys, "attired in ski caps, open-necked shirts, shorts and stout hiking boots" were a "sturdy lot and far more burly than their English counterparts". The German boys offered to put a show on for the school. Martin could only describe as stunning , although despite - or perhaps because of - their imposing physiques they lacked, he noted with quiet satisfaction, the suppleness of his boys. Armin Hertz was a Jewish schoolboy in Berlin. He remembers the children being allowed to sing Hitler Youth songs in the classroom: "The anti-Semitism was very vivid in school They were trying to teach us Nazi songs.

I vividly remember this song they were marching in the street with. The Hitler Youth, young boys actually of our age, were singing, Das Judenblut vom Messer spitzt, geht's uns nochmal so gut. The Jews' blood spurting from the knife makes us feel especially good. They were also singing it in the school. Some teachers attempted to provide a balanced view but they were often reported by the children to the authorities.

In a lesson that was devoted to those who had been killed in the First World War. The teacher said that some Jewish soldiers in the German Army had lost their lives in the conflict. Straight away one of the boys, who was a member of the Hitler Youth, shouted out. The Jews don't have a Fatherland. Ruth Mendel , a Jewish girl from Frankfurt , explained how she was attacked by a Hitler Youth boy when she was only a child. I was walking at the edge of the park with my parents and a Hitler Youth boy on a bicycle drove right into me and drove over my knee on purpose of course. He knocked me over, but luckily nothing was broken My parents didn't say anything If you went to the police and complained it only meant that you would be beaten up.

A large number of young people took part in what became known as Kristallnacht Crystal Night. The consequence of this foul murder was a wave of indignation in Germany. Jewish shops were boycotted and smashed and the synagogues, the cradles of the infamous Jewish doctrines, went up in flames. These measures were by no means as spontaneous as they appeared. On the night the murder was announced in Berlin I was busy at our headquarters. Although it was very late the entire leadership staff were there in assembly, the Bann Leader and about two dozen others, of all ranks I had no idea what it was all about, and was thrilled to learn that were to go into action that very night. Dressed in civilian clothes we were to demolish the Jewish shops in our district for which we had a list supplied by the Gau headquarters of the NSKK, who were also in civilian clothes.

We were to concentrate on the shops. Cases of serious resistance on the part of the Jews were to be dealt with by the SA men who would also attend to the synagogues. Paul Briscoe , the son of Norah Briscoe , a member of the National Union of Fascists , had been educated in Nazi Germany and was living in the small town of Miltenberg : "At first, I thought I was dreaming, but then the rhythmic, rumbling roar that had been growing inside my head became too loud to be contained by sleep. I sat up to break its hold, but the noise got louder still. There was something monstrous outside my bedroom window.

I was only eight years old, and I was afraid. It was the sound of voices - shouting, ranting, chanting. I couldn't make out the words, but the hatred in the tone was unmistakable. There was also - and this puzzled me - excitement. For all my fear, I was drawn across the room to the window. I made a crack in the curtains and peered out. Below me, the triangular medieval marketplace had been flooded by a sea of heads, and flames were bobbing and floating between the caps and hats.

The mob had come to Miltenberg, carrying firebrands, cudgels and sticks. Paul Briscoe could hear the crowd chanting "Jews out! Jews out! The shop was owned by Mira. Everybody in Miltenberg knew her. Mira wasn't a Jew, she was a person. She was Jewish, yes, but not like the Jews. They were dirty, subhuman, money-grubbing parasites - every schoolboy knew that - but Mira was - well, Mira: a little old woman who was polite and friendly if you spoke to her, but generally kept herself to herself. But the crowd didn't seem to know this: they must be outsiders. Nobody in Miltenberg could possibly have made such a mistake. I was frightened for her A crash rang out. Someone had put a brick through her shop window. The top half of the pane hung for a moment, like a jagged guillotine, then fell to the pavement below.

The crowd roared its approval. Armin Hertz was 14 years old in His parents owned a furniture store in Berlin. He later explained what happened that night: "During the Kristallnacht, our store was destroyed, glass was broken, the synagogues were set on fire. There was a synagogue in the same street where we lived. It was on the first floor of a commercial building; downstairs were stores, and upstairs was a synagogue.

In the back of that building, there was a factory so they could not set that synagogue on fire because people were living and working there. But they threw everything out of the window - the Torah scrolls, the prayer books, the benches, everything was lying in the street. On 11th November, , eight-year-old Paul Briscoe was told by his teacher that the day's lessons had been cancelled and that they had to attend a meeting in Miltenberg : "Whatever was going to happen must have been planned well in advance, for the streets were lined with Brownshirts and Party officials, and the boys from the senior school were assembled in the uniform of the Hitler Youth.

A festival atmosphere filled the town. But there was something angry and threatening in the air, too. The boys were then marched to the Miltenberg Synagogue. For a long moment, nobody moved and all was quiet. Then, another command was shouted - I was too far back to make out the words - and the boys at the front broke ranks, flying at the synagogue entrance, cheering as they ran. When they reached the door, they clambered over each other to beat on it with their fists. I don't know whether they broke the lock or found a key, but suddenly another cheer went up as the door opened and the big boys rushed in. We youngsters stood still and silent, not knowing what to expect. Some of the seniors were on the balcony, tearing up books and throwing the pages in the air, where they drifted to the ground like leaves sinking through water.

A group of them had got hold of a banister rail and kept rocking it back and forth until it broke. When it came away, they flung the spindles at the chandelier that hung over the centre of the room. Clusters of crystal fell to the floor. I stood there, transfixed by shock and disbelief. What they were doing was wrong: why weren't the adults telling them to stop? And then it happened. A book thrown from the balcony landed at my feet. Without thinking, I picked it up and hurled it back. I was no longer an outsider looking on. I joined in, abandoning myself completely to my excitement. We all did. When we had broken all the chairs and benches into pieces, we picked up the pieces and smashed them, too.

We cheered as a tall boy kicked the bottom panel of a door to splinters; a moment later, he appeared wearing a shawl and carrying a scroll. He clambered up to the edge of the unbanistered balcony, and began to make howling noises in mockery of Jewish prayers. We added our howls to his. Briscoe then described what happened next: "As our laughter subsided, we noticed that someone had come in through a side door and was watching us. It was the rabbi: a real, live Jew, just like the ones in our school textbooks. He was an old, small, weak-looking man with a long dark coat and black hat.

His beard was black, too, but his face was white with terror. Every eye in the room turned to him. He opened his mouth to speak, but before the words came, the first thrown book had knocked his hat off. We drove him out through the main door where he had to run the gauntlet of the adults outside. Through the frame of the doorway I saw fists and sticks flailing down.

It was like watching a film at the cinema, but being in the film at the same time. I caught close ups of several of the faces that made up the mob. They were the faces of men that I saw every Sunday, courteously lifting their hats to each other as they filed into church. The Miltenberg Synagogue interior was destroyed during Kristallnacht. Forty-three Miltenberg Jews emigrated and 42 relocated within Germany. In , the remaining ten Jews were deported to Izbica and to Theresienstadt. At least 39 Miltenberg Jews perished in the Shoah".

Herbert Lutz admitted that after Kristallnacht he became aware that Jews were being sent to concentration camps : " We heard about a transport of people going out. There were rumors that people were killed, but there was never any mention of gas chambers. There were rumors that said people were squeezed together in these camps and most died of typhoid fever I didn't really give it any thought. I was fifteen, sixteen years old. We heard this on the periphery. That was not, to kids of my age at the time, our primary interest. We didn't think about it. No, we didn't even think about it.

They were out of sight. I'm talking about people who are fifteen years old There weren't very many Jews, first of all. By there were 8, full-time leaders of the Hitler Youth. There were also , part-time leaders, often schoolteachers, who had been trained in National Socialist principles. One teacher, who was hostile to Hitler, wrote to a friend: "In the schools it is not the teacher, but the pupils, who exercise authority. Party functionaries train their children to be spies and agent provocateurs. The youth organizations, particularly the Hitler Youth, have been accorded powers of control which enable every boy and girl to exercise authority backed up by threats.

Children have been deliberately taken away from parents who refused to acknowledge their belief in National Socialism. The refusal of parents to 'allow their children to join the youth organization' is regarded as an adequate reason for taking the children away. Some parents refused to allow their children to join the Hitler Youth. Johannes Fest , a head teacher who lost his job over his unwillingness to support the government, refused to allow his son, Joachim Fest , to join. However, after he was sent to a boarding school in Freiburg. Their new head teacher, Dr. Hermann insisted that he took part in the activities. Joachim later admitted that he quite enjoyed the experience: "The bells rang out from Bernward's tower Teachers constantly feared the possibility that their Hitler Youth students would inform on them.

Herbert Lutz went to a school in Cologne. I remember that one day he asked me a question. I was wearing my uniform, and I stood up, clicked my heels, and he blew up. I want you to act like a human being. I don't want machines. You're not a robot. Lutz later recalled: "He was probably afraid that I might report him to the Gestapo. She immediately realised that she had made a mistake and pleaded with the children not to tell anybody about it. One of the children told his parents and they promptly informed the Gestapo. She immediately lost her job and sent to prison for three-weeks. She later recalled how the students controlled the curriculum: "As time went on more and more girls joined the BDM, which gave us a great advantage at school.

The mistresses were mostly pretty old and stuffy. They wanted us to do scripture and, of course, we refused. Our leaders had told us that no one could be forced to listen to a lot of immoral stories about Jews, and so we made a row and behaved so badly during scripture classes that the teacher was glad in the end to let us out. Erich Dressler played an active role in getting rid of teachers he considered to be opponents of the Nazi Party : "In , when I had reached the age of ten, I was sent to the Paulsen Realgymnasium. This was still a regular old-fashioned place with masters in long beards who were completely out of sympathy with the new era. They still expected us to know as much as the pupils used to under the Jewish Weimar Republic, and they pestered us with all sorts of Latin and Greek nonsense instead of teaching us things that might be useful later on.

This brought about an absurd state of affairs in which we, the boys, had to instruct our masters. Already we were set aflame by the idea of the New Germany, and were resolved not to be influenced by their outdated ideas and theories, and flatly told our masters so. Of course they said nothing, because I think they were a bit afraid of us, but they didn't do anything about changing their methods of teaching. It was decided to get rid of the Latin teacher. We just did not do it, and excused ourselves by saying that we had been on duty for the Hitler Youth during the afternoon.

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