Hitler Youth

The Hitler Youth organization in Nazi Germany was established in 1922 and was active until the end of World War II in 1945. Children from 10 to 18 were indoctrinated to fight for the Third Reich and champion the ideals of Adolph Hitler. It is also known as the Hitler Jugend, HJ or "Hitler Youth, League of German Worker Youth."

The Hitler Youth were trained for physical combat. They were taught to believe that they were members of the Aryan super race and that all other races, especially Jews, were inferior. Trained similarly to Spartan youth, the Hitler youth were conditioned for aggression and a high tolerance for pain. Hitler had specific views of what the German youth should be like. He said: "The weak must be chiseled away. I want young men and women who can suffer pain. A young German must be as swift as a greyhound, as tough as leather, and as hard as Krupp's steel." Hitler saw in the young an opportunity for national revival. He wanted them to be strong, handsome, proud and independent. The children fell prey to the feeling of unity and camaraderie instilled in the Hitler Youth and enjoyed the activities in which they participated. Kurt Gruber was the chief architect of the Hitler Youth. His Greater German Youth Movement competed with the Schillijugend until his group became the official Nazi youth movement. The Hitler Youth, much like its adult counterpart, rivaled other youth groups representing rival political parties, such as communists and socialists. By 1933, the Hitler Youth boasted a membership of 100,000 children. Once Hitler came into power, all other youth groups were abolished, and the Hitler Youth reigned supreme. By 1938, it was compulsory for all children to attend Hitler Youth meetings. Balder von Shirach oversaw the entire Hitler Youth movement.

The Hitler Youth divided boys and girls. Boys from 10 to 14 were in the Deutsches Jungvolk, and older boys from 14 to 18 were in the Hitler-Jugend. Girls from 10 to 18 were in the Bund Deutscher Madel. Boys were trained for military service whereas girls were prepared for motherhood. Both were required to be physically fit. Boys' activities included marching, grenade throwing, map reading, trench digging and pistol shooting. Girls were expected to throw a ball 12 meters, run 60 meters in 14 seconds, swim 100 meters, march for two hours and make a bed. Hitler envisioned "a violently active, dominating, intrepid, brutal youth." Their uniforms resembled the SS uniforms.

Gerhard Rempel, author of Hitler's Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS, attests to the political significance the Hitler Youth held. Rempel says: "It may be impossible to define the influence millions of young people had on parents, teachers, and adults in general, but there can be little doubt that the uniformed army of teenagers had something to do with promoting the myth of Hitler's invincible genius. When the war began, the importance of the HJ as the cradle of an aggressive army became apparent to military leaders and to the creators of the combat wing of the SS." Members of the Hitler Youth went straight from their youth movement into the SS and the German army, fighting and dying for the sake of the Third Reich. The SS took complete advantage of the idealistic, naïve members of the Hitler Youth, recruiting them for different missions and taking them on as personnel.

Members of the Hitler Youth were captivated by Adolph Hitler's persona. Baldur von Schirach wrote a poem in 1936 that the Hitler Youth were required to memorize and recite every day. The poem presented Hitler as a divine entity: "That is the greatest thing about him/ That he is not only our leader and a great hero,/But himself, upright, firm and simple,/ In him the roots of our world./ And his soul touches the stars/ And yet he remains a man like you and me." Before meals, the Hitler Youth were required to recite prayers that extolled the fuehrer as a savior and provider.

The Hitler Youth did not focus on education; in fact Hitler discouraged it. He said, "I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my young men ... But one thing they must learn -- self-command! They shall learn to overcome the fear of death, under the severest tests. That is the intrepid and heroic stage of youth. Out of it comes the stage of the free man, the man who is the substance and essence of the world, the creative man, the god-man."

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Hitler Youth
Michael H. Kater.
Harvard University Press, 2004
Hitler's Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS
Gerhard Rempel.
University of North Carolina Press, 1989
Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow: Remembering Youth in Postwar Berlin
Kimberly A. Redding.
Praeger, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Being Young in Hitler's Germany"
Being Present: Growing Up in Hitler's Germany
Willy Schumann.
Kent State University Press, 1991
Dictatorship as Experience: Towards a Socio-Cultural History of the GDR
Konrad H. Jarausch; Eve Duffy.
Berghahn Books, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 16 "The Hitler Youth Generation in the GDR: Insecurities, Ambitions, and Dilemmas"
The Triumph of Propaganda: Film and National Socialism, 1933-1945
Hilmar Hoffmann; John A. Broadwin; V. R. Berghahn.
Berghahn Books, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "The Youth Film Hours of the Hitler Youth" begins on p. 98
Life in the Third Reich
Richard Bessel.
Oxford University Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "Youth in the Third Reich" begins on p. 25
Resistance and Conformity in the Third Reich
Martyn Housden.
Routledge, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Youth: Rebels for Which Cause?"
No Heavenly Delusion? A Comparative Study of Three Communal Movements
Michael Tyldesley.
Liverpool University Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The German Youth Movement"
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