History Learning Site- "The Hitler Youth was seen as being as important to a
child as school was". The Hitler Youth was a logical extension of Hitler's belief
that the future of Nazi Germany was its children.
"The weak must be chiselled 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."
Movements for youngsters were part of German culture and the Hitler Youth
had been created in the 1920's. By 1933 its membership stood at "100,000."
"After Hitler came to power, all other youth movements were abolished" and as
a result the Hitler Youth grew quickly. In 1936, the figure stood at "4 million"
members. In 1936, it became all but compulsory to join the Hitler Youth. Youths
could avoid doing any active service if they paid their subscription but this
became all but impossible after 1939.
The Hitler Youth catered for 10 to 18 year olds. There were separate
organisations for boys and girls. "The task of the boys section was to prepare
the boys for military service. For girls, the organisation prepared them for
Boys at 10, joined the Deutsches Jungvolk (German Young People) until the
age of 13 when they transferred to the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) until the age
of 18. "Part of their "military athletics" (Wehrsport) included marching, bayonet
drill, grenade throwing, trench digging, map reading, gas defence, use of
dugouts, how to get under barbed wire and pistol shooting."
Girls, at the age of 10, joined the Jungmadelbund (League of Young Girls) and
at the age of 14 transferred to the Bund Deutscher Madel (League of German
Girls). "Girls had to be able to run 60 metres in 14 seconds, throw a ball 12
metres, complete a 2 hour march, swim 100 metres and know how to make a
To the outside world, the Hitler Youth seemed to "personify German
discipline." In fact, this image was far from accurate. School teachers
complained that "boys and girls were so tired from attending evening
meetings of the Hitler Youth, that they could barely stay awake the next day at
school." Also by 1938, attendance at Hitler Youth meetings was so poor -
barely 25% - that the authorities decided to tighten up attendance with the 1939
law making attendance compulsory.
"He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future". Hitler Quotes
The whole Hitler Youth movement was overseen by Balder von Shirach.
"Every girl belongs to us" - League of German Maidens poster
Youth protest movements did exist in Nazi Germany. The Nazi propagandists
of the time would have had the world believe that the youth population of Nazi
Germany was fully behind Hitler. It is true that many did join the Hitler Youth
movement but in 1936 membership was made compulsory and all other youth
movements were banned so there was no alternative. However, there were
some youths who were ideologically against the regime and who were brave
enough to make a stand.
In 1937 one such protest movement was started – the Edelweiss Pirates
(Eidelweisspiraten). The movement started in the Rhineland and then spread
out. Members were mainly working class male youths. They would gather
together and act in a manner that they would know would anger the local Nazi
leaders. Whereas the Nazi Party required Hitler Youth members to wear a
uniform that was semi-military, Edelweiss members wore more bohemian
clothing, knowing that it would anger the powers-that-be. They also sang
songs that the Nazis had banned and played music that was also banned, such
as jazz and blues tunes. They created areas within a town or city where
members of the Hitler Youth were not tolerated. At no stage were they ever a
danger to the Nazi regime and for years they were seen as nothing more than a...
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