Thursday 1 January 2015

The Hitler Youth

In the Hani and Renate strands of the story we meet several members of the Hitler Youth. Sabine’s trainer is one of the organisers. Several of the German girls have brothers who are involved.  Hani has a romantic encounter with one of the young leaders. Gerda, the girl who lives on a farm, has one brother who becomes a little overenthusiastic and then towards the end of the war, the boys in the family that helps with the farm become determined to fight the invading American army. Fortunately, they calm down and don’t attempt this. In the last months of the war, they were taking orders from the SS. In the Hani strand they are ordered to clear the Special Class out of Haus Lehrs. They refuse.
The Hitler Youth was a slightly tougher organisation than the BDM, the girls’ equivalent organisation, though there are many similarities. It was much more intense than the Boy Scouts movement, though there were a few similarities there as well.  
Baldur von Schirach was the overall founder of both movements. In fact, he united all of the various Nazi youth movements in 1931.  
By 1936 it was compulsory to join. You could at that time pay the subs and not attend.  By 1939, attendance was compulsory also.
At six, a little boy could become a member of the Pimpf. Boys joined the Deutsches Jungvolk at age 10. They moved up into the Hitler Youth proper at 14.
They did indeed do many activities that you would expect boy scouts to do – camping, making things and enjoying nature but they also had “Wehrsport”  – practice in marching, bayonet drill, grenade throwing, trench digging, map reading, gas defence, use of dugouts, how to get under barbed wire and pistol shooting.
Several magazines were supplied for them. Wille und Macht (Will and Power) was a monthly magazine. This publication was also its official organ and its editor was Baldur von Schirach. Other publications included Die Kameradshaft (Comradeship). A yearbook called Jungen Eure Welt (Youth your World) was also produced.
Another important aspect of the Hitler Youth was the indoctrination of Nazi ideals. The two major principles the NAZIs constantly preached at the Hitler Youth boys was the superiority of the German nation and Aryan race and the need of the German people for Lebensraum ("living space") in the east.  
It is very easy to find footage on such platforms as You Tube of Hitler Youth parades. These seem to show a type of mass hysteria. It is perhaps rather disturbing that there are many people who seem to be delighted with this type of film. One can clearly see the brain washing there. However, there is also evidence of physical fitness and discipline. Obedience was seen as extremely important. You never questioned a leader’s command.     
There was an emphasis on the young leading the young, though leaders may often stay on until they were called up.
The movement was very structured and very disciplined. The uniforms were very smart.  Boys did have to pass a stringent initiation test to get in – even though membership was compulsory. This almost seems like a license to exclude the weak.
It is easy to see how this movement might be quite attractive to many boys. They were given a purpose. There was camaraderie. They wore a smart uniform. At one of the most depressed times in recent history they were given hope.  

Food for thought: 

Is it a good idea to make such organizations as this compulsory? 
Is this better or worse than having military service for young people?
Would belonging to an organisaiton like this help you develop life-skills?  

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