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The Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend-HJ) were for Hitler the future of the Nazi party. Hitler’s
dream of a thousand year Reich could only be accomplished through the youth, which were
deemed the most important aspect of Germany's future as a powerful nation. "The future
of the German nation depends on its youth, and the German youth shall have to be prepared
for its future duties."(i) The youth were important because they would continue the Nazi
legacy and spread propaganda to future generations. Hitler was so obsessed with his quest
for the future of Germany, that he devoted most of his endeavors, such as the acquisition of Lebensraum and the elimination of the subhumans, for the purpose of gaining more land for the future generations.
Hitler was not some all mighty God that was able to just snap his fingers and the youth
would follow him, he was aided in the fact that the youth were on a quest of their own:
independence. They were energetic, full of life, and had an overwhelming love for
Germany along with spirit and a quest to find their position in life. Hitler recognized these
characteristics of the youth and decided to incorporate them into his plan for the National
Socialist German Worker's Party (NSDAP or Nazi Party) to flourish. These
characteristics and Hitler's involvement became the leading tragedy and inspiration of the
German youth movement. This youth movement began before World War I, was the result
of the industrial revolution, and came to be known as the ‘Youth Revolution.’(ii)
The Early Movement
In the 1920's, the German youth were involved
in about two thousand groups and organizations.
The most popular organization was the
Wandervogel, which was popular due to the
involvement of sports. Boys were able to go on
weekend retreats, where they would hike and
learn to survive on their own in the wilderness.
Organized sporting events of soccer and other
various competitions kept the interests of the
children. The Wandervogel were noted for their
love of the land, not the new, modern
conveniences of the cities. Hiking and skiing were chosen over activities such as watching a
movie or going to a dance.
The Wandervogel, which was formed November 4, 1901(iii), reflected the main attitudes of
the of the youth movement.
American Boy Scouts saluting Hitler Youth in Munich in 1935. Koch p. 196.
In some ways the Wandervogel was a manifestation of the perceptible mood of boredom and
restlessness appearance of Wilhelmian Germany was little more than a facade which
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1155 words (3.3 pages)
The youth movement was a rejection of the Weimar government, which was one of the
reasons why they were so easily supportive of the Nazi regime. They were also
disenchanted with the older generation and their new sets of values: work and money.
The Hohe Meissner meeting of 1913 showed the spirit of the youth.(v) The youth
wanted to rejuvenate Germany and were so serious in their convictions that they were
approached by a variety of people and organizations. These people included reformers,
intellectuals and critics of Weimar Germany. They wanted the youth to become their allies,
but they were making a serious mistake. This mistake was that they expected that the
youth to be led by adults, but the youth were not willing to give up their independence.
Start of the Hitler Youth
On July 4, 1926, the NSDAP held a convention (Parteitag)
where youth leaders and party members attended. The
theme was "Educational Questions and Youth
Organizations." At this convention the Nazi party agreed
to the formation of a Nazi youth group named the Hitler
Youth (HJ). Kurt Gruber was appointed Reichsfuehrer of
the Bund deutscher Arbeiterjugend (German Youth
Workers Organization) and adviser for youth affairs on the
NSDAP Reichsleitung. Hitler officially recognized these
decisions on July 27, 1926.(vi) Hitler decided that if the
youth loved the outdoors, they would also love weapons; unfortunately, he was right. The
youth loved weapons and the programs set by the Schutzstafel or SS. The programs
involved all the activities the youth normally would do in their other organizations, with the
exception of the use of weapons.(vii)
Dummy hand grenade throwing. Koch p. 164.
Three of Hitler’s seven points of business for the German people dealt directly or
indirectly with education in the Third Reich. Point 4 states that the state must take the
sport of the youth to an unheard-of-level. With Point 6 the state must emphasize the
teaching of racial knowledge in schools. Point 7 dealt indirectly with education, it stated
that the state must awaken patriotism and national pride in all its citizens. This is clearly a
goal that was enforced in the HJ.(viii)
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Organization of Hitler Youth
Hitler Youth uniforms.
The HJ was the youth’s way of making their voice heard and acknowledged.
Enrollment in the HJ became mandatory March of 1939. When membership became
mandatory, parents were warned that the kids would be taken away and sent to other
homes or orphanages. Parents, who kept their children out of the HJ and were found
guilty, had to serve severe prison sentences.(ix)
The youth were fully incorporated into Hitler's dream of a Nazi society by the 1930's.
They had their own uniform and a creed that officially recognized them as an organization.
In December of 1936, in order to complete his dream of a sound future in the youth of
Germany, Hitler issued this decree:
1. The whole German youth inside the region of the Reich are incorporated into the
2. The whole German youth, outside of home and school, is physically, spiritually, and
morally to be educated
in the Hitler Youth in the spirit of National Socialism to the service of Volk and
3. The task of the education of the whole German youth in the Hitler Youth is given
over to the Reich Youth
leader of the NSDAP. He holds the office of a Highest Reich Authority with its seat
in Berlin and is
directly responsible to the Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor.
4. The legal orders and general administrative regulations requisite to the execution
and completion of this
law will be issued by the Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor.(x)
This Decree outlawed the Concordat of 1933, which stated the Catholic Youth organization
should not be hindered in any way, by any other organization, but Hitler disregarded this
and incorporated them into the HJ anyway.(xi)
The boys were taught to respect the
Nazi party and live up to their creed by
learning from the Nazi Primer, which was
the official handbook of the Hitler Youth.
Mein Kampf, Hitler’s bibliography, was
considered their "Bible." They learned of
the superior race: the Nordic race.
According to the Nazi Primer, "when
considering bodily form, the HJ have to
take into account above all things size and
shape of body, skull, color of hair, the eyes
and the skin, as well as the texture of the
hair."(xii) Upon reading the section
entitled the German races, one can clearly
see the intention that the Nordic race is above all the best in the German region. The
Primer gives example after example of why one race is inferior to another. (xiii)
HJ military training camp Koch p. 196
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service forced teachers and
professors to join the National Socialist Teachers League. In order to join this league, they
had to provide proof that they were Aryan, but they were not allowed to teach unless they
joined this league. (xiv) Hitler rewrote the curriculum, so the teachers were instructed of
what they could and could not teach. Hatred of the Jews and subhumans was the main
theme in all courses, even math. Problem solving included word problems with questions
about ammunition or the cost of maintaining an insane asylum. (Mentally ill people were
considered a burden on society.)
The HJ organization gave the youth the chance to find their place in life. The colorful
banners, parades, uniforms, status and sense of purpose were all aspects of the organization
that the youth bought into and encouraged them to join. The HJ was the youth’s way of
making their voice heard and acknowledged.
Leaders and Youth Officers
Baldur von Schirach is the most renowned HJ leader. Schirach
joined the Nazi party and the SA (Sturmabteilung-Nazi
paratroopers) in 1925. In 1929, he became the leader of the
National Socialist Students Union. He became Reich youth leader
of the NSDAP in 1931, then Youth Leader of the German Reich in
June 1933. The first thing Schirach did, after attaining this
position, was send fifty HJ to occupy the national offices of the
Reich Committee of German Youth Associations, which was an
organization that Hitler had wanted to gain control. (xv)
Membership in the HJ was remarkable. In 1932, 107,956 boys
were enrolled. The end of 1939 enrolled almost eight million boys
enrolled in the HJ. Part of the reason enrollment grew so fast was
that Schirach knew how to 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.
Shirach and Hitler Youth Koch p. 68
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.
Schirach had many responsibilities as the HJ leader, such as dissolving other groups or
incorporating them into the HJ. Educating the youth was the most important responsibility
Schirach had, as he stated here:
I am responsible to the Reich that the entire youth of Germany will be educated physically,
morally and spiritually in the spirit of the National Socialist Idea of the State. (xvi)
Schirach kept his position as Reich Youth Leader of the NSDAP until 1940, when he was
appointed Gauleiter, Reichsgovernor and Reich’s Defense commissioner of Vienna. Even
though he acquired all of these new positions, he still retained his job as Reichsleiter of
Education. Arthur Axmann was chosen to replace Schirach.
Leaders and Instructors of the HJ. Koch p. 196
Activities of the Hitler Youth
Ages of the Youth
In a speech at the Reichsparteitag of 1935, Hitler said, "He
alone, who owns the youth, gains the Future!" He then went on
to describe the different age groups and possibilities for the future
the youth had. They could enter the program at the age of six,
then at ten they graduated into the Jungvolk. At fifteen years of
age they were officially Hitler Youth. As a Jungvolk, the boys had
to swear an oath, basically saying that they were willing to give up
their lives for Germany and Hitler.
…The boy of the Hitler Youth will join the SA, the SS and the
other formations, and the SA man and the SS man will one day
join the Labor Service, and from there he will go to the Armed
Forces, and the soldiers of the people will return again to the
organization of Movement, the Party, the SA, the SS. (xvii)
A 'courage test' of the HJ. Koch p. 164
The Different Divisions
Upon entering the HJ, the boys were given a
choice of entering some other different
branches within the organization. Those
interested in flying could enter the Flieger-HJ
(the flying youth) or if motors and automobiles
were of interest, there was the Motor-HJ (the
motor or mechanical Youth). The Marine-HJ
(navy) and the Waffen-SS (weapons and
protection squad) were branches for the more
military-oriented youth. Signal, medical, and musical units were also options for the youth.
HJ calvary unit. Koch p. 164.
HJ in river-crossing exercise. Koch p. 164
HJ building model gliders. Koch p. 164
If they did not join one of these detachments, but showed
promise in leadership abilities, they could be chosen to join the
SS instead of the army. The SS gave them opportunity to use
violence and weapons, which they found extremely useful when
dealing with Jews or other subhumans.
Boys had to stay in the HJ until they were eighteen, then were
encouraged to enter the army or forced to enter the labor
service then the army. The labor service was six months of
work out in the country. Helping out on a farm, rebuilding
roads, or beautifying parks were the usual forms of labor. (xix)
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Rival Youth Movements in the WWII Era
The Nazi's might have failed to reform all the German youth in believing their
brainwashing, but they did manage to make some gruesome warriors even though the youth
values had changed. These Youth were more interested in weapons and survival in the new
era, than dancing or independence. SS officers that used terror tactics to enforce rule
trained the Youth. The youth learned these tactics and put them to use in trying to get
other children to join the organization or get them to conform to society. These techniques
would often work, but not in the cases of the Swing kids and Edelweiss Pirates.
At fourteen it was possible to quit school. This allowed for resistance youth groups to
form. The Edelweiss Pirates and Swing Kids were two such groups. The Edelweiss Pirates
met on street corners and had a deep passionate hate for the HJ with the slogan of
"Eternal war on the Hitler Youth" (xx) . Street brawls were a sign that the two groups had
met. The pirates took every opportunity possible to attack the HJ, and loved thier
independence which was hindered by the HJ.
The other resistance group was the Swing kids. These kids loved American jazz music
and they especially loved dancing even though this was forbidden. They came from middle
class families and met at nightclubs. They had money and wore the newest styles of
clothing from Britain and America. (xxi)
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Role of Hitler Youth in and after WWII
The youth had many roles during WWII; they were used as propagandists,
reinforcements, and warriors. At first their role was to act as propaganda enforcers in the
occupied territories such as France, the Benelux countries, and Norway. They youth were
used to help set up youth movements in these countries and to enforce the Nazi ideology.
They also had another very important role as propagandists that of being role models to
siblings and the younger generations so that they too would fully believe in the HJ
Their role as reinforcements was to help the army in areas they did not have the time or
manpower to maintain. The German army had a shortage of military so the different HJ
detachments were used to defend certain areas. They were considered the Volksturm or
home guard. They would ambush passing allied detachments, which usually ended up in
their death. The HJ worked along with women and men over sixty to build up barricades or
dig trenches to trap Soviet tanks. (xxiii)
The HJ had a renewed sense of worth. With the onset of war, materials such as copper,
scrap metal, razor blades and so on, were needed. The youth attacked this mission with
such a determination that they often collected more than was necessary. (xxiv)
The role of being warriors was realized when the youth were used
in actual battles such as that of the battle for Berlin. This was a
crude move on Axmann’s part. The enemy did not want to kill youth,
but they had to due to the ferocity of the HJ. "They fought bitterly
for every yard; the help of one comrade for another was so
spontaneous and unselfish that it was unequalled." (xxv)
Signaling unit of Berlin HJ-- six months before Battle for Berlin. Koch p. 228.
The division between the Jungvolk and
the HJ was abolished, so boys as young as
ten were fighting on the front lines.
Because of the shortage of men, a draft
was conscripted. Any German male
between the ages of sixteen and sixty
were incorporated into the army. This
meant that there were very few older
leaders for the younger HJ. Fifteen
year-old boys would find themselves
commanding 500 troops, many of which
were significantly older.
HJ on the Eastern Front. Koch p. 228
The youth were valiant fighters; many times fighting until the division was no more.
Inadequate ammunition also took its toll on the young warriors. One group was told to
attack Soviet tanks with Anti-tank mines that were supposed to stick to the Soviet armor.
The mines did not stick so the youth ran along side the tanks, holding the mines to the tank,
until they were both blown apart. (xxvi)
Youth Activities after the War
The youth disbanded after the war. They no longer wore the showy costumes or
paraded through the streets. The days of playing war games and hiking in the woods were
over. The youth had to face the reality of what they had done. A quote from Rilke, a
World War II historian, sums up the feelings after the war, "Who talks of victory? To
endure is all". (xxvii)
The youth lacked basic educational skills. In the Nazi schools they were taught Nazi
ideology. Reading, writing and grammar skills were not emphasized as much as being able
to understand strategies, anti-Semitism, or propaganda. The youth experienced things they
would only have read about in books, so they felt the idea of going back to school was kind
of ridiculous. Even though they felt this way they knew they had to learn. An American
professor visiting at Marburg University noticed the determination:
To me and my colleagues these young men and women displayed unusual intellectual
earnestness, characterized by a deep understanding of the problems of the time and by a
burning desire to acquire reliable knowledge and instruction and information about the
methods of scientific work. (xxviii)
A few members of the Nazi Youth gathered in 1946 to reminisce about the past and
former friends. They each knew of only a few other Nazi Youth, so they decided to invite
them all to their meeting place. The others met with them and there was a surprising air of
camaraderie. All differences were forgotten; they had all lived through the Nazi era. (xxix)
The idea of re-creating the youth was never brought up. The comrades figured that the
new generation could start up an organization if they wanted. The new generation
eventually did start their own organization, one that was just as fulfilling to them as the
previous movement had been for the Hitler Youth. This time a sinister man named Hitler
did not control their destinies, futures, or fears; the youth controlled their own lives.
Back to Top
Hitler Youth Links
German Boys giving a salute and Hither Youth throwing mock grenades
Hitler Youth Recruting Poster and German boys saluting
Hitler Youth in a Parade past Striecher
Another Paper on the HJ by John S. Massingill
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(i) Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Vol. 1 ch 7 Means Used by the Nazi Conspirators in
Gaining Control of the German State,
http//www1.ca.Nizkor.org/hweb/imt/nca/nca-01/nca-01-07-means-45.html online 2/11/98.
(ii) Peter D. Stachura, The German Youth Movement 1900-1945, (New York: St. Martin’s
Press, 1981) Page 2.
(iii) Peter D. Stachura, Nazi Youth in the Weimar Republic, (Oxford: Clio Books, England:
1975), Page 2.
(v) Stachura, The German Youth Movement 1900-1945, 22.
(vi) Stachura, Nazi Youth in the Weimar Republic, 22-23.
(vii) Col. John R. Elting and William Sheridan Allen ed., The Third Reich: The New Order,
(Alexandria, Virginia: Time Life Books, 1989) Page 135.
(viii) Louis L. Snyder, ed., Hitler’s Third Reich: A Documentary History, (Chicago: Nelson
Hall, 1981) Page 46.
(ix) William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, (New York: Simon and Schuster,
(x) Lawrence D. Walker, Hitler Youth and Catholic Youth, (Washington D. C.: The Catholic
University of America Press, 1970) Page 160-161.
(xi) Shirer, 253.
(xii) Fritz Brennecke, comp. & Ed. The Nazi Primer, (New York: Harper and Brothers
Publishers,1966) Page 15.
(xiii) Ibid. 13-35.
(xiv) Klaus P. Fischer, Nazi Germany: Anew History, (New York: Continuum, 1995), Page
(xv) Shirer, 253.
(xvi) Nazi Conspiracy and AggressionVol. 1, ch 7 Means Used by the Nazi Conspirators in
Gaining Control of the German State,
http://www1.ca.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/nca/nca-01/nca-01-07-means-46.html. Online 2/11/98.
(xvii) Shirer, 253.
(xix) Shirer, 254.
(xx) Detter J. K. Peukert, "Life in the Third Reich: Young People for or Against the Nazis?"
History Today, Oct. 1995. v. 35 page 18.
(xxi) Ibid. 22.
(xxii) Russel Miller, World War II: The Resistance (Alexandria, Virginia: Time Life Books,
1979) Page 94.
(xxiii) Gerald Simons, World War II: Victory in Europe, (Morristown, New Jersey: Time Life
Books, 1982) Page 38.
(xxiv) H. W. Koch, The Hitler Youth: Origins and Developments 1922-45, (New York: Stein
and Day, 1975) Page 233.
(xxv) Simons, 61.
(xxvi) Hans Dollinger, The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany, (New York: Bonanza Books,
1967) Page 78.
(xxvii) Walter Z. Laquer, Young Germany: A History of the German Youth Movement, (New
York: Basic Books Publishing Co. Inc., 1962) Page 216.
(xxviii) Koch, 255.
(xxix) Laquer, 216.
Brennecke, Fritz, comp. & Ed. The Nazi Primer. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers
Constable, George, ed. The Third Reich: The New Order. Time Life Books. Alexandria,
Dollinger, Hans. The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany. New York: Bonanza Books, 1967.
Fischer , Klaus P. Nazi Germany: A New History. New York: Continuum Publishing Company,
Koch, H. W. The Hitler Youth: Origins and Development 1922-45. New York: Stein and Day,
Laquer, Walter Z. Young Germany: A History of the German Youth Movement. New York:
Publishing Co. Inc., 162.
Miller, Russel. World War II: The Resistance. Time Life Books. Alexandria, Virginia, 1979.
Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Vol. 1 ch 7 Means Used by the Nazi Conspirators in Gaining
the German State, http//www1.ca.Nizkor.org/hweb/imt/nca/nca-01/nca-01-07-means-45.html
Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Vol. 1, ch 7 Means Used by the Nazi Conspirators in Gaining
the German State, http://www1.ca.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/nca/nca-01/nca-01-07-means-46.html.
Peukert, Detter J. K. "Life in the Third Reich: Young People for or Against the Nazis?" History
October 1995. V. 35.
Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959.
Simons, Gerald. World War II: Victory in Europe,. Morristown, New Jersey: Time Life Books,
Snyder, Louis L., ed., Hitler’s Third Reich: A Documentary History. Chicago: Nelson Hall,
Stachura, Peter D. The German Youth Movement 1900-1945. New York: St Martin’s Press,
Stachura, Peter D. Nazi Youth in the Weimar Republic. Oxford: Clio Books, 1975.
Walker, Lawrence D. Hitler Youth and Catholic Youth. Washington D.C.: The Catholic
America Press, 1970.