The Hitler Youth (German: Hitlerjugend (help·info), often abbreviated as HJ in German) was the youth organisation of the Nazi Party in Germany. Its origins dated back to 1922 and it received the name Hitler-Jugend, Bund deutscher Arbeiterjugend ("Hitler Youth, League of German Worker Youth") in July 1926. From 1933 until 1945, it was the sole official youth organisation in Germany and was partially a paramilitary organisation; it was composed of the Hitler Youth proper for male youths aged 14 to 18, the German Youngsters in the Hitler Youth (Deutsches Jungvolk in der Hitler Jugend or "DJ", also "DJV") for younger boys aged 10 to 14, and the League of German Girls (Bund Deutsche Mädel or "BDM").
With the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945, the organisation de facto ceased to exist. On 10 October 1945, the Hitler Youth and its subordinate units were outlawed by the Allied Control Council along with other Nazi Party organisations. Under Section 86 of the Criminal Code of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Hitler Youth is an "unconstitutional organisation" and the distribution or public use of its symbols, except for educational or research purposes, is illegal.
Flag of the Hitler Youth
|Formation||4 July 1926|
|Extinction||10 October 1945|
|Legal status||Defunct, Illegal|
In 1922, the Munich-based Nazi Party established its official youth organisation called Jugendbund der NSDAP. It was announced on 8 March 1922 in the Völkischer Beobachter, and its inaugural meeting took place on 13 May the same year. Another youth group was established in 1922 as the Jungsturm Adolf Hitler (help·info). Based in Munich, Bavaria, it served to train and recruit future members of the Sturmabteilung (SA), the main paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party at that time.
One reason the Hitler Youth so easily came into existence stems from the fact that numerous youth movements existed across Germany prior to and especially after World War I. These youth organisations were created for varying purposes; some were religious in disposition and others were ideological, but the more important among them were those formed for political reasons, like the "Young Conservatives" or the "Young Protestants". Once Hitler came onto the revolutionary scene, the transition from seemingly innocuous youth movements to political entities focused on Hitler was swift.
Following the abortive Beer Hall Putsch (in November 1923), the Nazi youth groups ostensibly disbanded, but many elements simply went underground, operating clandestinely in small units under assumed names. In April 1924, the Jugendbund der NSDAP was renamed Grossdeutsche Jugendbewegung (Greater German Youth Movement). On 4 July 1926, the Grossdeutsche Jugendbewegung was officially renamed Hitler Jugend Bund der deutschen Arbeiterjugend (Hitler Youth League of German Worker Youth). This event took place a year after the Nazi Party itself had been reorganised. The architect of the re-organisation was Kurt Gruber, a law student from Plauen in Saxony.
After a short power-struggle with a rival organisation—Gerhard Roßbach's Schilljugend—Gruber prevailed and his "Greater German Youth Movement" became the Nazi Party's official youth organisation. In July 1926, it was renamed Hitler-Jugend, Bund deutscher Arbeiterjugend ("Hitler Youth, League of German Worker Youth") and, for the first time, officially became an integral part of the Sturmabteilung. The name Hitler-Jugend was taken up on the suggestion of Hans Severus Ziegler. By 1930, the Hitlerjugend (HJ) had enlisted over 25,000 boys aged 14 and upwards.[a] They also set up a junior branch, the Deutsches Jungvolk (DJ), for boys aged 10 to 14. Girls from 10 to 18 were given their own parallel organisation, the League of German Girls (BDM).
In April 1932, Chancellor Heinrich Brüning banned the Hitler Youth movement in an attempt to stop widespread political violence. But in June, Brüning's successor as Chancellor, Franz von Papen, lifted the ban as a way of appeasing Hitler, the rapidly ascending political star. A further significant expansion drive started in 1933, after Baldur von Schirach was appointed by Hitler as the first Reichsjugendführer (Reich Youth Leader). All youth organizations were brought under Schirach's control.
The members of the Hitler Youth were viewed as ensuring the future of Nazi Germany and were indoctrinated in Nazi ideology, including racism. The Hitler Youth appropriated many of its activities of the Boy Scout movement (which was banned in 1935), including camping and hiking. However, over time it changed in content and intention. For example, many activities closely resembled military training, with weapons training, assault course circuits and basic tactics. The aim was to instill the motivation that would enable its members to fight faithfully for Nazi Germany as soldiers. There was great emphasis on physical fitness and hardness and military training than on academic study. Sacrifice for the cause was inculcated into their training. Former Hitler Youth, Franz Jagemann claimed for instance that the notion "Germany must live" even if they (members of the HJ) had to die was "hammered" into them.
The Hitler Youth were used to break up Church youth groups, and in anti-Church indoctrination, used to spy on religious classes and Bible studies, and interfere with church attendance. Education and training programs for the Hitler Youth were designed to undermine the values of the traditional elitist structures of German society along with their privileges; their training also aimed at an obliteration of social and intellectual distinctions between the classes, so as to be replaced and dominated by the political goals of Hitler's totalitarian dictatorship. Besides promoting a doctrine of classlessness, additional training was provided that linked state-identified enemies such as Jews with Germany's previous defeat in the First World War, and societal decline. As historian Richard Evans observes, "The songs they sang were Nazi songs. The books they read were Nazi books."
Members' summer uniform consisted of a black shorts and tan shirt with pockets, worn with a rolled black neckerchief secured with a woggle, usually tucked under the collar. Headgear originally consisted of a beret, but this was discarded by the HJ in 1934. One flag/symbol used by the HJ was the same as the DJ, a white Sowilo rune on a black background, which symbolised "victory". Another flag used was a red-white-red striped flag with a black swastika in the middle, inside a white shaped diamond. Full members would also receive a knife upon enrollment, with the motto "Blood and Honor" engraved upon it.
The Hitler Youth was organised into corps under adult leaders, and the general membership of the HJ consisted of boys aged fourteen to eighteen. The Hitler Youth was organised into local cells on a community level. Such cells had weekly meetings at which various Nazi doctrines were taught by adult leaders. Regional leaders typically organised rallies and field exercises in which several dozen Hitler Youth cells would participate. The largest gathering usually took place annually, at Nuremberg, where members from all over Germany would converge for the annual Nazi Party rally. Since the HJ and BDM were considered fully "Aryan" organizations by Nazi officials, premarital sex was actually encouraged in their ranks.[b]
The Hitler Youth maintained training academies comparable to preparatory schools, which were designed to nurture future Nazi Party leaders. The Hitler Youth also maintained several corps designed to develop future officers for the Wehrmacht (Armed Forces). The corps offered specialised foundational training for each of the specific arms for which the member was ultimately destined. The Marine Hitler Youth (Marine-HJ), for example, served as an auxiliary to the Kriegsmarine. Another branch of the Hitler Youth was the Deutsche Arbeiter Jugend – HJ (German Worker Youth – HY). This organisation within the Hitler Youth was a training ground for future labor leaders and technicians. Its symbol was a rising sun with a swastika.
The Hitler Youth regularly issued the Wille und Macht (Will and Power) monthly magazine. This publication was also its official organ and its editor was Baldur von Schirach.[c] Other publications included Die Kameradschaft (Comradeship), which had a girl's version for the BDM called Mädelschaft, and a yearbook called Jungen eure Welt (Youth your World).[d]
Another program entitled Landjahr Lager (Country Service Camp) was designed to teach specifically chosen girls of the BDM high moral character standards within a rural educational setting.
In 1923, the youth organisation of the Nazi Party had a little over 1,200 members. In 1925, when the Nazi Party had been refounded, the membership grew to over 5,000. Five years later, national membership stood at 26,000. By the end of 1932, it was at 107,956. The Nazis came to power in 1933, and the membership of Hitler Youth organisations increased dramatically to 2,300,000 members by the end of that year. Much of these increases came from forcible takeovers of other youth organisations. The sizeable Evangelische Jugend (Evangelical Youth), a Lutheran youth organisation of 600,000 members, was integrated on 18 February 1934. In 1934, a law declared the Hitler Youth to be the only legally permitted youth organisation in Germany, and stated that "all of the German youth in the Reich is organised within the Hitler Youth".
By December 1936, Hitler Youth membership had reached over five million. That same month, membership became mandatory for "Aryans", under the Gesetz über die Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth Law). This legal obligation was reaffirmed in March 1939 with the Jugenddienstpflicht (Youth Service Duty), which conscripted all German youths into the Hitler Youth—even if the parents objected. Parents who refused to allow their children to join were subject to an investigation by the authorities. From then on, the vast majority of Germany's teenagers belonged to the Hitler Youth. By 1940, it had eight million members.
Students who did not join were frequently assigned essays with titles such as "Why am I not in the Hitler Youth?" They were also the subject of frequent taunts from teachers and fellow students, and could even be refused their diploma—which made it impossible to be admitted to university. A number of employers refused to offer apprenticeships to anyone who was not a member of the Hitler Youth. By 1936, the Hitler Youth had a monopoly on all youth sports facilities in Germany, effectively locking out non-members. As time went on, a number of boys chafed under the regimented nature of the organisation; some even dropped out and only rejoined when they learned they could not get a job or enter university without being a member. Effectively, the Hitler Youth constituted the single most successful of all the mass movements in the Third Reich.
There were a few members of the Hitler Youth who privately disagreed with Nazi ideologies. For instance, Hans Scholl—the brother of Sophie Scholl and one of the leading figures of the anti-Nazi resistance movement Weiße Rose (White Rose)—was also a member of the Hitler Youth.[e][f]
On 1 May 1940, Artur Axmann was appointed deputy to Schirach, whom he succeeded as Reichsjugendführer of the Hitler Youth on 8 August 1940. Axmann began to reform the group into an auxiliary force which could perform war duties. The Hitler Youth became active in German fire brigades and assisted with recovery efforts to German cities affected by Allied bombing. The Hitler Youth also assisted in such organisations as the Reich postal service, the Reich railroad services, and other government offices; members of the HJ also aided the army and served with anti-aircraft defense crews.
By 1943, Nazi leaders began turning the Hitler Youth into a military reserve to replace manpower which had been depleted due to tremendous military losses. The idea for a Waffen-SS division made up of Hitler Youth members was first proposed by Axmann to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler in early 1943. The plan for a combat division made up of Hitler Youth members born in 1926 was passed on to Hitler for his approval. Hitler approved the plan in February and Gottlob Berger was tasked with recruiting. Fritz Witt of SS Division Leibstandarte (LSSAH) was appointed divisional commander.
In 1944, the 12th SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend was deployed during the Battle of Normandy against the British and Canadian forces to the north of Caen. Nearly 20,000 German youths participated in the attempt to repulse the D-Day invasion; while they knocked out some 28 Canadian tanks during their first effort, they ultimately lost 3,000 lives before the Normandy assault was complete. During the following months, the division earned itself a reputation for ferocity and fanaticism. When Witt was killed by allied naval gunfire, SS-Brigadeführer Kurt Meyer took over command and became the divisional commander at age 33.[g]
As German casualties escalated with the combination of Operation Bagration and the Lvov-Sandomierz Operation in the east, and Operation Cobra in the west, members of the Hitlerjugend were recruited at ever younger ages. By 1945, the Volkssturm was commonly drafting 12-year-old Hitler Youth members into its ranks. During the Battle of Berlin, Axmann's Hitler Youth formed a major part of the last line of German defense, and were reportedly among the fiercest fighters. Although the city commander, General Helmuth Weidling, ordered Axmann to disband the Hitler Youth combat formations, in the confusion this order was never carried out. The remnants of the youth brigade took heavy casualties from the advancing Russian forces; only two survived.
The Hitler Youth was disbanded by Allied authorities as part of the denazification process. Some Hitler Youth members were suspected of war crimes but, because they were children, no serious efforts were made to prosecute these claims. While the Hitler Youth was never declared a criminal organisation, its adult leadership was considered tainted for corrupting the minds of young Germans. Many adult leaders of the Hitler Youth were put on trial by Allied authorities, and Baldur von Schirach was sentenced to 20 years in prison, never having revealed anything worthwhile about the collaboration between the SS and the HJ. However, he was convicted of crimes against humanity for his actions as Gauleiter of Vienna, not for his leadership of the Hitler Youth, because Artur Axmann had been serving as the functioning leader of the Hitler Youth from 1940 onward. Axmann only received a 39-month prison sentence in May 1949, but was not found guilty of war crimes. Later, in 1958, a West Berlin court fined Axman 35,000 marks (approximately £3,000, or $8,300 USD), about half the value of his property in Berlin. The court found him guilty of indoctrinating German youth with National Socialism until the end of the war, but concluded he was not guilty of war crimes.
German children born in the 1920s and 1930s became adults during the Cold War years. Since membership was compulsory after 1936, it was neither surprising nor uncommon that many senior leaders of both West and East Germany had been members of the Hitler Youth. Little effort was made to blacklist political figures who had been members, since many had little choice in the matter. These German post-war leaders were nonetheless once part of an important institutional element of Nazi Germany. Historian Gerhard Rempel opined that Nazi Germany itself was impossible to conceive without the Hitler Youth, as their members constituted the "social, political, and military resiliency of the Third Reich" and were part of "the incubator that maintained the political system by replenishing the ranks of the dominant party and preventing the growth of mass opposition." Rempel also reports that a large percentage of the boys who served in the HJ slowly came to the realization that "they had worked and slaved for a criminal cause", which they carried for a lifetime; some of them recalled a "loss of freedom" and claimed their time in the HJ "had robbed them of a normal childhood." Historian Michael Kater relates how many who once served in the HJ were silent until older age when they became grandparents, and while they were eventually able to look back at their place in "a dictatorship which oppressed, maimed, and killed millions", he maintains that an "honest" appraisal should lead them to conclude that their past contributions to the regime had "damaged their own souls."
Once Nazi Germany was defeated by the Allied Powers, the Hitler Youth—like all NSDAP organisations—was officially abolished by the Allied Control Council on 10 October 1945 and later banned by the German Criminal Code.[h]
The 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitlerjugend" (German: 12. SS-Panzerdivision "Hitlerjugend") was a German armoured division of the Waffen-SS during World War II. The majority of its junior enlisted men were drawn from members of the Hitler Youth, while the senior NCOs and officers were from other Waffen-SS divisions.
The division committed several war crimes while en route to and during the early battles in Normandy, including the Ascq and Ardenne Abbey massacres. It first saw action on 7 June 1944 as part of the German defensive operations at Caen where it suffered 80 per cent losses.
In December 1944, the division was committed against the US Army in the Ardennes offensive. After the operation's failure, which became known as the Battle of the Bulge, the division was sent to Hungary to participate in fighting around Budapest. The division eventually retreated into Austria and surrendered to the 7th US Army on 8 May 1945. After the war, several members of the division, including Kurt Meyer, were convicted of war crimes.Alfons Heck
Alfons Heck (3 November 1928 – 12 April 2005) was a Hitler Youth member who eventually became a Hitler Youth Officer and a fanatical adherent of Nazism during the Third Reich.
In the 1970s, decades after he immigrated to the United States via Canada, Heck began to write candidly of his youthful military experiences in news articles and two books.
Thereafter, he entered into a partnership with Jewish Holocaust survivor Helen Waterford, each presenting their differing wartime circumstances before more than 200 audiences, most notably in schools and colleges.Armin D. Lehmann
Armin Dieter Lehmann (23 May 1928 – 10 October 2008) was a Hitler Youth courier in the Führerbunker towards the end of Adolf Hitler's life, leaving shortly after Hitler committed suicide. He spent his post-war life in travel, tourism, and writing as a peace activist.Artur Axmann
Artur Axmann (18 February 1913 – 24 October 1996) was the German Nazi national leader (Reichsjugendführer) of the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend) from 1940 to the war's end in 1945. He was the last living Nazi with a rank equivalent to Reichsführer.Baldur von Schirach
Baldur Benedikt von Schirach (9 May 1907 – 8 August 1974) was a Nazi German politician who is best known for his role as the Nazi Party national youth leader and head of the Hitler Youth from 1931 to 1940. He later served as Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter ("Reich Governor") of Vienna. After World War II, he was convicted of crimes against humanity in the Nuremberg trial and sentenced to 20 years in prison.Deutsches Jungvolk
The Deutsches Jungvolk in der Hitler Jugend (DJ, also DJV; German for "German Youngsters in the Hitler Youth") was the separate section for boys aged 10 to 14 of the Hitler Youth organisation in Nazi Germany. Through a programme of outdoor activities, parades and sports, it aimed to indoctrinate its young members in the tenets of Nazi ideology. Membership became fully compulsory for eligible boys in 1939. By the end of World War II, some had become child soldiers. After the end of the war in 1945, the Deutsches Jungvolk and its parent organization, the Hitler Youth, ceased to exist.Edelweiss Pirates
The Edelweiss Pirates (Edelweißpiraten) were a loosely organized group of youth in Nazi Germany. They emerged in western Germany out of the German Youth Movement of the late 1930s in response to the strict regimentation of the Hitler Youth. Similar in many ways to the Leipzig Meuten, they consisted of young people, mainly between the ages of 14 and 17, who had evaded the Hitler Youth by leaving school (which was allowed at 14) and were also young enough to avoid military conscription, which was only compulsory from the age of 17 onward. The roots and background of the Edelweiss Pirates movement were detailed in the 2004 film Edelweiss Pirates, directed by Niko von Glasow.Glossary of German military terms
This is a list of words, terms, concepts, and slogans that have been or are used by the German military. Ranks and translations of nicknames for vehicles are included. Also included are some general terms from the German language found frequently in military jargon. Some terms are from the general German cultural background, others are given to show a change that was made before or after the Nazi era. Some factories that were the primary producers of military equipment, especially tanks, are also given.Hitler Youth Quex
Hitler Youth Quex (German: Hitlerjunge Quex) is a 1932 Nazi propaganda novel based on the life of Herbert “Quex” Norkus. The 1933 film Hitlerjunge Quex: Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend was based on it and was described by Joseph Goebbels as the "first large-scale" transmission of Nazi ideology using the medium of cinema. Both the book and the film, like S.A.-Mann Brand and Hans Westmar, both released the same year, fictionalised and glorified death in the service of the Nazi Party and Hitler.Hitler Youth conspiracy
The Hitler Youth conspiracy was a case investigated by the Soviet secret police, during the Great Purge in the late 1930s. Essentially a theory in search of evidence, it nonetheless resulted in the arrest of numerous German teenagers and some in their twenties and beyond, who were accused of having been fascist, anti-communist members of the Hitler Youth and of working against the Soviet Union. Teenagers from the Karl Liebknecht School, from Children's Home No. 6, and adults from factories and elsewhere were arrested, tortured and imprisoned. Many were executed or died in custody. Some were the children of leading communists. Within years, the investigation was found to have been faulty and a number of the investigators were also arrested, with sentences ranging from imprisonment to execution. In the 1950s, following the death of Joseph Stalin, a new examination of the files revealed many of the accusations to have been baseless and a number of the victims were rehabilitated.Hitlerjunge Quex (film)
Hitlerjunge Quex: Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend (Hitler Youth Quex) is a 1933 German film directed by Hans Steinhoff, based on the 1932 novel Hitler Youth Quex (Hitlerjunge Quex). The film was shown in the US under the title Our Flag Leads Us Forward.League of German Girls
The League of German Girls or Band of German Maidens (German: Bund Deutscher Mädel, abbreviated as BDM) was the girls' wing of the Nazi Party youth movement, the Hitler Youth. It was the only legal female youth organization in Nazi Germany.
At first, the League consisted of two sections: the Jungmädelbund ("Young Girls' League") for girls aged 10 to 14, and the League proper for girls aged 14 to 18. In 1938, a third section was introduced, the BDM-Werk Glaube und Schönheit ("Faith and Beauty Society"), which was voluntary and open to girls between the ages of 17 and 21.
With the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945, the organization de facto ceased to exist. On 10 October 1945, it was outlawed by the Allied Control Council along with other Nazi Party organizations. Under Section 86 of the German Criminal Code, the Hitler Youth is an "unconstitutional organization" and the distribution or public use of its symbols, except for educational or research purposes, is not permitted.Luftwaffenhelfer
A Luftwaffenhelfer, also commonly known as a Flakhelfer, was, strictly speaking, any member of the auxiliary staff of the German Luftwaffe during World War II. Such terms often implied students conscripted as child soldiers.Ranks and insignia of the Hitler Youth
The ranks and insignia of the Hitler Youth were a Nazi Party paramilitary rank system that existed from 1932 to 1945. The Hitler Youth had existed for nearly a decade before, but the organization did not maintain any particular system of ranks. Such ranks were introduced in the early 1930s and became widespread after the Nazi Party came to power in 1933.
The ranks of the Hitler Youth were divided into an adult leadership corps, which maintained their own system of ranks, as well as the general membership of boys between the ages of fourteen and eighteen years of age.Reichsjugendführer
Reichsjugendführer ("National Youth Leader") was the highest paramilitary rank of the Hitler Youth. It was held first by Baldur von Schirach and later by Artur Axmann. Originally, there was no insignia for the rank, and Schirach can be seen in contemporary photographs wearing a Nazi Party brown tunic with a Hitler Youth armband. However, Axmann later adopted an insignia similar to that of Reichsführer-SS.
Both Axmann and Schirach were condemned as war criminals by the leading Allies powers after the end of the Second World War, in particular for the role the two played in corrupting the minds of children.Stabsführer
A Stabsführer (translated as Staff Leader) served as a deputy to the leader of Hitler Youth, National Socialist Flyers Corps, National Socialist Motor Corps or Sturmabteilung. It was furthermore a Hitler Youth paramilitary rank held by the senior most member of the Adult Leadership Corps.
The SS-Oberabschnitt (major districts) and SS-Abschnitt (sub districts) of the Allgemeine SS each had their own Stabsführer to head certain staff of the district. In the SS-Abschnitt they were often the de facto leader.Swing Kids (1993 film)
Swing Kids is a 1993 American dramatic film directed by Thomas Carter and starring Christian Bale, Robert Sean Leonard and Frank Whaley. In pre-World War II Germany, two high school students, Peter Müller and Thomas Berger, attempt to be swing kids by night and Hitler Youth by day, a decision that acutely impacts their friends and families. The film has a 43% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.Undercut (hairstyle)
The undercut is a hairstyle that was fashionable during the Edwardian era, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 2010s predominantly among men. Typically, the hair on the top of the head is long and parted on either the side or center, while the back and sides are buzzed very short. It is closely related to the curtained hair of the mid and late 1990s, although wearers of undercuts during the 2010s tend to slick back the bangs away from the face.