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The Hitler-Youth; Hitler-Jungen and the Bund Deutscher Madel
In the period between 1925 -1945 in Nazi Germany the Hitler-Jungen was formed and developed, this group for girls, boys, and teenagers, ages 10-18 indoctrinated German youth in Nazi ideology, and trained them to function within the society of the Third Reich. This paper will outline the history of the Hitler-Jungen. The Hitler-Jungen was varied and complex ; it differed based on region, time period, class status of members, ideological beliefs, and ideas about gender, race, and goals. Because of the complexity of the history and significance of this group I will present them separately after a general introduction to the conditions that shaped the Hitler-Youth; starting with the Hitler-Jungen for boys, and then the Bund Deutscher Madel (League of German Girls).
Both the Hitler-Jungen (HJ) for boys, and the Bund Duetscher Madel (BDM) for girls started in 1926 at a time when Hitler was just gaining power and trying to consolidate his control of Germany. The Hitler-Youth served as a way of indoctrinating youth into both the mental and physical/practical
applications of Nazism. Youth learnt the basic ideological tenets; belief in the Fuhrer, in the racial superiority of Aryans, in the necessity of following your leaders in a hierarchical system, in the goal of a German Ð''World Empire,' and they also underwent all of the physical preparation and training for combat. Naturally the preparation for boys and girls differed in that girls did not undergo military training; instead they were prepared to be good homemakers and child-bearers, to be passive, and not to participate in politics.
Membership in the Hitler-Youth did not become compulsory until March 25th 1939, but the unofficial pressure on youth to join, and on their parents and teachers to encourage them to join was very great before and after 1939. If you were not a member you could not go to the University, you were denied certain jobs, could not inherit a farm, or be a member of the Nazi Party; you also risked arrest on false charges and threats from the SS, and from members of the Hitler-Youth. If you became a member and missed meetings you could also be jailed for short periods, and have other various consequences enforced.
The percentage of youth ages 18-30 in 1933 was 1/3 of the total population, this meant that in a period of economic instability, (after the collapse of the Weimar Republic) competition for jobs was fierce, and many youth joined the HJ to gain the added possibilities for mobility and advancement. Generational conflict was strong in this period, as many of the youth's fathers had fought in World War One, many youth did not know or understand their fathers well, (also many of their fathers had died at the front) and the youth often rebelled from their overworked mothers. Many youth found a stable, "protective" father figure in Hitler. The youth sought independence from their families, and the Hitler-Youth movement encouraged this by describing the older generation and teachers, as old-fashioned and lacking proper authority/knowledge. The youth found security, status, power, and community by joining the HJ. Some youth even reversed their allegiances entirely, from family to HJ, and in some cases would even report their parents for suspicious activities, Bertold Brecht wrote of this is in his play "Fear and misery of the third Reich." Later Orwell would also describe this in "1984" in relation to Stalinism. (See Appendix) Uncooperative teachers were dismissed, and unsupportive parents could lose their jobs or in rare cases arrested.
Germany had a long history of many types of youth groups, from radical left, to centrist, to radical right. From 1900 on they tended to be Bunde (leagues) of young, costly males. They were often apolitical and formed of the upper classes, for hiking and philosophical discussion. Many of these groups especially the "wandervogel" supported World War One as an idealist cause, and many died fighting in the war. From 1918-1933 these groups experienced instability, rifts, and changes in leadership, and many resented the fact that older adult leaders would not give up their power. The National Socialist Movement exploited this moment by using the motto, "Make way, you old ones." They also made appeals to lower class youth, promising jobs and stability. The National Socialist Students League was formed in the early 1920's, and in 1926 it was placed under SA command, and became the Hitler-Jungen for boys, and the Bund Deutscher Madel for girls. Originally Hitler did not see the importance of youth involvement but his advisors convinced him. Joseph Geobbels was an especially strong advocate, "True leaders are born. Leadership cadres, however, may be trained, to engage in politics one must be called, yet to function administratively it suffices to be drilled, trained, and bred." The HJ began as a strongly lower class group, with 69% of its members in 1931 being young proletariat workers, and 10% shop clerks.
In 1931 the HJ only had 18,000 members whereas the older Bundische leagues had 50,000. The number of HJ members grew rapidly however, with strong "encouragement" methods and propaganda, such as stories for schoolchildren that teachers were "encouraged" to use in the classroom. By 1933 there were 2 million members, in 1936 5.4 million, and after 1939 98% of youth ages 10-18 were officially members. In 1932 there was the first mass rally for HJ youth, in which 70,000 boys attended. This was filmed by Leni Riefenstahl in "Triumph of the Will," the film was later shown widely in Germany and impressed many youth into joining the HJ.
Part of the "success" of the consolidation of control over German youth was the intimidation, co-optation, jailing, concentration camps, and in some cases murder, of all other youth groups, and youth leaders, regardless of the political involvement or non-involvement of these youth This was mostly carried out by the Gestapo, the police, the SS, and a special group within the HJ called the Streifendienst (SRD) male youths between 16-18 who patrolled their regions looking for "criminal" behavior of youths. The SRD could not themselves make arrests but they reported youths to the SS. In 1933 a decree was made banning all other youth groups from meeting.
For Hitler-Jungen boys there was a rigorous military training, with physical exercise, "war games," hierarchies of command (leaders would only be 2-3 years older than those they commanded) long marches, group-hazing, physical and emotional abuse, and ideological training. In the summers youth would be sent with the "blood and soil" program to work on farms along the