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Kurt Gruber formed the first group of young members of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in 1926. Rudolf Hess suggested the name of the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend) and later that year transferred the leadership of the movement to Franz von Pfeffer of the Sturm Abteilung (SA).
Pfeffer's main intention was to train young men to fight against members of left-wing youth groups. The Hitler Youth (HJ) were taken over by Ernst Roehm in 1930 and remained as a adjunct to the SA. After Roehm was murdered during the Night of the Long Knives the group came under the control of Baldur von Schirach, the Reich youth leader.
Schirach asked Adolf Hitler to allow him to create an independent youth movement. Hitler agreed and Schirach now made several important changes to the way it was organized. In 1936 membership of the HJ was made compulsory for all boys aged 15 and 18. At the same time all other youth organizations were banned.
In 1938 there were 8,000 full-time leaders of the HJ. There were also 720,000 part-time HJ leaders, often schoolteachers, who had been trained in National Socialist principles.
For boys aged between 10 and 14 years Baldur von Schirach set up the Jungvolk. The boys had to learn semaphore, arms drill, and take part in two-day cross-country hikes. They also had to learn Nazi dogma and once they passed the necessary tests they were given a special dagger marked "Blood and Honour". The main objective of the organization was to provide Adolf Hitler with loyal supporters
Once girls reached the age of they could join the Jungmädel. At 14 they entered the Bund Deutscher Mädel. (German Girls' League). This included a year of farm or domestic service. They were trained by female guardians and their overall leader was Gertrud Scholtz-Klink.
The Hitler Youth published a series of magazines including Youth and Homeland, The Young World, The German Girl and Girls Your World. Another magazine, Will and Power, was produced for HJ leaders and female guardians.
When Germany ran short of soldiers members of the Hitler Youth were encouraged to join the 12th SS Panzer Division, commanded by Germany's youngest general, Kurt Meyer. In 1945 members of the HJ were armed and told to fight to the death.
Josef Capek, Principles of
German Education (May 1933)
(1) In 1936 Baldur von Schirach wrote a poem about Adolf Hitler that members of the Hitler Youth had to memorize and recite.
That is the greatest thing about him,
That he is not only our leader and a great hero,
But himself, upright, firm and simple,
In him the roots of our world.
And his soul touches the stars
And yet he remains a man like you and me.
(2) Martha Dodd, My Years in Germany (1939)
Young girls from the age of ten onward were taken into organizations where they were taught only two things: to take care of their bodies so they could bear as many children as the state needed and to be loyal to National Socialism. Though the Nazis have been forced to recognize, through the lack of men, that not all women can get married. Huge marriage loans are floated every year whereby the contracting parties can borrow substantial sums from the government to be repaid slowly or to be cancelled entirely upon the birth of enough children. Birth control information is frowned on and practically forbidden.
Despite the fact that Hitler and the other Nazis are always ranting about "Volk ohne Raum" (a people without space) they command their men and women to have more children. Women have been deprived for all rights except that of childbirth and hard labour. They are not permitted to participate in political life - in fact Hitler's plans eventually include the deprivation of the vote; they are refused opportunities of education and self-expression; careers and professions are closed to them.
(3) Baldur von Schirach wrote a prayer that had to be said by members of the Hitler Youth before meals.
Fuehrer, my Fuehrer given me by God,
Protect and preserve my life for long.
You rescued Germany from its deepest need.
I thank you for my daily bread.
Stay for a long time with me, leave me not.
Fuehrer, my Fuehrer, my faith, my light
Hail my Fuehrer.
(4) Herman Rauschning, Hitler Speaks (1939)
In my great educative work," said Hitler, " I am beginning with the young. We older ones are used up. Yes, we are old already. We are rotten to the marrow. We have no unrestrained instincts left. We are cowardly and sentimental. We are bearing the burden of a humiliating past, and have in our blood the dull recollection of serfdom and servility. But my magnificent youngsters! Are there finer ones anywhere in the world? Look at these young men and boys! What material! With them I can make a new world.
"My teaching is hard. Weakness has to be knocked out of them. In my Ordensburgen a youth will grow up before which the world will shrink back. A violently active dominating, intrepid, brutal youth - that is what I am after". Youth must be all those things. It must be indifferent to pain. There must be no weakness or tenderness in it. I want to see once more in its eyes the gleam of pride and independence of the beast of prey. Strong and handsome must my young men be. I will have them fully trained in all physical exercises. I intend to have an athletic youth - that is the first and the chief thing. In this way I shall eradicate the thousands of years of human domestication. Then I shall have in front of me the pure and noble natural material. With that I can create the new order.
"I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my young men. I would have them learn only what takes their fancy. But one thing they must learn - self-command! They shall learn to overcome the fear of death, under the severest tests. That is the intrepid and heroic stage of youth. Out of it comes the stage of the free man, the man who is the substance and essence of the world, the creative man, the god-man. In my Ordensburgen there will stand as a statue for worship the figure of the magnificent, self-ordaining god-man; it will prepare the young men for their coming period of ripe manhood."
(5) Hans Massaquoi was born in Germany in 1926. His mother was German but his father came from Africa. Studs Terkel interviewed Massaquoi about his experiences during Nazi Germany for his book, The Good War (1985)
There was a drive to enroll young kids into the Hitler Youth movement. I wanted to join, of course. My mother took me aside and said, "Look, Hans, you may not understand, but they don't want you." I couldn't understand. All my friends had these black shorts and brown shirts and a swastika and a little dagger which said Blood and Honor. I wanted it just like everybody else. I wanted to belong. These were my schoolmates.
In 1936, our class had a chance to go to Berlin to watch the Olympics. Not all Germans were sold on this Hitler nonsense. Jesse Owens was the undisputed hero of the German people. He was the darling of the 1936 Olympic games. With the exception of a small Nazi elite, they opened their hearts to this black man who ran his butt off. I was so proud, sitting there.
It's clear to me that had the Nazi leadership known of my existence, I would have ended in a gas oven or at Auschwitz. What saved me was there was no black population in Germany. There was no apparatus set up to catch blacks. The apparatus that was set up to apprehend Jews entailed questionnaires that were mailed to all German households. The question was: Jewish or non-Jewish? I could always, without perjuring myself, write: non-Jewish.
(6) Anna Rauschning, No Retreat (1939)
A twelve-mile march was considered a mere nothing for boys who are trained until they can make a march of fifty miles without other food than the concentrated ration they carry in their packs. Nupp was convalescing from a heavy cold but he was not excused the hike. He had a severe relapse as a consequence. I told our doctor I feared the boy would not be able to do the strenuous tasks required, and he gave me a written statement to the effect that our son must be excused from the more violent features of training. Later the doctor confided to me that often after one of these lengthy marches he had as many as thirty boys in hospital. Pale-faced little fellows sometimes made a march of thirty miles singing Nazi songs through the night, for their graduation ceremony. The 'bloodflag', one of the gory banners saved from the fighting days of the Party always figures in these rituals. The boys raise their hands and make this solemn oath: "In the presence of this bloodflag which represents our Fuhrer I swear to devote all my energies, all my strength, to the saviour of our country, Adolf Hitler. I am willing and ready to give up my life, so help me God. One People, One nation, One Fuhrer."
(7) Bernhard Rust, Germany Speaks (1938)
There is, indeed, twofold evidence to show that something was wrong with education. In the first place, the high level of popular enlightenment had failed to protect the German people against the poisonous effects of Marxist teaching and other false doctrines. Large masses of people had fallen victims to them, whilst other sections - more especially those of higher education - had been unable to take up an effective stand against the spread of the poison. If they had, the events of 1918 and the succeeding period of national disintegration and deterioration would have been prevented.
The attainment of high intellectual standards will certainly continue to be urged upon the young people; but they will be taught at the same time that their achievements must be of benefit to the national community to which they belong. As a consequence of the demand thus clearly formulated by the Nuremberg Laws, Jewish teachers and Jewish pupils have had to quit German schools, and schools of their own have been provided by and for them as far as possible. In this way, the natural race instincts of German boys and girls are preserved; and the young people are made aware of their duty to maintain their racial purity and to bequeath it to succeeding generations. As the mere teaching of these principles is not enough, it is constantly supplemented, in the National Socialist State, by opportunities for what may be called "community life". By this term we mean school journeys, school camps, school "homes" in rural neighbourhoods, and similar applications of the corporate principle to the life of schools and scholars.
(8) Schoolteacher, letter to a friend (December, 1938)
In the schools it is not the teacher, but the pupils, who exercise authority. Party functionaries train their children to be spies and agent provocateurs. The youth organizations, particularly the Hitler Youth, have been accorded powers of control which enable every boy and girl to exercise authority backed up by threats. Children have been deliberately taken away from parents who refused to acknowledge their belief in National Socialism. The refusal of parents to "allow their children to join the youth organization" is regarded as an adequate reason for taking the children away.
(9) Isle McKee was a member of the German Girls' League, later recalled her experiences in her autobiography.
We were told from a very early age to prepare for motherhood, as the mother in the eyes of our beloved leader and the National Socialist Government was the most important person in the nation. We were Germany's hope in the future, and it was our duty to breed and rear the new generation of sons and daughter. These lessons soon bore fruit in the shape of quite a few illegitimate small sons and daughters for the Reich, brought forth by teenage members of the League of German Maidens. The girls felt they had done their duty and seemed remarkably unconcerned about the scandal.
(10) Jutta Rudiger, head of the German Girls' League, was shocked when she heard a speech given by in 1939 Heinrich Himmler in 1939.
He said that in the war a lot of men would be killed and therefore the nation needed more children, and it wouldn't be such a bad idea if a man, in addition to his wife, had a girlfriend would bear his children. And I must say, all my leaders were sitting there with their hair standing on end.
(11) Statement issued by the German government on 3rd May, 1941.
The Hitlerjugend (HJ) come to you today with the question: why are you still outside the ranks of the HJ? We take it that you accept your Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. But you can only do this if you also accept the HJ created by him. If you are for the Fuehrer, therefore for the HJ, then sign the enclosed application. If you are not willing to join the HJ, then write us that on the enclosed blank.