During the dark days of World War II, the German chancellor Adolf Hitler set out to create what in his mind would be the most perfect Aryan race. He set out to massacre hundreds of thousands of Jews in an effort to cleanse the German lineage. Much has been written, documented, and filmed about how the Jews were abused and killed, but in reality, there was a greater injustice being carried out at the time. This was the death of the innocence of the so called “pure-blood” German children.
These are children who were robbed of their innocence and mass indoctrinated into the belief that they are the most superior race and that anyone who is not German must be eradicated. Greatly affected by the educational propaganda in the schools at the time, they were encouraged to join and believe in the cause of the totalitarian Hitler regime. Their youthful times were cut short as the Fuhrer demanded that they become emotionally hardened and display a maturity far beyond their ages. This paper takes a small glimpse into the world of the Hitler Youth Movement.
A movement that began as an after school activity filled with camping and singing activities, even time away from the supervision of parents, that later became a dutiful nightmare for the youth of the German land. Little has been written about the Hitler Youth in the history books. These books are concentrated solely on the holocaust in Germany and vaguely mention the participation of the Hitler Youth in the war. They were the young men and women whom Adolf Hitler had practically molded into his own vision of the perfect German fighter soldier.
In order to understand why this movement was very effective in brain washing the children, we have to realize that the educational system that was in effect in Nazi controlled Germany at the time was slanted towards creating a subservient race of people who would never question Hitler and his generals intentions for the war. As all educators know, the best way and time to influence children is during their educational lifetime. The beliefs ingrained into them at this time is most likely carried into adulthood and that was what Hitler was betting on happening.
But Hitler’s generals wanted to be sure that there would be no chance that the children would be influenced by any thoughts and beliefs that would run contrary to their teachings. The early origins of the Hitler Youth can be traced back to the 1920’s as a part of the German youth activities of the time. By 1936, all other youth organizations in Germany were either abolished or merged into the Hitler Youth. At this time, it became compulsory for all German youth ranging from the ages of 10-18. What made the Hitler Youth movement different from the other youth organizations is that it cast itself in the same mold as a military force.
Avi Hein, in his paper entitled “Hitler Youth” for the Jewish Virtual Library, indicated that the organization was set up in such a way that it was comprised of a typical military type squad, platoon and companies. Throughout my research for this paper, I became highly disturbed by the realization that the Hitler Youth was actually the first step a German male could willingly or unwillingly take in order to become a soldier by the age of 18. The organization that was supposed to keep children busy after school trained the young men in military drills, terminologies, and use of weapons.
The women members of the group, known as Jungmadel, on the other hand, were being trained to become the perfect German wife and breeder. Who valued obedience, duty, self sacrifice, discipline, and self control. It was Rudolf Hess who coined the term Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) but the militarization of the organization happened under the leadership of Franz Von Pfeffer, who envisioned the youth members of the organization as soldier who would eradicate left wing groups. It was under the leadership of Balder Von Schirach that the organization created a division called Jungvolk for boys aged 10-14.
A precursor to joining the actual Hitler Youth organization that had an age requirement of 14-18. Here young men were taught about semaphore, trained in arms drills, and endurance using 2 day cross country hikes. While the young women trained for farm and domestic service. In order to insure that the youth of the land would not stray from the Nazi beliefs, publications such as Youth and Homeland, The Young World, The German Girl, Girls Your World and were made available for reading to the youths.
Membership in the Hitler Youth was made mandatory on December 1, 1936 amidst great pressure placed upon the parents, teachers, and the children themselves to join. What saddens me most about learning about the youth members of the HJ (Hitler Jungend) is that the fanatical members who believe solidly in Hitler’s ideology had no idea that the man they considered the savior of their fatherland was actually a messenger of death. These young men, trained to be hardened and emotionless in times of war, who believed that they were saving the world went on to become Hitler’s foot soldiers toward the end of the war.
They fell like flies or were taken in as prisoners of war. It is said that when these young men and women were interviewed (debriefed), they proved to be highly educated about the real world, life, and its necessities. Stripped of their ideology and leaders, they were simply the lost youth of their generation. German teachers of the era blame the lack of education on the way the Hitler Youth were often so tired from their after school activities for the organization that they could barely stay awake in the classroom for their formal educational lessons.
The more I got to know about the way these children were deprived of their youth, the more I wanted to know more about them. Did the whole generation of Germans from that era really believe in Hitler’s “Fatherland” and “perfect race” ideologies? Surely there must have been some of them who were not blind followers. After all, not every young person is prone to subliminal and direct suggestions. What my research revealed proved to me that the German youth of the World War II era were not all cold blooded killers.
The mandatory membership into the Hitler Youth left some of the young men drafted into the organization disillusioned and they began to grow critical of the very movement they were forced to become a part of. Although the movement considered the youth as the future and hope of the fatherland, not everybody believed in the rhetoric. Not all of the young Germans believed in the anti-Semitic view called “Racial Cleansing”, that was the reason for the war. The only reason these young people joined the group was to avoid persecution of their family.
Those that did believe in the German propaganda became fanatical followers of Adolf Hitler and his cause. They went on to become officials in the German military and, towards the end of the war when the Hitler Youth were called upon to augment the German forces throughout Europe, thousands of these young men willingly gave their lives for the cause of the Fuhrer and the motherland. All of them willing to die for a cause that was not their own but was the belief of a mad man and his henchmen hell bent on world domination.
Something that, with the help of the Hitler Youth, almost became a reality. Let us not forget though, that some of the Hitler Youth, did survive the war and went on to become world leaders, just as Hitler envisioned, although on a different level. For example, Pope Benedict XVI, formerly known as the Cardinal Ratzinger, is an open former ranking member of the Hitler Youth. In conclusion, I would like to say that the Hitler Youth is a dark reminder of how the youth of any land are born with a mind that is a blank slate.
It can be molded and shaped by the educators and adults for whatever purpose and reason they feel it should serve. But, as in the case of the Hitler Youth, this can also be the undoing of the child. The Hitler Youth were deprived of the right to be young and innocent. Deprived of their right to be children and enjoy a youthful and carefree life, they were scarred early on and left to deal with the confusing fictional information fed to them in youth as they aged. Not all of them lived to see a ripe old age. None of them really had friends, family, and memories of happy times.
They were taught to rebel against a system that was not oppressive and hate people who, aside from being of a different race then they were, did not really mean them any harm and were their friends at first. The Hitler Youth should be given more in depth study with regards to their participation during one of the darkest times in the history of the human race. Attention must be given to how a whole generation became drones for the single purpose of world domination and cleansing. Their membership in the organization left them with more questions than answers about life.
The reality of this organization is that a madman believed that he could create a whole generation of obedient and subservient youth to carry on his beliefs and movements for decades to come. We can only hope that nobody as enigmatic as Adolf Hitler comes to fore to endanger the innocence of the youth of any nation ever again.
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