German World War I Youth Groups

Figure 1.--This Keystone View Company news wire stock photo was captioned, "Children in Arms". O.P.S. (v) "German youths learn trench warfare. Boys of 6 to 8 years attacking the trenches of the hypothetical enemy seem to enjoy wrestling with barbed wire." Unfortunately the caption does not provide a lot of useful information, not even the date. The "Keystone View Co. was best known for producing steroscopiew views. We are not sure just when this image was taken. The caption suggests it was not taken durfing the War. It might hve been taken before the War. Given the horror of the War, it would be surprising if it was taken after the War. Yet the barbed wire suggests it was taken during or after the War. Notice the shoulder patches. The boys may have been in a youth group.

We do not know much about youth groups in Germany during World War I. We know that the Hitler Youth played an important role in World War II. We know much less about World war I. This is an ininteresting topic on which we have not yet succeeded in acquiring information. We see many images of Boys Scouts in Britain, France, America, and other countries. We see nothing comparable in Germany. The Wangervogel was the primary German youth group, but we just do not know much about their World War I activities. The Boy Scouts were not as important in Germany as they were in the rest of Germany. The popularity of Scouting was probably impaired by their association wuth the British. There were many different youth groups active in Germany after the War in the 1920s. The number of groups we believe was much more limited during the War. Why so many groups appeared after the War, we are not yet sure. Groups were organized along both religious and political lines after the War.

A reader writes, "I have a large collection of stereoviews and my assumption would be that this could indeed have been post-war 'anti-Hun' propaganda. For a start, most of these boys certainly look older than '6 to 8 years' to me and obviously training children that young for direct warfare would have been abominable. Not even the later Deutsche Jungvolk was quite so blatant. My feeling is that these children would have been kitted out, taken to a place nowhere near the (now defunct) lines and were captured playing as instructed - the resultant feeling to allied viewing would have thus in their minds justified 4 years of warfare. I am, of course, willing to be proven wrong but this seems the most likely explanation to me."

As a far as HBC knows, anti German propaganda ended after the Armistice, at least I don't see evidence of it such as post cards and posters. Very quickly the public attitudes in the Allied countries shifted from patriotic exhultation to a generalized condemnation of War. The attitide in America quickly shifted from Germany was evil to America made a mistake in entering the War. AntiWat attitudes also developed in Germany, expressed in the famous novel All Quiet on the Western Front. The right wing went into a state of denial and quickly developed the stab in the back' explanations ro explain how Germany could have lost the War. Remember this is a private company, and an American one at that. It was the British that were responsible for the very effective anti-German propaganda that helped bring America into the Wae. We do, however, wonder about the image. Our reader makes a good point that it seems a strange image given what happened in the trenches during the War. Both when it was taken and who is responsible. Another explanation is that it could be a youth group formed by a right-wing group. There were many small groups formed during the 1920s.


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Created: 11:43 PM 1/20/2007
Last updated: 2:58 PM 1/21/2007