Hitlerjunge Quex ("Hitler Youth Quex") was the first NAZI films of consequence. It was about the sacrificial spirit of the German youth. A German youth faces a conflict of ideals between his Communist father and his growing allegiance to the Hitler Youth movement which eventually leads to his own death. Directed by K.A. Schenzinger. The Hitler Youth movement played an important role in generating the enthusiasm for Hitler and the NAZIs that allowed them to seize power. They also played a role in the street disorders of the late 1920s and early 1930s. This film idealized a Hitler Youth boy that was killed in those disorders. The film provides a lot of interesting information about the Hitler Youth uniform in the early years of Third Reich and how it was worn.
The NAZIs from an early point turned their fallen comrads into martyr. This was raised to an art agter the NAZIs seized power and the Party could use the Government through the Ministry of Oropaganda to seize or control the media. was based on the life of Herbert Norkus, a Hitler Youth in the Berlin working-class district Beuselkietz. Norkus was kiled by communist assailants while distributing leaflets during the election of January 1932. The NAZIS quickly installed the boy as a Nazi martyr. He became the subject of impassioned editorials and inspirational public addresses. Memorial services for the boy occasioned elaborate marches and demonstrations throughout Germany. His death received annual consecration on January 24, a date which then became a ritual observance during the Third Reich for all fallen Hitler Youths. [Jay W. Baird, To Die for Germany: Heroes in the Nazi Pantheon (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 119.] These recognitions accompanied a wide range of popular renderings: novels, plays, poems, and songs. [Film-Kurier published and distributed the lyrics to the theme song of Hitler Youth Quex, "Unsere Fahne flattert uns voran," text by von Schirach and music by Hans-Otto Bergmann. The lyrics were available for RM 1.50.] Karl Aloys Schenzinger immortalized Norkus in Der Hitlerjunge Quex, a novel written between May and September 1932 and pre-published to considerable acclaim in installments in the Nazi party organ, the Völkischer Beobachter, prior to the book's release in December. The volume would become obligatory reading for Germany's youth, undergoing innumerable editions and registering sales of more than 0.5 million copies by 1945. [Gerd Albrecht, ed., Hitlerjunge Quex: Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend (Frankfurt am Main: Deutsches Institut für Filmkunde, 1983),
16.] Soon after Schenzinger's novel appeared, UFA, the most important German film studio, announced plans for a film version directed by Hans Steinhoff and produced by Karl Ritter, a project actively supported by the NAZI leadership.
Hitler Youth Quex was thus the first feature film significantly supported by the new government and produced under the protectorate of the Youth Leader of the German Reich, Baldur von Schirach. The film offers a striking example of how the NAZIs planned to employ modern medium for state purposes. Once they seized power, they controlled one of Europe's most modern and sophisticated movie industries. They immediately mobilized this potent medium to craft gripping narratives and promote popular legends. Goebbels well recognized the film's potential value as a political instrument when he was appointed Minister of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda in March 1933. It was directed by K.A. Schenzinger.
The premiere took place in the Munich UFA-Phoebus-Palast on September, 11 1933, a festive event attended by party dignitaries (including Hitler, Göring, and Hess)
and accompanied by a gala performance of Anton Bruckner's Fourth Symphony by the eighty members of the Reich Symphony Orchestra. The film received the rating "artistically especially worthwhile," prompting words of praise from Goebbels, who wrote the prominent Ufa executive, Ernst Hugo Correll: "If Hitler Youth Quex represents the first large-scale attempt to depict the ideas and world of National Socialism with the art of cinema, then one must say that this attempt, given the possibilities of modern technology, is a full-fledged success."
Hitler Youth Quex was about the sacrificial spirit of the German youth. A German youth faces a conflict of ideals between his Communist father and his growing allegiance to the Hitler Youth movement which eventually leads to his own death. Like the two other German feature films screened in 1933 which portrayed party martyrs, SA-Mann Brand and Hans Westmar, Hitler Youth Quex unfolds as a family drama, set against the caotic political and economic crisis of the late Weimar years. Heini Völker, a printer's apprentice, joins a communist youth group at the prompting of his father, an unemployed worker and war veteran, a choleric drinker who torments his mournful wife. During a weekend outing Heini quickly grows disenchanted with his unruly communist comrades and flees their alcoholic and sexual revelry. Retreating into the woods, he spies am idealized group of Hitler Youths and looks upon their nighttime ceremony with fascination, an interest undiminished even after the Nazis discover him and send him away.
Heini returns to Berlin effusing about the order and discipline of the Hitler Youth, singing their anthem to his mother, and causing his father to scold and beat him. Despite this outburst and the promptings of the communist leader, Stoppel, Heini seeks out the young Nazis Fritz and Ulla. He refuses to participate in a communist raid on the new Hitler Youth dormitory, but cannot fully convince the NAZIs of his good faith until he warns them that Stoppel and his group plan to bomb the new hostel. Mother Völker, confronted by an enraged Stoppel after the communist plot backfires, fears for her son, but does not know how to protect him. In desperation, she turns on the gas to put an end to both herself and the sleeping boy. After awakening in a hospital, Heini finds himself surrounded by a group of Hitler Youths who express their gratitude and present him with a uniform and a mirror. As a result of his mother's death and his father's submission to the special plea of Hitler Youth Brigade Leader Cass, Heini moves into a Nazi dormitory. Active and energetic (so much so that his alacrity gains him the nickname "Quex," i.e. quicksilver), Heini works all night to print leaflets for the upcoming election and insists on distributing them in his old neighborhood, Beuselkitz. Members of Stoppel's group, headed by the vicious Wilde, learn of Heini's presence and chase him through the streets, cornering him in a fairground where Wilde bludgeons him with the knife once coveted by Heini. When his Nazi cohorts reach him, it is too late. With his last breath Heini gestures upward and utters the words, "Our flag flutters before us, it leads . . . " as the image segues into a close-up of a party banner over which marching figures parade in geometric configurations.
Hitler Youth Quex is a legend of modern film making. The film sanctified an boy's heroic deed. The film was used to reshape the idealistic young boy's dead body into an icon for German youth. It demonstrates how movies can effectively present issues as good or bad, leaving the viewer with clear lines and straightforward answers. The NAZIs demonstrated with this film how they would charge a medium with a mission. The film showed the way for German Youth. The film illustrates the NAZI idelogy that German youth was a state possession. It heralds the NAZI New Order. Many still do not understand hoe\w close Hitler and his cohorts came tonachieving their goal. The film narative makes an effort to present the facts of Heini's experiences dispationately, a clever propagand trick. Yet the characters are drawn so starkly--the idealistic Hitler Youth and the depraved Communist youth that there is no way to avoid reaching the conclusion the NAZIs wanted. In our media dominated modern world we have become accustomed to questioning what is told us. Hitler Youth Quex will look simplistic and pretentious to us. But this is not how it was received by young Germans at the time.
The Reichminister for Proapganda, Dr. Josef Goebbels, toot a special interest in film making. Hitler Youth Quex was the frst major film made under his supervision. This is what he thought of the film: "There in the bleak, gray twilight, yellowed, tortured eyes stare into the emptiness. His tender head has been trampled into a bloody pulp. Long, deep wounds extend down the slender body, and a deadly laceration tears through his lungs and heart. . . . Yet it is as if life stirs anew out of pale death.
Look now, the slender, elegant body begins to move. Slowly, slowly he rises as if conjured up by magic, until he stands tall in all his youthful glory right before my trembling eyes. And without moving his lips, a frail child's voice is heard as if speaking from all eternity . . . . `What is mortal in me will perish. But my spirit, which is immortal, will remain with you. And it . . . will show you the way.'" [Josef Goebbels, quoted in Jay W. Baird, To Die For Germany: Heroes in the Nazi Pantheon (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 116.]
The Hitler Youth movement played an important role in generating the enthusiasm for Hitler and the NAZIs that allowed them to seize power. They also played a role in the street disorders of the late 1920s and early 1930s. This film idealized a Hitler Youth boy that was killed in those disorders. After seizing power, the NAZIs quickly brought order to the streets. All competing youth movements were either abolished or incorporated into the Hitler Youth.
The film transpires in the Völker's apartment, the Dörries' apartment, the forest, a Hitler Youth home, an amusement park, a
hospital, the streets, and a bar.
The main characters are: Heine Völker, Father Völker, and Mother Völker. The Communists include: Stoppel, Gerda, and Wilde. The Hitler Youth include: Youth Leader Cass, Fritz Dörries, and Ula Dörries.
Important props include: the knife, cigarettes and alcohol, flags, the Hitler Youth uniform, and leaflets. The Hitler Youth knife was an important part of the uniform. Receiving a knife was an important bpart of a boy's life in the Third Reich. The Hitler Youth were extnsively used to pass out leaflets on the street before the NAZIs seized power. After they seized power they were used to collect money for Party charities.
The two principal songs in the movie are: Our Flag flutters before us and The Internationale.
The film raises a variety of interesting issues: Order and Chaos, Social Classes, Work and Unemployment, Family Structure, Femininity/Masculinity, Sacrifice, and the Hero's Death
The film provides a lot of interesting information about both German boys' clothing and the the Hitler Youth uniform in the early years of Third Reich and how it was worn. The Hitler Youth was originally organized as the youth auxilary of the Storm Troopers (S.A.). The S.A. were the NAZI Party toughs that teorrized the streets before the Party seized power and NAZI opponents in the first few years of NAZI rule. Most of the stills I have noted show the Hitler Youth uniforms, however, the film also showcases what German boys were wearing in the early 1930s. We see German boys in their regular clothes being recruited into the Hitler Youth. The Hitler Youth uniform was based on the S.A. uniform. Many of the S.A. toughs objected to this as they didn't like children being allowed to wear a uniform that they saw as a military uniform that they wore to remake Germany and teorrize their oponents with. Like wise, many German parents at first didn't want their children wearing a uniform that made them look like litte SA men.
Actually clothing plays a major role in this film. First Communist dissolution and lack of discipline stand in direct opposition to Nazi containment and resolve. One way that this is expressed is through clothing. Bernhard K., 10 years old when he first saw Hitler Youth Quex in 1933, could vividly recall the film many decades later: "Communist youths were shown. All of them dressed like ruffians. Unsavoury figures. Then they set up camp and even girls were with them. Everything was really disgusting. The Hitler Youth on the other hand: all dressed the same, clean, nice, with leaders who had everything under control. I still remember today that after the film we all agreed: the Nazis made an altogether great impression, there was discipline, one wanted to join in. The communists, on the other hand, no, our parents would never have let us be part of a bunch like that. [Quoted in Karl Heinz-Huber, Jugend unterm Hakenkreuz (Frankfurt am Main: Ullstein, 1936), 19.]
Second, quite a bit of attention is devoted to the Hitler Youth. Even in the hopital, he admires his new Hitler Youth cap with a mirror. Another scene is devoted to Heini finally being admitted to the Hitler Youth and receiving his uniform. He is delighted as he puts it on and appears before the others in it.
In the film Quex I don't remember whether the Communist youth group (of which Heini was a member early in the film, before his rescue by the NAZIs) wore uniforms or not. Maybe not. The neighborhood Heini lived in (Beusselkietz) was as bleak as any
Charles Dickens could have imagined. The boys probably could not have bought uniforms, and the Communists probably couldn't provide them freely. A lack of uniform might also symbolize solidarity of the proletarians and the "class struggle". Besides, the
film makers were NAZIs, and they could hardly let the Communists upstage them by wearing nicer clothes. In fact, the opposite is true. The NAZIs were showing
they could produce order out of the chaos which followed the end of the First World War (Berlin and Munich were two cities that witnessed open warfare
between the Communists and "others"). The NAZIS were neater and cleaner than the Communists in this film, and they were much better behaved. Who wouldn't be
impressed! Why did Heini respond so significantly to his new uniform? Early in the film he visits Ulla and her family (who are NAZIs) at their nice, comfortable home. What a contrast it is to his own. And Ulla and her family are attractive and kind to Heini. Probably,
he's never been so well treated by anyone else, except by his mother. When Heini puts on the Hitler Youth uniform brought to him by Ulla and her brother, he is really shedding his identification with his old world and is joining the best thing he's ever had going for
I saw Quex about a dozen years ago. It's a treasure of a film. The young main character really does seem physically and spritually renewed by his HJ uniform. He really is
proud to belong to the HJ, and the HJ is everything he's never had and always wanted - a real sense of belongingness. The HJ was a surrogate family to him. Also, Heini responds to music, especially the Hitler Junge Lied (Song). The words and music are stirring, the closing line - Ja, die fahne ist mehr als der todt! ("Yes, the flag will triumph over death!") The closing scene as Heini dies from his wounds and the fade in to that HJ procession in the heavens is nothing short of inspirational. - JB
It would be interesting to see it. I believe it's available on video in the USA. But you can be sure it's banned in Germany. - BM
The subject of NAZI Germany's Hitler Youth has fascinated fim makers since the very first years of the Third Reich. Several films have been made specifically on the Hitler Youth, but it is a rare film about NAZI Germany that does not include a required scene with Hitler Youth boys. The most notable such scene is from the Broadway musical Cabaret. Information on several other Hitler Youth films, several made in Germany, are avialable on HBC. The first such film was made in Germany, Hitler Jugend Quex. While it looks rather hokey to us today, it had a powerful impact in mid-190s Germany. The prevelence of the Hitler Youth in movies is extrodinary. The much larger Boy Scout movement is rarely depicted in films. The Hitler Youth, however, is rarely left out in a film with a German setting from the late 1920s to 1945.
Gregory Bateson, "An Analysis of the Nazi Film ‘Hitlerjunge Quex’", Studies in Visual Communication, No 4., 1980, p. 20-55.
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