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. Many of the films made about the Hitler Youth are one-dimensionaled, especially the World War II propaganda films. The films made later, especially in Germany present much more complex, nuanced views. Please let us know if you are aware of a film which should be added to our list.
The Hitler Youth has been a subjected that has fascinated both German and foreign film makers. Here are some of the films that I know of that deal with the Hitler Youth or in which Hitler Youth members have a role of some consequence. The list includes both films made by the NAZIs and films made after the War both in Germany and several different countries. The first film was made by the NAZIs as soon as they seized power, in fact the first NAZI film. Film makers are still making films about the Hitler Youth or films about the NAZIs that incluse the Hitlr Youth. Here are the indicidual films that we have noted.
Some historical background is needed to understand these films. Here are some topics that occurred to be pertain to many of these films. Some historical topics that pertain to individual films I will include on those separate pages. Let me know if you think of any historical topics that should be addressed. The interpretations of Nazism are legion. This phenomenon was so complex, however, that intuitively, we know that no single explanation can suffice. NAZIism is to history what a record setting blizzard or a cluster of F5 tornadoes is to meteorology--a unique confluence of forces operating in an atmosphere uniquely susceptible to their impact.
Germany had been a nation only since 1870 and due to no less a figure than a Bismarck. "Blood and Iron", as Bismarck was known, united a collection of states and duchies which
spoke various dialects of German under the leadership of the Prussinan Junkers into a modern nation state, a concept which had not long been known at the time. It was in the 19th century that modern nationhood and nationalism emerged--in part fueled by Napoleon and the French Revolution. Imperial Germany under the Prussian royal line was modern in economic and industrial terms. In political terms it was closer to the backward countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Many Germans, especially the Prussian Junkers had no faith in representative democracy. An authoritarian figure, such as Bismarck or
the Kaiser, was more familiar to Germans, and most Germans seemed more comfortable with such a political strong man than a republican government. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries germany industrialized and urbanized rapidly, bursting onto the world
commercial and political stage, coincidentally, in the same era as the U.S. and Japan. The social upheavals caused by rapid urban growth, political changes,
displacement of old family ties and values (among other forces) made Germany of the turn of the last century a hotbed of cults and "fringe" movements. Occultism, homeopathy, phrenology, numerology, all were rife in this new Germany. Hitler(naturally)denied
in public that he placed any faith in astrology or the occult, but we know today that he did consult astrologers and was attracted to the occult, as were many of his loyal followers, such as Himmler, Hess, and Rosenberg.
It was World War I, at the time called the Great War, that changed Europe forever. The dynastic certainties of the Gilded Age were shattered ireperably. In many ways, Wotld War II was simoly a continuatiion of the Great War. Nationalism was at a feaver pitch in the early 20th century, eventually igniting that most dangerous of powderkegs, the Balkans. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, as did later the British Empire, eventually succumbed to nationalistic pressures which could no longer be contained. Of course, the First World War provided the final blow to the aged Hapsburg dynasty. In fact monarchs all over Europe lost their thrones in the aftermath of the aftermath of the War. Not only the Hapsburgs, but the Romanovs and Hohenzollerns as well. In our modern day we can not imagine what Europe experienced frim 1914-18. Americans who are terified of losing a single pilot or who were horified at the 2,000 that died at Pearl Harbor can not imagine the killing fields of Flanders. Tens of thousands of men died in a single days. Hundreds of thousands died in the major battles as chillingly efficient automatic weapons, modern artillery, and poison gas were perfected. Men were sent to certain death by incompetent officers--usually of upper class social backgrounds. To many the aristocrats of Europe had lost their right to rule. But they were not replaced in many instances by a socially liberal elite. The War had stirred the caulderon of nationalism that would give rise to an even more virulent form.
As World War I ended, Germany had not been invaded; her troops occupied foreign soil. The German high command very craftily allowed the new republican government (which contained many Jews and Socialists) to conclude negotiations for the peace treaty. This fledgling government was later blamed for selling out Germany (it was called the "stab in the back") and accepting the punitive Treaty of Versailles, in which Germany accepted total blame for the war and was strapped with an impossible reparations bill. The theme that Hitler and other right wing parties stressed the most was the Versailles Peace Treaty ending World War I. Germany was in theceyes of the Germans dismembered. A corridor to Danzig was given to Poland. Danzig, a German majority city was made a free state. The Suedatenland was given to Czecheslovakia. The Rhineland was demilitarized. Alsace-Loraine was given back to France. Germans uniformly felt the treaty was unjust. Hitler by harping on the treaty appealed to people that otherwise would have objected him outright. This theme especially appealed to young people. German university were hot houses of NAZI sympathy. This should be born in mind in viewing these films. In post-war films Hitler Youth are often depicted as cowardly vandals teorizing Jews and sneaking around to find information to report on innocent neighbors. What should be remembered is what appealed to most of the boys was the Scout-like activities and camaraderie. Those boys that thought about such matters, as they joined the group at age 10, the primary appeal was the goal of a new revived Germany. Many of these boys were very idealistic and idealism and fervor that the NAZIs used for their own ends.
Germany's new post-War government, known as the Weimar Republic, after the city in which it was created, had little going for it. The Germans had little or no experience in self government; inflation and unemployment (caused in no small way by the treaty), and street fighting between nationalists (those who resented the treaty and republican government plagued the new regime. It might have made it, however, had it not been for the Great Depression. To jump ahead just a bit, one of the nationalist groups was the NAZIs; Hitler had been sent by the army to spy on them and ended up their leader. The NAZIs were well on their way to political oblivion, however (their racialism and street brawling style repelled most Germans--the NAZIS never were a majority party. The Depression resuscitated the NAZIS; it gave them the window of opportunity they'd needed to gain power. Without the Depression, their days would have been numbered.
Germany has a long tradutition of anti-semitism dating back to and before Martin Luther. Yet Germany in not the country before 1933 where anti-semitism was most pronounced or virulent. German Jews were better integrated into German society than in most other European countries. (As one side light, it was a Jew who develoed poison gas for the German Army in World War I.) Hitler and the NAZIs changed all that. As part of his tirades against the Verailles Treaty, he cleverly added a new wrinkle--that Germany had been stabbed in the back by Communists and Jews. To many Germans this made sence. Most Germans thought that they were winning World War I. After all the major battles of the War were fought on Belgian or French soil. Russia was knocked out of the War in 1917 and the Germans extracted humiliating concessions from the new Bolshevick Goverment. So it seemed logical that traitors at home had cost Germany the War. This theme which Hitler constantly persued greatly fueled anti-semetic feeling among Germans. After the NAZIs seized control of the Gvernment, the full resoures of the state could be used to inculcate anti-semitism.
The NAZIs inculcated the theory of a German or more acurately Nordic master race. Other people were considered less capable and powerful. National and ethnic groups were actually ranked. The Jews of course were considered untermench, not fully human. The Slavs were also considered a lowly group. The policies oursued in Poland and Russia after the war began was to populate Eastern Europe with Germans of suitable ethnic background and turn the slavs living there into a subservient slave class. They were to be educated in the only the bare essentials--basic writing and learning. Eventually the same fate may havde awaited them as the Jews, if the NAZIs had won the War. These racial policies affected how people were treated in the concentratin camps. They also affected German foreign policy. Hitler had wanted a war with Soviet Russia not England. He had hoped to sign a peace treaty with England allowing the English, who he admired, to keep their colonies. Many in England in June 1940 were willing to pursue just such a peace--but Churchill was not.
The Gestapo was formed after the NAZIs seized power to organize and control the existing German police forces. The information gatering arm was greatly expanded. Fimes were opened on countless citizens. Neighbors were incouraged to report on strangers--and on each other. The Hitler Youth was an important source of information. The Hitler Youth included virtually every Aryan youth in Gemany which provided sevderal millionneyes and ears to the Gestapo. In some cases boys actually reported on their parents. Unlike the Pioneers in the Soviet Union--such boys were not held up as ideals. The issue was more tactifully handled as in Hitler Youth Quex. Incouraging boys to run around ratting on their parents was too much even for NAZI Germany.
Hitler started a program called Lebensborn in which German women were to donate a child to the Fuhrer. The children would be raised in special camps run by the
Nazi Party and have no connection with their parents. They were to be the vanguard of the new German Master Race. Leni, the German girl that Solly thought he
loved, became pregnant with a baby she had conceived for the Lebensborn program. The se children were to be raised by the SS to be tough and without sentiment
The Hitler Youth are often seen as a kind of NAZI Boy Scouts. Undoubtedly the Scouting movement was influential and used by the NAZIs in planning their youth group. The Scout movement, however, was not the onky such movement. The German "Wandervogel" movement predates Scouting, dating from the late 19th century. It was an outgrowth of German Romanticism which influenced the Nazis. The Wandervogel featured groups of youths hiking, singing, and camping--we'd have called it "getting back to nature" a couple of decades ago. It was a reaction against industrialization and urbanization, as was romanticism, and it was something of a model for various HJ activities. Unlike Scouting, there was an emphasis on sports and athleticism in the Wandervogel movement which the Hitler Youth organizers adopted. The Wandervogel is discussed on the HBU site--although only limited infofrnation has been gathered to date.
The Hitler Youth was in many ways organized to train boys mentally and ohyicall for war. More amd more militart training was given as the boys got younger. By the times boys joined or were inducted for the military, they had consider able military training. Military personnel were assigned to direct the training. Recruiters made appeals to various servoces. Each of the branches of the military had their own section specuial section of the Hitler Youth to help recruit personnel. This is not to say there was not a para-military element to Scouting. One of the driving forces behind Scouting in Engkand was the realization during the Bohr War of the poor health of recruits. Scouting was designed to provide healthy body buiolding activities and to develop campomg skills that soldiers would find useful. The Scouts, however, nevere engaged in over military training as did the Hitler Youth or the xenephobic ultra-nationalistic indoctrination as did the Hitler Youth.
HBC readers are strongly encouraged to access the Historical Boys' Uniform (HBU) site. There is a vast amount of information there about uniformed youth groups from the first group--the Boys' Brigade down to modern Scouting. The site has quite a large section on the Hitler Youth and other nationalist groups. A review of the unformation in HBU will permit a much better understanding of these films. There is also an extensive bibliography for further reading.
Probably no other country has had so many films made about it by foreign film makers as Germany. Given the importance of Hollywood, popular images of Germans
are in large measure influenced by these foreign depictions. This is perhaps difficult for Americans to understans as almost all important American images come from
American-made television and movie programing. Many of those film focus on the NAZI and World War II film. HBC is struck by the lack of realism in these films.
Many films, especially films made before the end of the War did not begin to display the true horror of what went on in Germany or the occupied countries. Many of
the depictions of Germans in these films are perhaps understandably unflatering charactures. Relatively few films have sought to show German characters as real
people. HBC has wondered how Germans viewing World War II films view the scenes of American and British tanks entering German towns and villages. Most
Germans would today at least intelectually say that they were liberated from the NAZI tyrany as much as the occupied countries. (The experience was different in the
areas occupied by the Red Army.) We are curious, however, if the emotional reaction is perhaps not different from the intelectual reaction.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main movie page]
[Return to the Main NAZI movie page]
[Return to the Main youth organization movie page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Teatricals]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]