Hitler Youth Activities: Ideological Preparation


Figure 1.--Indoctrination was a major part of the NAZI objectives for the Hitler Youth. A majority of Germans had never voted for the NAZIs. The plan was to build a much greater base of support for the NAZI Party and NAZI program among German youth. Note the knives worn with the uniform. As far as I know the boys here are listening to one of Hitler's speeches or a speech by another top NAZI. I do not know of programming aimed specifically at the Hitler Youth. This photograph was taken in 1935. At the times, Jews in Germany were still allowed to have radios.

Not only did the Hitler Youth pursue physical military skills, but they developed a full psychological program to prepare German youth for war. Indoctrination was a major part of the NAZI objectives for the Hitler Youth. A majority of Germans had never voted for the NAZIs. The plan was to build a much greater base of support for the MAZI Party and NAZI program among German youth. Besides intensive indoctrination in NAZI ideology, German nationalism, Germanic mythology, and racial superiority, camp programs included rituals such as mock burials. Hitler Youth members were taught to respect the NAZI party and live up to their creed by learning from the NAZI Primer, which was the group's official handbook. Mein Kampf, Hitlerís bibliography, was considered their Bible. They learned of the superior race: the Nordic race. According to the Nazi Primer, when considering bodily form, the HJ have to take into account above all things size and shape of body, skull, color of hair, the eyes and the skin, as well as the texture of the hair. Upon reading the section entitled the German races, one can clearly see the intention that the Nordic race is above all the best in the German region. The Primer gives example after example of why one race is inferior to another.

Political Indoctrination

Not only did the Hitler Youth pursue physical military skills, but they developed a full program of political indoctrination in the principles of National Socialism as well as a more subtle psychological program to prepare German youth for war. Indoctrination was a major part of the NAZI objectives for the Hitler Youth. A majority of Germans had never voted for the NAZIs. The plan was to build a much greater base of support for the MAZI Party and NAZI program among German youth.

Subject Content

Besides intensive indoctrination in NAZI ideology, German nationalism, Germanic mythology, and racial superiority. The children learned of the superior race: the Nordic race. According to the Nazi Primer, when considering bodily form, the HJ have to take into account above all things size and shape of body, skull, color of hair, the eyes and the skin, as well as the texture of the hair. Upon reading the section entitled the German races, one can clearly see the intention that the Nordic race is above all the best in the German region. The Primer gives example after example of why one race is inferior to another. One wonders what children with brown eyes and dark hair thought about this.

Impact

Hitler was careful to coach NAZI goals in ways that would appeal to the German people. It is clear that his central goal was to exterminate the Jewish people and launch a war of agression. He never talked about gas chambers or his desire to conduct a great war. Neither were the HJ children told about these goals. What the HJ pboys were taught was that Jews were not only sub-human, but carried genetic diseases and undermined the German nation. Of course to the extent that this was accepted, mass murder is becomes only one more step. By the same token, convincing the German people needed Lebenraum in the East and its was their natural right layed the ground work for war. The only way to obtain that Lebensraum was war and the necessary colarary would be the removal or enslavement of the people already there.

Activities

We are not at this time uncertain as to just what kind of activitgies were associated with the political indictrination. Certainly the children received political lectures in the meetings, presumably from the older members. They may have had guest speakers. Camp activities were more varied. With the children away from hime, the HJ could do things that many parents might have found disquiting. Camp programs included rituals such as mock burials for warrirs who died in battle.

Schooling

A reader tells us, "As for the male Hitler Youth, they did receive quite a bit of intellectual schooling as well. Baldur von Schirach, after meeting a group of HJ leaders, once remarked, that if there was any opposition to the regime, it was in the room he'd just come from because the leaders both got a chance to and used it to speak their minds, talk about politics, and make suggestions." [Crawford] Here we have a range of questions as to HJ schooling conducted outside of the state school system. For many this was primarily lectures at the HJ meetings and summer camps. The schooling was much more elaborate for HK leaders. Various observers report discussions among leaders. We are not sure about the range of these discussions and to what extent discent was permitted. The NAZIs did establish their own leadership schools.

NAZI Education

The Hitler Youth was not the only source of ideological preparation. National Socialist idelogy was also promoted at school. The NAZIs were, however, always somewhat suspicious of the schools. This was paticularly true in the early yeara after the NAZI take over before Party loyalism was made a prereqisite for employment and advancement and teachers who objected to the NAZIs could be dismissed. Some teachers who objected to the NAZIs or were uncommitted did continue to teach but had to be increasingly careful about what they said in class and how they approached the material.

The NAZI Party

Within a short time after becoming Chancellor, Hitler moved to make the NAZI Party the only political party permitted in Germany. After President Hindenburg died (1934), Germany was made a one-party state and the NAZI Party flag became the German flag. The dividing line between the Government and the Party faded, but never ntirely disappeared, making NAZI Germany a very complicated place to do business. The Hitler Youth movenment while a national mass organization, was not a Government agency. It was a unit of the NAZI Party. HJ members were taught to respect the NAZI party and live up to the National Socialist creed by learning from the NAZI Primer, which was the group's official handbook. The Party was presented as more than a political party. It was made into an integral aspect of German patriotism. And the Party saw the HJ as its own private recruiting grounds for future Party leaders. This included not only the Party itself, but Party organizations like the SS.

Mein Kampf

Mein Kampf is not an easy book to read. It is poorly organized, and repetitive. It is a a confusing mixture of Hitlerís biography and lectures on racism, German nationalism and geopolitics was considered the HJ Bible. It was not something, however, that most 10-year old could read. Most older boys were expected to read it. Te oine thing that can be said about it is that Hitler was brutally honest. He did ot speak as openly about the issues raised in Mein Kampf once he became a serious candidate in the late-1920s. But not one can say that Hitler did not clearly lay out what he planned to accomplish.

Destinctive Nature

Goering suggested that the Hitler Youth were simply German Boy Scouts. Some of the images of HJ boys do in fact look like Boy Scouts in that they are doing many of the same things like hiking and camping. Other activities were very different. The image here, for example, shows bys at a HJ meeting presumably listening to one of Hitler's speeches or a speech by another top NAZI. (I do not know of programming aimed specifically at the Hitler Youth.) This photograph was taken in 1935. It is unlike any image I have ever seen of Scouts. The Scouts did promote patriotism, but avoided politics--all politics. In the great debate over isolationism in America during the 1930s and early 40s, you never see Scouts involved. Scours were never convened to listen to a radio broadcast by President Roosevelt as we see here.

Value

Many German military commanders were as was Hitler convinced that Germany lost World war I because the home front cracked. Many welcomed a program like the Hitler Youth to prepare boys for War. Here it was not only the militry skills taught, but attitudes toward discipline, duty, and honoe which were considered important. It is difficult to determine just how effective the HJ indoctrination was, but many historians believe that it was highly effective. Certinly the Germans continued to support the NAZIs and to persue the War, long after any hope of victory had long passed and German cities were turned into rubble. The home front in World war II did not crack. And some of the most fervent desciples to the very end were the Hitler Youth boys fifgring in the Volksturm.

NAZI Ideology

Historians debate just to what extent the German people were swayed by NAZI ideology. Some believe that it was primarily accepted by relatibely small core of Party stalwarts. Others believe that it was central to the NAZI war effort and widely accepted by the vast majority of the German people.

Sources

Crawford, Chris. E-mail message, June 5, 2005.






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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 5:24 AM 7/6/2009