Hitler Youth Activities: Military Training


Figure 1.--Wehrmacht soldiers here give a demonstartion of a machine gun with an aerial sight to boys in the Deutche Jugend. The soldiers on an apparently cold day wear overcoats and gloves while the boys are in the winter uniform with short pants. Notice the parents in the background. The Hitler Youth eventually became an important element of Germany's vaunted anti-aircraft defense system.

The Hitler Youth not only provided military training, but the emotional and phusical preparation for war in addition to ideological indoctrination was, after the NAZIs seized power, the primary purpose of the organization. The NAZIs did not tell the boys and their parents that they weere being prepared for War, but in reviewing the program that conclusion was obvious. The Hitler Youth was carefully organized to feed older boys directly into military service. Younger boys were exposed to military personnel and given weapons demonstrations. Older boys were given actual instructions in handling weapons and participated in actual military exercizes. They were then channled into the military services are in some cases the SS.

Demonstrations and Talks

Many images show Deutche Jugernd and Hitler Jugend at demonstrations of weapons. Older boys were actually trained on these weapons, but many of the images look more like demostrations with parents present. Presumably soldiers also gave talks to the boys, but I currrently have no ingoration on this.

Outdoor Activities

Some of the Hitler Youth activities were the kinds of ourdoor activities that were common to Scout groups. Camping and outdoor skills were stressed by the Hiter Youth. But there were many activities that were not commonly pursued by the Scouts. The activities included both physical and psychological preparation for war. The Hitler Youth put a great emphasis on military skills. Some were camping skills that Scouts might have pursued. But in addition to these activities of indirect military value, there were other skills of direct value, including firearms training, laying communications cables, and many other activities.

Organization

The Deutche Jugend was organized as a non specialized group rather like the Cub Scouts. Although in some countries the Cubs are tied to specialized programs like Sea Scouts. This is not, however, the general pattern. DJ activities like model building were designed to interest boys in specific services so that would choose the approprriate HJ division. Once boys progressed to the Hitler Jugend there were specialized programs or divisions. Two of the most popular were the marine and air divisions, although there were several others. Only the marine division, however, had a destinctive uniform. These divisions engaged in much of the basic HJ program, but supplemented with activities related to the specailty chosen. These divisions would then channel the boys into the related service branch.

Stahlhelm/Scharnhorst

Baudar von Schirach oversaw the take over of the German Youth Movement. This involved quitee a lkarge number o\f groups. Most were incorportated into the HJ without any real difficulty. Some like the Socialkist groups were banned. Some involved special sensitivities. Hitler at the same time moved to incorporate other right-wing groups into the NAZI Party. Hitler and Franz Seldte, leader of the Stahlhelm--Bund der Frontsoldaten (Steel Helmet League of Front Line Soldiers) agreed to incorporate the Stahlhelm into the NAZI Party (June 1933). The asgeement was negotiated in the presence of the Reich Minister of War. The Scharnhorst, the youth organization of the Stahlhelm. had a largely military orientation. As part of the agreement between Hitler and Seldte was incorporated into the Hitler Youth.

Formal Agreements

The Hitler Jugend program from an early sage placed considerable emphasis on the military spirit. A part of the oprogram was instilling the noble destiny of German youth to die for the Führer. The program even included mock funerals for fallen heros. Thus it was only a natural progression for the HJ to formalize itsrelationship bwith the Wehrmacht. The Hitler Youth leadership just before Hitler launched World War II entered into a formal agreement with Wehrmacht (August 11, 1939). Baldur Von Schirach for the Hitler Youth organization and Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) finalized a program of close cooperation between their respective organizations. se two conspirators. The agreement itself stated: "while it is exclusively the task of the Hitler Youth to attend to the training of their units in this direction, it is suitable in the sense of a uniform training corresponding to the demands of the Wehrmacht to support the leadership of the Hitler Youth for their responsible task as trainers and educators in all fields of training for defense by special courses ..., A great number of courses are in progress." [IMT document 2398-PS] Schirach for the HJ agreed to carry out its pre-military activities under standards laid down by the Wehrmacht and Keitel for OKW agreed to train 30,000 Hitler Jugend instructors each year. The agreement stated that it "gives the possibility of roughly redoubling the same 30,000 leaders in the Hitler Youth schools

Informal Arrangements

There appear to have also been informal arrangements. The Wehrmacht encouraged bachelor officers to work with fatherless Hitler Youth boys, a kind of big brother arrangement. The Commander of the Wehrmacht, General von Fritsch, took two HJ boys under his wing and his idea of incouraging the boys was to have them over to dinner and afterwards lecture them on map reading--to which he insisted on stict attention. Apparentlty he was not all that interesting a lecturer as he jhad to occassionally rap their nuckles. Later when veing questioned by the Gestapo on trumoed up charges of homosexuality, he thought the boys had reported him, but this does not appear to have been the case. [Davidson, pp. 178-179.]

Military Drill

The Hitler Youth was from the beginning a para-military organization, having been formed from the S.A. Thus military drill, lining up, marching and such activities were pursued to a graeter extent that many other groups. Countless imges if the HJ show the biys marching and lining up for inspection and in various forms of drill. Here we are nalking about drrill and not training in military skills which also occurred. Just change the uniforms and add a few years and the images are identical to what might be observed on miitary camps. And in some cases the boys can bee seen on military bases and with soldiers. This was quite common in the years before the War. Many boys were attracted to the HJ by the various activities it offered. The constant drill was not one of the popular activities and turned many boys off the program. Schirach noticed this and to an extent toned it down. But it relained a major aspect of the program. Drill was common in 19th century schools for the same reaon that it was so important in the HJ--it was seen to instill discipline.

Military Training

Many activities promoted by the DJ and HJ wee not unlike the Boy Scouts, including physical fitness, hiking, camping, map reading, signaling, and other tasks. The DJ and especially the HJ, however, went far beyound this and cairred out training in programs in a variety of military skills including weapons tarining. In the years before the war, the Hitler Youth gradually incorporated more overtly military training into its program. All boys were given firearms training, starting with small caliber rifles and then moving up to regular infantry pieces. They sent those who excelled to sharpshooter and sniper school. The services of these boy snipers were offered to the army and the Waffen-SS. The army snatched them up and placed them in reserve units. All of this military training fostered an aggressive spirit that could be realized only in actual combat. The Hitler Youth was in essence providing Germany with well-trained cannon-fodder for the war.

Military Service

The purpose of the military training was of course actual military service. Most HJ boys simoly were assigned to units in the various military services. There were, however, some one actual HJ division formed by the HJ. In addition, the HJ palayed a major role in the Germany's anti-aircraft defenses and the Volkstrum.

Nurremberg

At Nurremberg Goering is reported to have told on of his guards that the Hitler Youth was just like the American Boy Scouts. The guard answered, "I never knew a Boy Scout who could assemble an automatic rifle in less than a minute".

Sources

Davidson, Eugene. The Unmaking of Adolf Hitler (Univesity of Missouri: Columbia, 1996), 519p.

International Military Tribunal Nuremberg (IMT). Document 2398-PS.







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Created: December 11, 2000
Last updated: 12:00 AM 7/21/2017