German Young Pioneer Activities: Specific Activities

Figure 1.--Here we have a Young Pioneer marching band that look to be practcing. The photograph is undated bu looks like the 1950s to us. The Pioneers from the beginning ws a mixed-genfer program. The incription on the back provdes some information. Click on the image to see the back.

We have been able to acqwuire some information on Pioneer activities, although much less information seems available than is the case for the HJ. And we have been able to find relatively few images of Pioneer activities despite the fact millions of East German kids participated in the program. Much of our assessment is based on photographic images. But our limited archive compared to what we have collected on the HJ limits our understanding of the Pionee Movement. We are not sure why the Pioneer photogrphic record is so limited. Were the childen less interested in the movement?. Were the leaders less interested? Were there restrictios on photography. A number od questions emerge. uch of the HJ photography wee images taken by the children themselves, some collected into albums. This of course suggests that the chilkren were really enthusiastic and committed to the program. We do not see that for the Pioneers. The Pioneers were also a mandatory youth group and unlike the NAZIs, lasted over 40 years. We see many of the same activities. Only the different uniforms help us destinguish the HJ from the Pioneers. While the photographic record is much smaller than that of the HJ, we have found a few images. We would say, however, that the Pioneer images we have found do not seem to be taken by the children. At least that is the impression we get. They look to us like images taken by adult leaders or Government photographers. Another factor here is that the Pioneer program was less intensive than the HJ program. We believe that the East German children spent a lot less time with Pioneer actvities than was the case with the Hitler Youth activities.


We note Pioner bnds tht look rther like HJ bands. We notice both drums and buggles. There were, however, differences. HJ bands were separate HJ and BDM bands. There were mixed orcestras, but the bands as far as we can tell were almost all separate gender groups. The drums were done differently. We do not see the Pioneer bands with the black and white flame drums. And of course we do not sse the single HJ lighting bolt symbol. Abd we see more Soviet-looking banners.


Ceremonies and Pagentry

The Pioneer and FDJ children and youth like the case with the HJ, were an attractive addition to DDR ceremonies asnd events. The children decked out in their uniforms added a pictguresqe aspect to the events. And their youthful etntusiasm added to the image that C\DDR authorities wabnted to project.


A variety of drives were organized by the Pioneers at school, such as nedwspapoer drives. In some cases there was a specific causes they were supporting. One interesting drive was to collect a million roses for the American Angela Davis's release. Davis (1944- ) was an American political activist, active in the American Communist Party and Black Panther Party. She was arrested after guns she owned were used to kill people. She was found not guilty when tried.


We have found countless images of HJ boys and girls taking group excursions. They took trains and then hiked. There were bicycle excursions. They were able to stay in histels. Some of these trips mean that they wre away for a week or more. They vsited bith natural features as well as cities and monuments. For many of the children involved, it was their first trip away from the families. We do not see similar Pioneer images. We do not know that they did not take p;lace, but we have yet to find evidence of this in the photographic record. Another factor here is that these HJ excursions commonly were with youth, but not adult leadership. Some of the shorter DJ (HJ Cub unit) trips might have adults involved, but not the HJ trips. And even the DJ trips were often superbosed by older youth leades. We think that most Pioneer activities were organizedand supervised by adult leaders. We wouldlike input from formr Pioneers about thi, but this is our initial impression.


We do not see Pioneer groups marching around the countryside as was common with the HJ. We have countless mahes of HJ and BDM children on hiking expeditons into the countryside. Sometimes it was just a few hours hike. Other times they were day trips or longer with overnight camping. W see nothing like that with the Pioneers.

International Activities

The elite of the Pioneer Movement were rewarded with overseas trips, almost always to fraternal socialist countries. The idea was to foster an international spirit among the Pioneers, much as the Boy Scouts did. This helped emphasize the international nature of Socialist Movement. A Friendship Train train was organize to take Pioneers to the Soviet Union carrying FDJ and Pioneer members (1967). East German Pioneers sent more than a million 'messages of friendship' to the Lenin Pioneers in the Soviet Union, who were celebrating their organisation's 50th anniversary (1972). The Salut, Pobjeda action was begun in preparation for the 30th anniversary of the fall of Fascism--meaning the Soviet/Allied World war II vivtory. The Russian word "Pobjeda" (Победа) means "Victory!". It was the first international Pioneer event at which children from Mongolia, North Vietnam, and Cuba took part.



Pioneer authorities at the first national youth meeting at the Wuhlheide in East Berlin, opened a park known as known as the Pionierrepublik „Ernst Thälmann“ ("Ernst Thälmann Pioneers' Republic") (1950). The name of the park was later changed to "pioneers' park". About 20,000 children lived there for the fitst nastionsl meeting.


The Pioneers were a school-based organization and as might be expected, many of the asctivities were at school. We believes that the Pioneers played a role in msaintaing discipline at school as well as promnoting Communist ideology.

Special Celebration Days

We have been able to find relatively little information about the activities organized by the FDJ. The Pioneer groups organized some official events like special celebration days. Those were organized by the schools pioneers unit. One activity was marching in annual the Labor Day parade--a very important event in communist countries.

Special Events

One major effort was the World Festival of Youth and Students in Berlin (1973). Thrb motto "For anti-imperialistic solidarity, peace and friendship". Of course the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe was not part of the rally against imperialism.


Summer Camps

The Young Pioneers had an important summer camp program. Here the Pioneers had the advantage that the Hitler Youth had created a massive infrastructure for youth programns and this included summer camps. DDR President Wilhelm Pieck opened a second "pioneers' republic" at Werbellinsee north-east of Berlin (1952). It was a DDR version of the Soviet Artek camp. It was the jem of the German Pioneer summer cxamp system with especially good facilities. Speciallt chosen children went to this camp. About 1,000 Pioneers attended the camp annually. We do not notice nearly as many images of Pioneer Summer damps as we do HJ/BDM camps during the 1930s. is the case of youth groups in general. We are not sure if this means that the summer camp effort was less imnportant ot thast people took fewer photographs. Of course East German was only asbout one-third of post-War Germany which itself was smaller than pre-War Germany. This was the case of Pioneer groups in general. It is fairly easy to spot photographs of the Pioneer camps. The primary indicator is the scarves the children wore which in the late-1940s and 50s was without uniforms. We are not entirely sure how the camps were organized. We assume that the camps were free, although parents had to purchase uniforms. We are not sure to what extent participation was voluntary. Hopefully German readers who attended these Pioneer camps will provide us some details. Another difference with the HJ was ghat the camps were mixed gender programs.


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Created: 5:49 AM 6/19/2016
Last updated: 5:49 AM 6/19/2016