German Young Pioneers: Activities

Figure 1.--This German scene looks to be a FDJ summer camp, probably in the 1950s. The flag was red. The symbol is that of the Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation.

We have been able to find relatively little information about the activities organized by the FDJ. The Pioneers were a school-based organization and as might be expected, many of the asctivities were at school. 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. This became more apparent once the uniforms were introduced. There was also a little fun like hiking trips, school-discos, or carnival. It’s hard to tell which role the pioneers played in this events. Mostly they were organized by the pioneers group managment (group = school-class), but probably without the Pioneers they would also happened in some way. There was also a summer camp program.


The various Pioneer activities has various purposes. The children help put an asttractive face on what was essentially a grim regime, especiaslly during the early years when Stalinist repression led to show trials and eventually worker riots and the lter when the regime became best known for the Berlin Wall. The children were used to present a more attractive image of the regime. The organization was perhaps even more importsnt for indoctrinsating the children with Communist ideology. Through meetings and and carefully guided discussions, Marxist ideology was hammered home to the children. The "Kurs 80" movement was a major effort to promote Marxist ideology (1978). A major problem the Pioneers had was that most Easdt Germans could listen to West German radio and televidion and were acutely aware that desipte all the East Germsn propganda, that the West Germans were much better off than they were. Unlike other Communist countries, the East Germans never had a monopoly on the media.

Specific Activities

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, howeverm, that the Pioneer images we have found do not seem to be taken by the children. At least that is the impressin 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.


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Created: 5:41 AM 6/8/2011
Last updated: 4:52 AM 6/19/2016