Mr. Thomas Thibeault
A Clockwork Nightmare
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (21).
Adolf Hitler was very serious about training and preparing youth to serve the country. In June 1933, Baldur von Schirach was named "Youth Leader of the German Reich " (Shirer 252). Schirachís goal was to build a machine that would turn out millions of loyal future Naziís. In order to accommodate all of the youth, the leader set up camps for every kind of activity. The Hitler Youth was to be the framework for young peopleís lives (Heyes 30). Schirach tried to design camps that covered many different interests. Although the instruction was first political, gradually it took on the tone of an almost mystical doctrine (Heyes 44).
Most of the programs that the Hitler Youth offered were mandatory, however majority of the time the children did not object to participate because they wanted to serve the Fuerher. There were also the youth that did not want to join and were forced to follow according to the laws of Nazi Germany. Whether cooperation or competition between the Hitler Youth, Adolf Hitler had millions of young people that idolized him and his intention was to program them to do just what he wanted.
In order to stop Nazi street fighting, the government banned a number of Nazi groups-including the Hitler Youth-on April 13, 1932 (Heyes 25). It was only a few months that the ban lasted, however, during the time of the ban the Hitler Youth group grew immensely by using a secret name. The dedication that Schirach and the youth groups possessed really showed the general public and Hitler the admiration that the youth had towards Hitler. In 1933 more than 400 youth groups in Germany were destroyed, excluding the Catholic groups, which were allowed until 1937 and of course the Hitler Youth. In 1936 the Hitler Youth Law made membership to the Hitler Youth was mandatory, although the law was not enforced until 1930(Heyes 26). At the time that the law was enforced 7.3 million already were members. Any child who did not report to the youth program would end up in a labor camp (Evans 1). Even though many children were already members of the Hitler Youth, when the law made membership mandatory all the children had to join.
Hitler was very serious about making sure that the youth of Germany were part of the Hitler Youth. Boys as young as six year of age served as an apprenticeship in the Hitler Youth. From ages ten to fourteen they qualified for the Jungvolk (Heyes 54). Once the boys turned fourteen then they moved up to the Hitler Youth proper. Surprisingly when the boys graduated into the Hitler Youth Proper, they had several options to choose from. They were able to choose the specific program that they went in to. There was the Motor Hitler Youth where vehicle mechanics and driving was learned. The Marine group was where boating and navigation was studied. The elite members were in the Flying Hitler Youth where boys learned to fly gliders to prepare for the air force. Finally there was a small equestrian unit, designed to attract rural youths (Heyes 59). The main reason for starting so young, according to Hitler, would be to make sure that the boys were fit, disciplined, and devoted by the time they reached draft age. Being a part of the youth programs was a serious issue, all members of the Jungvolk had to take this oath: "In the presence of this blood banner, which represents our Fuehrer, I swear to devote all my energies and my strength to the savior of out country, Adolf Hitler. I am willing and ready to give up my life for him, so help me God." (Heyes 54). The commitment that these boys had to make was very large, but they had to be willing to live and die for their country.
The girls had a similar agenda to follow in the Hitler Youth. They first participated in the Jungmadel from ages ten to fourteen and then they were required to join the Association of German Girls, or BDM. In 1932 this group was made the only party for girls (Heyes 23). Girls had a much different role in the youth programs. Girls did participate in the same kind of physical workouts as the boys, emphasizing strongly on competitiveness, but they were taught how to be strong mothers and obedient wives. The most important issue that was stressed to the girls of BDM was to produce flawless children for the Fatherland (Heyes 57). "Hitler stated in Mein Kampf, ëThe goal of female education must invariably be the future mother, and the German girl is a subject and only becomes a citizen when she marriesí" (Heyes 57). Like the boys, the girls also had a motto, it was: "Be Faithful, Be Pure, Be German! Hitler was a selfish person and since he wanted more Naziís then the female population had no choice but to produce Nazi children for the Fuehur. When these children were old enough they would join the Hitler Youth just as their parents did. This way the boys would be ready to be drafted by age eighteen and the girls would be prepared to be mothers.
At age eighteen, boys and girls had to serve in the Reich Labor Service. Boys did manual and agricultural work and then were drafted in the army. Girls were assigned to work in agriculture or in homes. This also was mandatory. After the law was enforced, children and adults did not really much say in anything they did.
Surprisingly youths that were disabled were also allowed to join the Hitler Youth as long as they had an acceptable racial background. They were provided with activities within their abilities such as carpentry and clerical work. Obviously the disabled youth that were not capable of doing such activities would not be part of the Hitler Youth, but most likely be in the concentration camps.
On September 10, 1938 in Nuremberg, the Day of the Hitler Youth took place at the annual Nazi party rally (Heyes 42). Here members of the youth programs preformed drills that had been practiced for months. First they listened to a speech by their national youth leader Baldur von Schirach, but that was not the reason that they were at the rally. They were excited to see their leader Adolf Hitler. On this day as all of the youngsters shouted "Seig Heil!" or Hail victory. Their bodies, minds and hearts belonged to Adolf Hitler. The children in the Hitler Youth had long waited this day. Many thought of this day, and acted as if it was a holiday or celebration. Even in a society with such strict rule there is fun, however education is a large chunk of the Hitler Youth.
The Reich Minister of Education, Bernhard Rust, was named on April 30, 1934. Hitlerís idea of education was "for the whole education by a national state, must aim primarily not at the stuffing with mere knowledge but at building blocks which are physically healthy to the core" (Shirer 248). Although fitness was also important to prepare for war, Hitler was particularly interested in Nazifying the schools. From first grade through university levels, all German schools were Nazified, teachers had to join the Nazi Teachers League and promote Nazism in the classroom. Obviously the children learned to love their own race, but they were also taught how to despise the Jews. If Nazism were not promoted in the classroom the teachers would face disciplinary action or lose their jobs.
The Adolf Hitler Schools included programs for the extremely dedicated. The schools were founded in 1937. The systems were completely separate from the regular education systems, in a sense the school was like an extracurricular program. The Hitler Youth leaders directed the schools. Party leaders chose twelve to eighteen boys to send to the schools. Academics were not stressed at these schools; emphasis was put on sports and paramilitary training, the subjects that mattered to Hitler. During vacations from regular schools, some students were chosen to observe an administrative position in order to obtain experience in the field. Schools were set up to train the elite and the youth that were expected to be the next generation of Nazi leaders. Criteria to attend the schools included being in good health, having an acceptable racial background, having good character, and of course being dedicated to Hitler. Similar schools were set up for girls, but in a male dominated Nazi society, the girlsí school taught almost nothing (Heyes 46). The male youth were the most important people to Hitler, the Parents were looked down upon compared to the Hitler Youth.
Whether the parents of the Hitler youth were for the youth movements or against them, they did not have much say in the program. When parents complained that their daughters came back from the BDM camps pregnant no one cared and no one listened. There was nothing that could be done because the issue was not considered important. If parents did not register their children for the Hitler Youth they could possible face fines or imprisonment. After the Hitler Youth law in 1936 these punishments were not uncommon if the children were not registered. Also, questionnaires were distributed to high school students asking to list information on parents, teachers, or employers that interfered with the Hitler Youth duties. It was also helpful to turn in an anti-Nazi person to better that chances of promotion. Party leaders sometimes had to pressure the parents of the Hitler Youth in order to get permission for the youth to volunteer for services. Although the Hitler Youth Leaders had a round about way of getting the parents consent, they always seemed to get the job done.
An additional program to the Hitler Youth was the Patrol Service. The idea behind the patrol service was to be a conformity enforcer. They worked very close with the police. The assignment was to rule out deviation from Nazi moral and ideological code. The service became a junior Gestapo where the members of the Hitler Youth had a lot of power. Offenses that were looked for include smoking, drinking, improper saluting, curfew violations, and singing of prohibited songs, just to name a few. Schirach wanted the patrol service to act the same way as the SS acted towards the Nazi party.
Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Central Security Agency, thought that the patrol service was great training for being secret agents or domestic spies. Some of the youth were pulled out of school for auxiliary police work. This was supposed to be kept a secret so parents were mislead in order to get permission for their son or daughter to participate in certain activities. This is just another example of how the parents of the Hitler Youth were deceived.
Although the Patrol service was very effective, they were not successful in wiping out all juvenile crime and rebelliousness. Many wild cliques and gangs of young rebels existed. These people would dress and act like American and British actors and actresses. Heinrich Himmler ordered for these teens to be sent to protective custody camps. The lucky ones who were destined for these camps were sent to the army or put to work, and the rest were put in insane asylums, hospitals, or concentration camps.
The Preliminary Training Camp was another program of Hitler Youth. The directors of the camp often were wounded army officers and SS veterans that had prior experience in the Hitler Youth. Boys aged sixteen to eighteen were required to attend a twenty-one day concentrated training. This program was Hitlerís idea of psychological training for military combat. In some ways the training could compare to basic training, it was even more brutal than camps for older boys that were drafted. The main goals were to acquire combat readiness and combat capacity.
The system worked in two phases; first one would be notified that they would be attending the camp, then came the actual call. This was convenient for the youth that held jobs, because with advanced notice they would be able to apply for leave. Those who attended high school would only be drafted during summer vacation, and students at technical schools performed the training during semester breaks. If the training was avoided the youth service law was enforced. This law forced compliance. The experience was intended to produce a meaningful contribution to a boyís readiness for combat and the hard life of a soldier (Rempel 185).
Adolf Hitler had every little detail of the Hitler Youth planned far in advance. He knew that he had to brainwash these children early, and that he did. Hitler fooled a lot of people and got away with it. He tried to make them think he was doing the right thing and he really was not. Instead he was murdering millions of innocent people and preparing millions more to murder, although the youth did not know this at the time. The children thought that they were getting the most out of their education, but instead they were being lied to and deceived. Hitler was banking on the children of Nazi Germany to follow his footsteps, and that may have happened if Hitler did not die. It is known what Hitler did and it can happen again. If something terrible like the holocaust happens again hopefully millions will not be murdered and brainwashed.
Emmerich, Elsbeth. "My Childhood in Nazi Germany." New York: Bookwright, 1991.
Evans, Lottie. Hitler Youth. 1998. http://youth.net/memories/ 6 December 1998.
Heyes, Eileen. "Children of the Swastika." Connecticut: Millbrook, 1993.
Rempel, Gerhard. "Hitlerís Children." Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.