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The HitlerJugend
By Hartmut Berg


The purpose of this article is to serve as an historical overview of the German youth organization during WWII. Its intended audience are students, historians, and living historians.  The author and this website would like to make it clear that we are in no way affiliated with any neo-Nazi, white supremacy or revisionist groups or their ideologies.  We are just historians looking to preserve a part of WWII history.
 

Introduction
The political turmoil that spread through Germany in the 1920's, not only had its effects on the adult population, but on the children as well. The first attempt to create a youth section of the NSDAP was the short-lived Jugendbund der NSDAP created by Gustav Adolf Lenk in 1922. It catered for boys aged 16 to 18 initially who were known as the Jungsturm Adolf Hitler. The Jungsturm was little more than a youth section within the SA however and on the failure of Hitler’s Putsch in 1923 it was banned along with the party and was never reformed.

In the period 1923 to 1925 many nationalist youth organizations were formed but ultimately it would be the Grossdeutsche Jugendbewegung under Kurt Gruber which would, in 1926, be renamed to Hitler-Jugend, Bund deutscher Arbeiterjugend and would eventually become the sole state youth organization.

There were many organizational difficulties and changes in the early period but by July 1933 and after a major reorganization the structure of the Hitler Youth was as follows:

Deutsches Jungvolk (DJ)
Boys aged 10 to 14
Jungmädelbund (JMB)
Girls aged 10 to 14
Hitler-Jugend (HJ)
Boys aged 14 to 18

Bund deutscher Mädel (BDM)
Girls aged 14 to 17

In 1938 a third, voluntary, branch was introduced for girls aged 17 to 21 called BDM-Werk Glaube und Schönheit (Belief and Beauty). The role of the BDM was simple: prepare German girls on how to take care of the household chores, how to care and raise children. Also included were physical fitness, and political education.

For the boys, they were being trained as the future soldiers of the Reich. Ages 10-14 the Deutsches Jungvolk (DJ), ages 14-18 the HitlerJugend (HJ). Afterwards, came mandatory service in the Reich Arbeits Dienst (RAD) or this could be skipped by joining the Waffen SS.
 

Uniforms
Uniforms were worn to help erase any class differences that existed, but also to give a sense of being part of a group, of strength, and of something bigger than ones self. The BDM uniform consisted of a white blouse and dark blue skirt, sometimes with a smaller brown jacket. The HJ uniform consisted of a brown shirt, black corduroy shorts (black was mandatory after 1935) belt, buckle, cross strap and armband. Both the HJ and BDM wore a black neck scarf, with a leather knot to secure it (similar to the cub scouts) As Germany was just coming out of the depression and economic conditions were horrible, variations of the uniform are evidenced by period photos. The HJ and BDM each wore a Gebietsdreieck (District Triangle) on their upper left sleeve, indicating what district they were from. (Some examples: Süd Franken, Ost Berlin, West Hessen-Nassau) as the county was divided into districts. HJ/DJ triangles were black with a golden yellow lettering and border, BDM(JM were black with silver-grey lettering. The HJ winter uniform consisted of a dark blue winter pullover and pants, and a ski cap. Shoulder boards denoting rank and Bann, along with achievement awards were worn. Ranks followed a military structure, for promotion and discipline. The lowest rank was Hitlerjunge (HJ), Pimpf (DJ), Mädel (BDM) and Jungmädel (JMB) up to Reichsjugendführer.

Equipment used by the HJ in their activities were basically the same as that used by the Wehrmacht. The HJ used breadbags, zeltbahns, tornisters, mess tins and similar canteens (but without the cup) Spaten, they trained on the 98K gewehr, drilled with the gas masks. HJ belt buckles were the same design and worked exactly like the Heer and other services. By the time it came time for military service, they were already familiar with a military lifestyle. This made the transition easy, and many were ready to discard the childish “Youth” title/image and step into the adult/grown up role of soldier.

 
Membership

Membership at first was voluntary, but after 1939 membership became mandatory. The first youth law of 1936 gave the Reich Youth Leader the powers to enforce membership but membership remained voluntary as he wanted Germany’s youth to view service in the Hitler Youth as a matter of honor and to join the organization of their own free will. Some did manage to go through the remainder of the Third Reich without ever joining or after being “kicked out.” It was widely known that without membership in the HJ, one’s future job or educational status could be affected. It appears that how successful one was in not joining depended on where one lived, and how the local Gauleiter (Governor) enforced the law. Some areas were more strict, others, less so.

On reaching 10 years of age each boy and girl would be eligible to join the Jungvolk or the Jungmädel respectively. Taking a male as an example he would receive a medical examination to establish his fitness for service, and would have to be genetically pure, Aryan, and a citizen of the Reich. The enrollment form, once signed by the parents, would then act as a temporary ID and enable them to purchase the uniform. He would not be allowed to wear the HJ knife, membership pin, or DJ sleeve rune until he passed the “Pimpfenprobe” tests, which had to be completed within 6 months of joining. All of these items had to be purchased by the family, including the prized HJ knife. Early knives are inscribed with the motto of the HJ “Blut und Ehre” (Blood and Honor) and sold for 4 Reichmarks (RM) The inscribed knives lasted until 1938, when the motto was removed, reducing the cost to 3 RM. These early knives range today in price between $700-$1100, depending on condition and maker.. Later knives, although the same in appearance, except lacking the motto, run anywhere between $250-$800 depending on condition and maker.

The boys were proud to be in uniform, and these were allowed to be worn to school. One HJ boy, Alfons Heck, even wore his complete uniform, including his knife, under his church robes as he served as an alter boy. The uniform issue became somewhat of a problem for the police, because at first, a boy in uniform was basically “untouchable” by the authorities for any crime he may have committed. All the police could do was write down his name, and take it to the local HJ office. Discipline would then be handled internally, although it took awhile to get this system in place.
 

Training
Training in the HJ consisted of marching (many developed flat feet from the excessive marching), physical activities, camping, throwing clubs (which matched a German Potato Masher grenade in appearance) swimming, boxing (a favorite sport of the Third Reich) shooting, courage tests (jumping from high distances) map reading, building tents (3 man and 12 man tents) align a map according to the stars, and how to set up/use field telephones. Physical health and conditioning was stressed to the youngsters, as well as the idea that their body belonged to the German “volk” and one must take care of it. German scientists in the 1930's had found a link between smoking and cancer, and smoking was highly discouraged. Of course there was political education, so that the future soldier knew what was expected of him. In written accounts and interviews, many found this boring, but viewed the other parts such as shooting and camping exciting.

During HJ meetings, there would be singing such songs as, “Ein Junges Volk,”and “Vorwärts, Vorwärts” The former encouraged “the youth to rise up, come together, while honoring the dead heroes”, the latter, “to go forward, as youth knows no fear, we are the future soldiers, and that the flag is more important than (ones own) death.” Heroic death was stressed in Nazi Germany, to die in battle for the Hitler and the Fatherland would be the greatest accomplishment one could hope for. Marching could be used as punishment, and one method used was to march the boys into a cold lake up to the their belt line. This was also to toughen them up. German history was taught and emphasized, and many of the marches took them to places of historical importance, usually one having some sort of military/bloody past. Many boys enjoyed seeing parts of their county that otherwise, they would never have seen. At that time, most families did not travel on vacation, they stayed local, or went to a family members in the country side. Therefore, it would make sense that it would be exciting to visit a mediaeval century castle somewhere, and the HJ was the means that made it possible!

The HJ was divided into some specialist groups, thus having “something for everyone”

Landjahr
This was a voluntary 9 month program to help work the fields, to learn to love the land, and help with farming duties for the production of food. During this time, one would wear a special green “Landjahr” district triangle in place of the regular one. A related section was the Landdienst.
 
Marine HJ
For boys interested in ships, sailing and the Kriegsmarine.. Training naturally focused on nautical education. Part of the training was spent on the Horst Wessel, a sailing ship built in the 1936 where one could learn the to work with sails. Today, that same ship is still in service, renamed the USCCG Eagle and operated by the US Coast Guard.
 
Flieger HJ
For boys interested in flying. They would build gliders, learn how to launch, fly, and land them, getting ready to become future pilots. This is one way Hitler got around the Versailles Treaty when Germany’s air force was restricted. Gliders were used to learn the basics.
 
Motor HJ
For boys interested in driving cars, motorcycles, and mechanics. Drivers licenses could be had at age 16, and one could learn how to handle and repair a vehicle. It would be beneficial when it came time for logistics and supply lines, for repairing damaged Panzers, etc.
 
Nachrichten HJ
For boys to learn the use of communications equipment, telegraphs, teletypes, setting up and use of field telephones, and the maintenance of said items.
 
Reiter HJ
For boys interested the calvary and horse riding. During that time, calvary and horses were still in use as a big part of daily military life. This was a very small section of the Hitler Youth and almost totally restricted to rural locations.
 
HJ Streifendienst (SRD)
These boys’ responsibilities were similar to those of the military police but the SRD had no judicial powers. They performed security duties at HJ camps, rallies, or other functions, and often worked closely with the state police on matters within SRD jurisdiction. Boys from the HJ-Streifendienst were among the preferred recruits for the SS and ties between the SS and SRD were continually strengthened.
 
Gebirgs HJ
Not an official section of the HJ but boys interested in mountain climbing were organized into small groups within their respective local German Alpine Associations (Deutscher Alpenverein).
 
Medical HJ
Trained 40,000 boys and 35,000 girls in first aid and basic medical training.
 

Other groups included: Musicians, Rundfunkspielschar (broadcasting). There were also organizations within the Hitler Youth for disabled children, for deaf or partially deaf children and for blind children or partially sighted children.

For the elite of the elite, there were the Adolf Hitler Schools (AHS) and the National Political Academies (NPEA) Here one was trained for a special role in the future Reich, such as being a future governor for a conquered country, or a high position in banking and industry. These academies had high standards and had a high dropout rate, either due to academics or injury.

As the war progressed and ever more adults were drafted to the front, the Hitler Youth began to take on more and more functions of daily life and they became firefighters, postal workers, ticket collectors, errand boys etc. Others yet were trained as Luftwaffe “Flakhelfer” and manned anti-aircraft guns and search lights in defense of their cities. Flakhelfer duties could begin at age 15.
 

Veteran Accounts
I have corresponded with three former HJ members, one of which was Armin Lehmann. In 1945, he was a 15 year old stationed at the Führerbunker as a courier. He was present at the Bunker on Hitler’s last birthday, for the ceremony at the Reich Chancellery. According to Lehmann, the films shown of Hitler shaking hands, and pinching cheeks with the boys occurred a month earlier, but usually gets attributed to the April 20th birthday. He was introduced to Hitler, shook hands and spoke to him. He said that Hitler gave a “Heil Euch” and that nobody responded, even though they had been instructed to. Later, Lehmann acting as a (foot) courier, had to get a message to the Tiergarten Flak tower. He was asked if he knew how to ride a motorcycle, to which he said yes. However, when asked if he had a drivers license, he replied no, he then had to run on foot, instead of using the motorcycle, as he didn’t have a license.

The second vet I spoke with told me of his time in the HJ, and how at the war’s end he was in the RAD. They were issued weapons and sent towards Berlin. However, they ran into a wall of US soldiers, and gave up then and there.

The third vet explained how the films we see today on the History channel, are official Nazi sanctioned films, that no others existed. I was also told how the kids were taken out of school one day, and walked several blocks from the school. They lined up, and were told to cheer when Hitler came by. Not long after, Hitler rolled by in one of the open top Mercedes, and the crowd cheered. As soon as he passed, the crowd dispersed, the cheering stopped, and they went back to school. That was that. This was typical for the cameras, showing a jubilant crowd, although much of it was staged.
 

Other Information
The kids would have school cancelled due to bombing raids, so they would listen at night for planes approaching.

Another thing they would do is try and ID the plane by the sound of it’s engines (US/British, B-17, etc.) And see who could have “bragging rights” amongst their peers as to who could get it right.

There was also the challenge to see if any of them could get a piece of a shot down aircraft. Any item, such as a piece of a canopy, maybe a discarded flight jacket to show off at school.

After the war, many had to try and find their families, what was left of their homes, and try to begin to rebuild their lives. When schools reopened, their were 18 year olds sitting next to 11 year olds, as the war had disrupted their education. Many had to use the skills they learned in the HJ for their basic survival, not only trying to get home from wherever they were at war’s end, but for the harsh winter that followed. Clothing was scarce, so some had to wear the tattered remains of their uniforms, having been de-nazified. Others were lucky to be able to discard their uniforms altogether. Many were shocked when the horrors committed by the Third Reich were revealed, and that their childhoods were stolen from them as they were being set up to serve a criminal regime, all under the guise of patriotism. This was something that each would have to try and come to terms with in their own separate way.
 


 
Sources:
 

The Hitler Youth, by David Littlejohn

 

Child of Hitler, by Alfons Heck

 

The Hitler Youth, Origin and Development, by H.W. Koch

 

Hitler Youth, 1922-1945 by Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage

 

Hitler’s Last Courier, by Armin Lehmann

 

In Hitler’s Bunker, by Armin Lehmann

 

After the Reich, by Giles MacDonogh

 

Hitler Youth Forum www.hj-research.com


   
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