Who sided with the Nazis in World War II?
Childhood under Hitler
From party youth to state youth
In 1926 the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) founded the Hitler Youth (HJ) as a youth organization of the National Socialists, four years later the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM).
When the NSDAP came to power in 1933, other youth organizations were banned and the National Socialists' youth organization became a mass organization. Baldur von Schirach had been the leader of the Hitler Youth since 1932. The basis for the organization was the HJ law of 1936.
Joining the HJ or the BDM became mandatory, but not everyone was allowed to become a member. The sick and weak were rejected and the Jews were excluded from membership of the Hitler Youth. Even if some parents didn't like it when their children wanted to join the Hitler Youth, it wasn't easy to stop them.
Anyone who tried to do so could face fines and imprisonment. In 1939 the Hitler Youth therefore had almost nine million members. The ten to 14 year olds served in the German Jungvolk or the Jungmädelbund, the 14 to 18 year olds in the HJ or in the BDM.
Walk and sing
"Pimpfe" was the name given to the children in the German Jungvolk. Every boy and girl was supposed to get a uniform from home and was solemnly introduced to the new association. Some children had been waiting a long time to finally be able to take part. They met on weekends and at home evenings to do sports together, to pass tests of courage and to be trained in National Socialist thinking.
"Hard as Krupp steel, nimble as greyhounds and tough as leather" the children should be and many wanted it too. The learning of war-suitable exercises was playful, but under strict military discipline. Most of the children did not notice how their will and character should be shaped in the sense of the National Socialists.
"Germany, look at us, we dedicate death to you as the smallest deed.
Once he greets our ranks, we become the great seed.
So let the flags fly in the great dawn,
that lights us up to new victories or burns to death. "
They sang such songs - and when the war broke out, many sang with even more fervor, because they felt important. They were needed to save Germany.
To become heroic, a part of the fighting people, that became the goal of many children in the Hitler Youth. For her it was a good goal: to fight together for the people or as a girl to be available at any time to help the soldiers. War was something where you could prove your courage and be a "whole man".
After all, you had learned that the enemy was evil and wanted to harm the good Germans. This ideology was already passed on in children's books - just like that of the evil Jew, who always looked grim, vicious and sinister on children's drawings. Dangers they wanted to face.
Many children were therefore very happy when, with increasing age, they learned more and more of what distinguished them as adults - they got to know the craft of war.
At first they were used in harvest operations, in collecting campaigns for the winter relief organization or as air force helpers. The playful handling of field exercises gradually became serious, handling the weapon was part of the learning program.
At that time, twelve-year-olds learned to shoot with carbines and later also how to use the bazooka. In 1943 most of the anti-aircraft guns were manned by Hitler Youths. With the declaration of the "Total War" at the beginning of 1943, the National Socialists introduced the secondary school leaving certificate, which made it possible for teenagers to go to war.
End of war
When the Second World War finally drew to a close, the boys and young men no longer understood the world. They had grown up with the firm belief that everyone would fight to the last man to help Germany win. And victory was also out of the question for them.
But now they had to experience that adults pinched, that the soldiers surrendered instead of - "hard as Kruppstahl" - fighting to the last man. And they took up arms themselves in order to finally pursue their destiny.
In a regulation from 1934 it said: "This characteristic training of the young German finds its external expression in the Hitler Youth in his voluntary subordination, his obedience to his leaders, in his sense of duty, his camaraderie, his love for his leader, his fellow citizens and his fatherland, in which at all times voluntary commitment of one's own life for the idea of National Socialism. "
In September 1944 the Volkssturm was formed, which was to fight mostly on the home front until the so-called final victory. Above all, young people and old men were now trained in crash courses in order to hide the impending defeat.
Tens of thousands of soldiers died in these final skirmishes, many of them only 16 years old or younger. Some survived. The largest Allied prison camp for underage soldiers housed ten thousand boys between the ages of 14 and 16.
(First published: 2004. Last update: 23.03.2020)
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