Adolph Hitler’s reign over Germany reflects one of the darkest periods in western civilization. The question that remains today is how so many people could be convinced to commit such unspeakable acts of horror. There are quite a few reasons why the German people followed the lead of the Nazis so strongly. One of those reasons was indoctrination. Among all the forms of indoctrination the Nazi Party employed, the Hitler Youth is considered among the most unnerving.
Hitler believed that the future of German supremacy would be cemented in its youth. The Hitler Youth, a paramilitary organization comprised of young males between the age of 14 and 18, was directed at fostering this ideal. It was also designed to help train future loyalists for the Secret Service, Gestapo, and other Nazi Party organizations.
The Formation of the Hitler Youth
A common misconception about this organization was that it was originally established after Hitler became Chancellor. However, the origins of the Hitler Youth date as far back as 1926. In 1922, an organization called the Adolf Hitler Boy’s Storm Troop was founded. It was adapted from the German Workers’ Party of 1919, and was renamed in 1920 when Hitler was becoming influential in Germany. However, the group was disbanded when Hitler was arrested after attempting to seize power by force.
Other Organizations Related to the Hitler Youth
There were other organizations which served similar purposes to the Hitler Youth. One such organization, called the Deutsches Jungvolk, was designed for boys between the age of 10 and 14. There was also an organization for young girls called the League of German Girls, or Bund Deutscher Mädel.
The Goals of Adolph Hitler
Hitler had very little tolerance for those he considered to be weak. Therefore, one of the goals of these youth organizations was to “chisel away” at the weak. He wanted both young boys and girls to be strong mentally and physically. In essence, Hitler wanted future soldiers willing to sacrifice for the state.
Both the younger and older boys’ movements had a simple goal: to prepare the young to be domestic and international soldiers of the state. Hitler’s goal for women was to craft the perfect mothers.
The Growth of the Youth Movement
When Hitler was freed from prison, he resumed his political pursuits and reestablished the youth movement. In 1933, the membership had grown to a stunning figure of 100,000 children and young adults. When Hitler became Chancellor and, soon after, assumed dictatorial control of Germany, he eradicated all other youth movements in the nation. This helped the numbers of the Hitler Youth to swell, and its membership soon reached 4 million. By 1936, joining was nearly compulsory unless a fee was paid to be exempted from service. In 1939, it was virtually impossible to be exempted under any circumstances.
World War II started in 1939, with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Hitler had far greater plans concerning global territory than just those nations near his borders. He would require a massive and loyal army in order to achieve his goals. The Hitler Youth movement and certainly laid the foundation for training young men for military service. It was also used to train young women for domestic support during the war.
Much of the agenda for youths entailed preparing them mentally and physically for war. In addition to military-style marching, the daily routine also included learning marksmanship, the use of bayonets, and how to throw grenades. They even covered the basics of trench warfare. A child that started at age 10 would have eight full years of experience by the time he was 18. In essence, nearly half his life would have been spent engaged in basic military training.
Hitler’s Image in the Organization
The youth were taught to worship Hitler and pledge undying loyalty to the point that their devotion to Hitler would exceed their loyalty to their family. Often, children would turn parents into state authorities if they felt their parents were a threat to the Nazi Party in any way.
The Aftermath of World War II
After World War II ended, the Allies forced the disbandment of the Hitler Youth. This was part of the Allies’ denazification plan for Germany. While questions arose regarding whether or not to bring war criminal charges against the young members of the organization, it was eventually determined that the children’s minds were warped by the actions of the adults in power. Therefore, the adults in charge of the Hitler Youth organization were held accountable, with a few of them being tried for war crimes.
The Legacy of the Movement
The legacy of the movement is that it is seen as the most corrupt and wide scale form of child abuse and political indoctrination ever. It is still used as an example to this day of how the state can abuse its power in its control of the young.