Adolf Hitler was the German leader behind the Nazi Party. In 1933, he was elected as Chancellor of Germany and became the Fuhrer just one year later. His dictatorship (from 1933 – 1945) was aimed at uniting all German people under one rule. His ambition to gain control divided the world into two opposing sides and resulted in the Second World War.
The Hitler Youth had been created much before the Nazi Party came into power. In his book, Hitler stated, “Whoever has the youth has the future”. During his reign, Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) was the youth wing organization of the ruling Nazi Party. By 1936, all ‘Aryan’ children were required to join a Nazi youth group. The Hitler Youth was the sole official boy’s organization throughout Germany until 1945 when it was disbanded and its subordinate units outlawed.
The first youth organization of the Nazi Party was established in 1922 in the city of Munich. It was called Jugendbund der NSDAP. It was the predecessor of the Hitler Youth organization. Following the Beer Hall Putsch, it was renamed “Greater German Youth Movement” in April 1924. After a further two years, in July 1926, it was once again renamed “Hitler Youth.” The architect behind this reorganization was none other than Kurt Gruber.
Adolf Hitler hated the weak. Therefore, one of the main goals of this group was to chisel away at the weak and leave only the fittest to rule. The Hitler Youth educated young people according to German (Nazi) principles. Boys between the ages of 14 and 18 were eligible to join. Every non-Jewish boy falling into this age group was required to join the Hitler Youth, which encouraged comradeship and physical fitness in its members through various outdoor activities.
The members of the Hitler Youth were systematically indoctrinated into Nazi ideology. Many of their physical activities closely resembled military training, such as weapons training, assault course circuits, and basic tactics. The main doctrine (and aim) of the Hitler Youth was to instill in all its members an undying and unwavering motivation to fight for the German cause when the time came.
Just like any other organization, the Hitler Youth also had a hierarchy – and uniforms. The highest rank was that of ‘Reich Youth Leader’. This was held by the official in command of the entire organization of the Nazi Party. At the top of the organization hierarchy, under the Reich Youth Leader came the Staff Leader, Senior Area Leader, Area Leader, and Head Banner Leader. The uniform worn by the members of the Hitler Youth consisted of black shorts, a tan shirt with pockets and a rolled back neckerchief that was secured with a woggle.
Hitler strongly believed in the power of the young and their importance in shaping the country’s future. As a result, there were multiple groups associated with the Nazi Party who were actively recruiting and brainwashing children into following the Nazi doctrine. Hitler Youth was the key group that was used to rally all the other youth groups to the Nazi cause.
In 1933, at the beginning of Hitler’s reign, there were 50,000 members in the Hitler Youth. However, many did not have to be forced to join as most were drawn by the sense of belonging and importance they felt as part of this group. By the end of the first year of Hitler’s reign (1933), the numbers of Hitler Youth had swelled to about two million members.
Kurt Gruber was the first chairman of the Nazi youth group, later called ‘Hitler Youth’. He led the group from 1926 to 1931. After a short power struggle, Gruber managed to make the group the sole Youth Organisation of the Nazi Party. He was replaced by Theodore von Rentein in 1931.
The group was organized into different corps under adult leaders. The general age of most members ranged from 14 to 18. Hitler Youth had several different local cells on the community level, which had weekly meetings to learn and teach the various Nazi doctrines. Rallies and field exercises were usually ordered by the regional leaders. This gathering usually took place annually at Nuremberg (known famously as the Nuremberg Rally).
During the Second World War, the Hitler Youth became active in fire brigades and assisted with recovery in several German cities affected by Allied bombing. They also assisted in different organizations such as the Reich postal service, Reich railroad service, and other government offices. Towards the end of the War, they even aided the German Armed Forces against the Allies. As a result of the high rate of German casualties, members of the Hitler Youth began to be recruited during Operation Cobra at very young ages.
The Hitler Youth was subsequently disbanded by the Allied powers after the Second World War ended. Once Germany was defeated, the Allied Control Council abolished all NSDAP organizations (including the Hitler Youth) on October 10Th, 1945. Since many of the members of the Hitler Youth Group were young children, they were not seriously prosecuted or punished. However, several of the organization’s adult leaders were put on trial by Allied authorities. Baldur von Schirach, who was the head of the Hitler Youth from 1931 to 1940, was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. The organization was later banned under the German Criminal Code.