Hitler Youth and Propaganda

By Molina Strickland

Who were the Hitler Youth?

Founded by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in 1926, the Hitler Youth was a youth organization that served to recruit future Nazi leaders and prepare them for future military service. From the ages 10-18, German teens that fit the "Aryan" profile were enlisted into the organization and taught different skills to support the Nazi regime. The Hitler Youth were commonly referred to as HJ meaning Hitlerjugend in German.

The boys spent a lot of time working on their physique through 'military athletics' (Wehrsport) which included hiking and sports. Hiking became the main training for military marches while activities around the campfires included basic weapon handling.

The girls however were taught about motherhood. Other than the usual fitness exercises to stay strong, the female role the Nazi idolized was a submissive, beautiful German Aryan woman who took the role of wife, mother and housemaker in the household.

Hitler had high expectations for the Hitler Youth as the organization itself was an extension of his beliefs that the future of Nazi Germany was its children.

What factors encouraged the young people to join the Hiter Youth?

The Nazis encouraged the young people to join as they thrived for excitement. Not only could they engage in a number of sporting activities, but the idea of being associated with armed forces quickly won them over. The children were also 'brainwashed' by the overwhelming amount of propaganda used in the media. Many had an admiration for Hitler and his work so that saved the Nazi Party a lot of trouble. Nationalism was a common topic in conversations and joining HJ seemed logical to the youth of Germany.

How did the HJ contribute to Anti-Smetism?

During school, the HJ bullied many of the Jewish children. The teachers overlooked matters and at times even encouraged bullying among peers. The Jewish children were heavily discouraged by these acts to go school and the Nazi Party used this as evidence to suggest that Jews were lazy as they did not bother to go to school.

What types of propaganda were the young people exposed to?

In Nazi Germany, Dr Joseph Goebbels was in charge of propanganda. In 1933, he set up the Reich Chamber of Commerce which dealt with the production of media and only members of the Reich Chamber could publish or perform anything to the public. Since the Nazis had control of the media, they immediately censored anything that opposes the Nazi policy. Censorship is banning or the removal of publications, which means that anything 'bad' that Hitler did was erased or banned to support his reputation. So while removing harsh evidence but also sneakily persuading the citizens to support the Nazi Party, they gained massive support from not only the citizens but also their children.

The young people of Germany were exposed to massive amounts of propaganda, during Hitler's rule. In every classroom there would be at least one portrait of Hitler. The subjects that were taught were closely associated with the militarism, nationalism and imperialism as they were studies based on the superiority of the Aryan race, the need for more Lebensraum and hatred for other races. Add in the fact that anti-semitism, nationalism and imperialism appeared on every newspaper, radio and poster made the Nazi extremely successful in gaining their goals for a generation of loyal, young Nazis.

Who opposed the Hitler Youth?

Nazi propagandists would presume that all of the young people were behind Hitler and the Nazi Party, however there were a few exceptions that did not agree with the Nazi's rules and bravely stood against it and formed youth protest movements. Some of the most prominent youth protest movements were the Edelwiss Pirates and White Rose who openly displayed anti-Nazi behaviour in response to the Hitler Youth movement. They would anger local Nazi leaders by listening and singing music that was banned, socialize with both genders and dress in bohemian clothing instead of the semi-military attire the HJ were required to wear. In 1937, such movements were ignored as they showed no threat to the Nazi regime but were considered irritating youths who were going through their rebellious phase (as the officials perceived it). However during World War 2 the regime was altered and demanded absolute obedience. The youths who were considered irritating were now a threat.

Due to the change in the regime, they began more proactive forms of resistance such as distributing anti-Nazi leaflets and vandalizing Nazi propaganda and buildings.

What happened to those that opposed the Hitler Youth?

Whoever opposed the Hitler Youth was against the Nazi and during World War 2, absolute obedience was mandatory. If young people were caught by the authority, they would be sent to juvenile concentration camps and sometimes to their deaths. Sometimes the authorities would use some kids as an example and carry out public hangings. This sent a strong message to the youth of Germany about the consequences of opposing the Nazi regime.