Shaping the Future: Indoctrinating Youth
"These boys and girls enter our organizations [at] ten years of age, and often for the first time get a little fresh air; after four years of the Young Folk they go on to the Hitler Youth, where we have them for another four years . . . And even if they are still not complete National Socialists, they go to Labor Service and are smoothed out there for another six, seven months . . . And whatever class consciousness or social status might still be left . . . the Wehrmacht [armed forces] will take care of that."
-Adolf Hitler, 1938
From the 1920s onwards, the Nazi Party targeted German youth as a special audience for its propaganda messages. These messages emphasized that the Party was a movement of youth: dynamic, resilient, forward-looking, and hopeful. Millions of German young people were won over to Nazism in the classroom and through extracurricular activities.
Education in the Nazi State
Education in the Third Reich served to indoctrinate students with the National Socialist world view. Nazi scholars and educators glorified Nordic and other "Aryan" races, while denigrating Jews and other so-called inferior peoples as parasitic "bastard races" incapable of creating culture or civilization. After 1933, the Nazi regime purged the public school system of teachers deemed to be Jews or to be "politically unreliable." Most educators, however, remained in their posts and joined the National Socialist Teachers League. 97% of all public school teachers, some 300,000 persons, had joined the League by 1936. In fact, teachers joined the Nazi Party in greater numbers than any other profession.
- Page from The Poisonous Mushroom
- Poster:"The German student"
- Nuremberg race laws chart
- Poster: "Students/Be the Führer's propagandists"
Founded in 1926, the original purpose of the Hitler Youth was to train boys to enter the SA (Storm Troopers), a Nazi Party paramilitary formation. After 1933, however, youth leaders sought to integrate boys into the Nazi national community and to prepare them for service as soldiers in the armed forces or, later, in the SS. In 1936, membership in Nazi youth groups became mandatory for all boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 17. After-school meetings and weekend camping trips sponsored by the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls trained children to become faithful to the Nazi Party and the future leaders of the National Socialist state.
- Hitler Youth armband
- Poster: "Youth Serves the Leader: All 10-Year-Olds into the [Hitler Youth]"
- Filmstrip canisters
- Scene from a youth rally
- A member of the Hitler Youth
League of German Girls
The Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls were the Nazis' primary tools for shaping the beliefs, thinking, and actions of German youth. While the development of a healthy body was emphasized through participation in sports, more typical activities for League of German Girls members were music, crafts, and various aspects of home economics such as sewing, childcare, and cooking. The outbreak of World War II had a great impact on the work of the League and its members served the war effort in many ways. Younger girls participated in door-to-door collections for the Winter Relief and older girls tended wounded soldiers or did agricultural work formerly done by men.
- Film: "We Belong to You"
- Members of the League of German Girls practice their gymnastics routine
- Poster: "You too belong to the Führer"
- After-school activities for member of League of German Girls
Upon reaching 18, boys were required to enlist immediately in the armed forces or in the Reich Labor Service, for which their activities in the Hitler Youth had prepared them. In autumn 1944, as Allied armies crossed the borders into Germany, the Nazi regime made a last ditch effort to fend off military defeat. It conscripted German youths under 16 to defend the Reich, alongside seniors over the age of 60, in the units of the Volkssturm (People's Assault).
- Volkssturm armband
- Members of the Hitler Youth at military training
- Poster: "For Freedom and Life / People's Storm"
- Toy figures representing Adolf Hitler and Nazi storm troopers
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