Hitler youth, or “Hitlerjugend” was a paramilitary organization made up of boys aged 14-18, similar to a modern day boy scouts. There was a younger division for boys between 10-14 called “Deutsches Jungvolk”. The youth also had a female division, called the “Bund Deutscher Mädel “, or League of German girls, who were trained to become good wives and mothers. The Reich Labor service was established in 1935, which made male Hitler Youth serve six months improving the country. They cleared forests and swamps, made farm land, and built roads and highways. In 1936, the Reich Labor Service asked for BDM girls to serve in farms and in the countryside once they became eighteen. When Germany went to war, service was increased to a year, and became required for boys and girls.
Hitler Youth was shown as a fun and exciting way of serving your country.
Many German children were tempted to join by the promise of excitement.
Hitler strongly believed in the power of youth in a nation, and always praised children for their energy and determination. He knew that they were the ones that would inherit Germany’s future. In return for this devotion, Hitler Youth gave their loyalty and sometimes their lives for Hitler’s cause. Herbert Norkus joined the Hitler Youth when he was fifteen, distributing propaganda leaflets to promote Nazi ideas. He ran into a Communist street gang, and tried to flee. Norkus ran to nearby houses and knocked on doors to ask for admittance, but the homeowners, fearing the communist gang, refused him entry. The communist gang caught up to him to stabbed him to death. Nazi leaders took this sacrifice personally, and had a military funeral to honor his sacrifice. A plaque dedicated to him was placed on the building where he died.
The loyalty of Hitler Youth
Hitler Youth helped the Storm Troopers and SS destroy Jewish property and hurt Jews during Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. However, most Hitler Youth were completely unaware of the mass murder of Jews. Parents didn’t always want their children to join the Youth, but once the war broke out, it became mandatory. Some Hitler Youth were zealously loyal, and turned in their own parents if they spoke out against Hitler. Hitler Youth learned how to use weapons such as grenades, and went into the Nazi army once they were old enough. In the army they manned anti-air guns and later in the war they fought in combat.