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The Hitler Youth WW2

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The first NSDAP youth movement was announced in 1922, however after the unsuccessful Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, the Nazi youth groups were disbanded. However many members went underground, operating clandestinely in small units under assumed names. By 1926, the Grossdeutsche Jugendbewegung was officially renamed Hitler Jugend Bund der deutschen Arbeiterjugend, (Hitler Youth League of German Worker Youth).

By 1930, the Hitler Youth had over 25,000 boys aged 14 and upwards, as members. It also set up a junior branch, the Deutsches Jungvolk, for boys aged 10 to 14. Girls from 10 to 18 were given their own organisation, the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM), League of German Girls.

In April 1932, the Hitler Youth was banned by Chancellor Heinrich Brüning in an attempt to stop widespread political violence. By June the ban was lifted by his successor, Franz von Papen as a way of appeasing Hitler whose political star was ascending rapidly.

A further significant expansion drive started in 1933, when Baldur von Schirach became the first Reich Youth Leader, pouring much time and large amounts of money into the project.

The HJ was organized into corps under adult leaders, and the general membership comprised boys aged fourteen to eighteen. From 1936, membership of the HJ was compulsory for all young German men. The HJ was also seen as an important stepping stone to future membership of the elite Schutzstaffel (the SS).

The HJ was organized into local cells on a community level. Such cells had weekly meetings at which various Nazi doctrines were taught by adult HJ leaders. Regional leaders typically organized rallies and field exercises in which several dozen Hitler Youth cells would participate. The largest HJ gathering usually took place annually, at Nuremberg, where members from all over Germany would converge for the annual Nazi Party rally.

The HJ maintained training academies comparable to preparatory schools. They were designed to nurture future Nazi Party Leaders, and only the most radical and devoted HJ members could expect to attend.

Each Hitler Youth member could purchase a specific Hitler Youth dagger (used as a field knife), once they had passed a number of physical tests. While Hitler Youth Leaders, wore a much more ornate dagger suspended by leather hanging straps.

By December 1936, HJ membership stood at just over five million. That same month, HJ membership became mandatory for Aryans, under the Gesetz über die Hitlerjugend law. This legal obligation was re-affirmed in 1939 with the Jugenddienstpflicht and HJ membership was required even when it was opposed by the member’s parents. From then on, most of Germany’s teenagers belonged to the HJ. By 1940, it had eight million members.

In World War II

In 1940, Artur Axmann replaced Schirach as Reichsjugendführer and took over leadership of the Hitler Youth. Axmann began to reform the group into an auxiliary force which could perform war duties. The Hitler Youth became active in German fire brigades and assisted with recovery efforts to German cities affected from Allied daylight and nighttime bombings. The Hitler Youth assisted in many other Reich organizations including the fire service, and Luftwaffe anti-aircraft auxiliaries.

By 1943, the Hitler Youth ranks were looked upon as a reserve to replace military manpower that had been lost. In 1943, the 12.SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend, was formed as a fully equipped Waffen-SS panzer division, where the majority of individuals being drawn from Hitler Youth were between 16 and 18 years old. This division deployed during the Battle of Normandy against the British and Canadian forces to the north of Caen, had a reputation for ferocity.

By the last year of the War, it was not unknown for 12-year-old Hitler Youth members to be put into combat uniform, and fight fanatically. In the case of defending Berlin from the Russian troops vast numbers of Hitler Youth were killed.

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