The Nazi party intended that the population under its control, and future generations, would have absolute loyalty to Adolf Hitler, the regime, and Nazi ideals. To accomplish this aim, complete indoctrination of children into Nazi ideology was a priority, and the youth of Nazi Germany were a particular focus of the Nazi regime’s propaganda. The Hitler Youth also formed a key part of the strategy, intending to grow its members into disciplined adults who knew and saw the world as dictated by the Nazi regime.

The strategy of utilising youth groups in conjunction with propaganda targeted towards the youth, and a school curriculum designed to indoctrinate children was highly effective; members and former members of the Hitler Youth were among the most committed Nazis.


The roots of the Hitler Youth begin before the Nazi’s rise to power. From the 1920s children were targeted by the Nazi Party for exposure to their ideas, such as race consciousness. They were prepared for potential future entry into the SA; the Nazi Party’s paramilitary like organisation, the Storm Troopers (Sturmabteilung). Conformity and loyalty were of paramount importance.

The original youth movement was established in 1926, and developed into a distinct organisation to train children intended to become Nazis of the future. After Adolf Hitler’s rise to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the move towards incorporation of all other youth groups such as Catholic groups, and outlaw of the Boy Scouts, ensured inclusion of as many children as possible.

In December 1936, the Law on the Hitler Youth decreed that German children should join the Hitler Youth. Further legislation called the Regulations on implementing the Law on the Hitler Youth made membership mandatory in 1939. These laws required all children who fitted Nazi racial ideals to serve in the Hitler Youth from the ages of ten to eighteen. Specifically, boys aged between 10 and 14 would form the Deutschen Jungvolk [DJ] and those between 14 and 18 would form the Hitler Youth. Membership increased to 5.4 million children prior to 1939.

The Law on the Hitler Youth was intended to ensure, through academic and physical education, that the future of Nazism was secure in the hands of an ideologically and racially aware youth. The law mandated who had to join, and who was prohibited from joining. As well as racial prohibitions, children who were struggling in school and deemed unable to progress without exclusion were not required to take part in the otherwise mandatory activities.

Parents who did not enrol their children into the Hitler Youth were penalised in conjunction with the law. A fine of 150 marks, or confinement, was the penalty for not registering children by the March 15, deadline each year. Preventing children attending Hitler Youth meetings could have led to imprisonment.

"Hille had to join the Hitler Youth and wear the brown uniform with the Swastika on the armband. We both felt uncomfortable and embarrassed about it. It was never talked about"

Anne Kind OBE 

Holocaust Survivor; quote from Survival

The League of German Girls

Children were split into groups based on their age and gender. Girls between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one would join The League of German Girls, known as the BDM (Bund Deutsche Mädel), while girls between the ages of ten and fourteen joined the Jungmädelbund (JM). These were designed to prepare young women for their futures as mothers in the Third Reich. The BDM focused on educating young women in sports, racial awareness, and community work in order to prepare them for their role as mothers.


Other Youth groups

Catholic Youth groups were a popular part of German society prior to the rise of Nazism. Members of the Hitler Youth were known to harass members of these groups which faced pressure due to the Catholic Church’s refusal to comply with the Hitler Youth regulations. Although the Concordat of 1933 did allow some protection for Catholic groups, by 1939 when the Hitler Youth became mandatory, many Catholic groups had been disbanded.

Jewish youth groups including Maccabi Hatza’ir and Blau Weiss maintained large numbers of members through the interwar years. Following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, Jewish youth groups remained openly for a short time. However, by 1939 it became obvious that Jewish groups would not be tolerated.

Jazz groups were a large part of youth society in the inter war years. After 1933, the popular Swing Youth (Swingjugend) developed into a protest movement as the Nazi regime demanded boycotting of all ‘alien’ culture, including jazz music.

Following the absorption of all other groups into the Hitler Youth, many members of former groups still met in secret at great risk to themselves.

Leadership of the Hitler Youth

The leadership emphasised conformity throughout the Hitler Youth movement. The original leader of the Hitler Youth from the 1920s until 1931 was Kurt Gruber, however he was criticised due to the youth movement’s slow growth comparative to the wider Nazi party. The movement gathered momentum under Baldur Von Schirach, who was appointed leader of the youth in the German Reich in 1933. At this time the movement grew and strengthened its militaristic atmosphere. In 1940 after criticism from other leading Nazi officials that Baldur Von Schirach would be incapable of creating a force as ardent as required by Adolf Hitler, Artur Axmann was given control. Although the Hitler Youth had been militarised before, Axmann introduced further practical training to the program, and took a more aggressive stance on the teaching of ideals. Artur Axmann remained in control of the movement until the end of the Second World War, where he commanded Hitler Youth members in the Battle of Berlin.


Activities in the Hitler Youth were designed to further the aim of preparation of children for their futures in as the next generation of soldiers and mothers. They supported and enhanced the curriculum taught in schools, where all lessons were moulded around the Nazi understanding of history, biology, and geography. Children were taught about the world in a manner which justified the actions of the Nazi regime, and promoted conformity and obedience in all aspects of life.

Activities to extend the sense of belonging further indoctrinated children into the Nazi regime; the Courage Test (Mutprobe) involved carrying out a daunting task that varied from group to group, but normally involved jumping from height or diving into deep water. The completion of this test entitled members to carry the Hitler Youth dagger, that children who achieved this talked of it with pride and honour demonstrates the effectiveness of such measures as tools for indoctrination.

Programs were created for Hitler Youth members to train in either Motor, Marine or Flieger, leading them to a career in that area in the armed forces. Eventually members showing promise were further educated in the military school, potentially to join the SS.


Sport formed a large part of Hitler Youth movement activities, being seen as a method of ensuring conformity and producing healthy soldiers and mothers. As such, sport was taken very seriously by the Nazi regime, with many Hitler Youth groups putting on displays to show off the agility of their members.

Certain sports were favoured, for example athletics became compulsory for all members. Other sports included boxing, which was a particular favourite of Adolf Hitler, swimming, fencing, and football, all of which were intended to promote a further sense of community and healthy living. There were competitions at local and national level to encourage a fighting spirit in members.

Hiking was also a major part of the sporting curriculum in the Hitler Youth, with many members taking part in national and regional hikes to sites of historical importance within Nazi Germany. These hikes were used as a method of improving the members marching ability and further preparing them for life as a soldier by introducing them to body contact.


Musical education was used to promote conformity and unity. One aim of musical education within the Hitler Youth was to begin the training of young boys for their careers in the armed forces. Favouring the trumpet, drum and fife, the children were taught soldiers songs and military fanfares, designed to inspire marching, emphasising the paramilitary ideals of the movement. Girls in the BDM were encouraged towards the recorder and singing.

The emphasis was on group performances rather than solo exhibitions, further inspiring young people to work together and conform. Many music groups, both instrumental and choral, were created within the Hitler Youth movement. They performed at official ceremonies, Nazi festivals such as the Nuremburg Rally, and celebrations of the high ranking leaders of the Nazi regime, particularly Hitler’s birthday on April 20. They also occasionally played abroad in nations such as fascist Spain, and France following the occupation in 1944. Musical radio broadcasts by members of the Hitler Youth were also considered an important part of the use of music. Hitler Youth bands provided instrumentals between political broadcasts in an attempt to draw the members of the movement away from Western music that was considered ‘alien’ to the Nazi ideals.

Music in the Hitler Youth was organised by Wolfgang Stumme, with the title Oberbannfuhrer, appointed in 1934 by Baldur Von Schirach. Wolfgang Stumme was assisted by Karl Cerff, who was strongly linked to the SS and propaganda; the two organised all aspects of musical education within the Hitler Youth, and intended to ensure that only Nazi approved music was played throughout the Third Reich.


 Like other aspects of the Hitler Youth, the uniform was used to foster conformity and belonging through creating an atmosphere of oneness, and preventing any individual from appearing different. The paramilitary style of the uniform further enforced the militaristic methods of training used to prepare these children for their later lives; uniforms allowed the Hitler Youth to feel important, differentiating them from the rest of the community.

Under the initial leadership of Kurt Gruber in the 1920s, the uniform was introduced as a brown shirt, black shorts and the Hitler Youth armband (red with a white swastika) for the summer.  Typically, a black belt, grey socks, a black scarf and brown cap was also worn as part of the uniform, further adding to the sense of belonging to the movement. A winter uniform was also created in 1934, consisting of black trousers, black jacket, brown shirt and black scarf.

The Second World War

Members of the Hitler Youth were utilised towards the war effort, and to fulfil roles left by men conscripted into the armed forces. These included civic duties such as delivering letters, and aiding the emergency services. Teenage members also assisted the Luftwaffe with maintaining anti-aircraft defences, they were known as the Luftwaffenhelfer-Hitler Jugend and continued to wear the uniform of the regular Hitler Youth.

With Adolf Hitler having been in power from 1933 until 1945, and roots of the Nazi party and the Hitler Youth preceding this, many children had not known life before the Nazi regime. Some were young when the Nazis rose to power, and had experienced years of Nazi teachings and propaganda. Members and Former members of the Hitler Youth were amongst the most ardent fighters encountered by allied forces.

After the Second World War prominent Nazi officials and supporters were put on trial for their crimes. Baldur Von Schirach who had held multiple roles within the Nazi Party, including leader of the youth, was convicted of crimes against humanity.    


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