The Hitler Youth movement was an essential element of Hitlers plan, which grew and fell with the Third Reich. Although in the early 1930s the movement had great purpose, to bring Hitler to power, esprit de corps declined with the boredom of drill regimented activities and increased military focus. However, the coming of war and eagerness to defend the Fuhrer showed that the Hitler Youth was ultimately successful.
The Hitler Youth undoubtedly played a key role in the overall plan for the Third Reich. The movement was an invaluable source of zealous members for the NSDAP and affiliated organisations and later the main source of recruits for the SS. However the youth movement played an even more fundamental role in the Nazi plan.
Hitler called the youth “the guarantee for the future”. The Nazi believed “those who have the youth on their side, control the future”. For these reasons, the Hitler Youth was considered vital and consequently emphasis was placed childrens education and indoctrination, which was extremely successful. Alfons Heck wrote, “I had been completely indoctrinated, and I truly believed the Jews were an international threat to us” Leading to Hitlers power, there was a strong sense of purpose and morale within the Hitler Youth movement – it was a successful organisation as Hitler had planned. The movement was an opportunity to get away from home and participate in camps, while developing leadership and a name for oneself . Members took part in regular weekend hikes during which they sang songs and were fed Nazi propaganda by older leaders.
Hitler was moulding Germanys youth to be “swift as a greyhound, as tough as leather and as hard as Krupps steel”. Children saw the hyprocy of the Weimer Republic and believed strongly in Nazi ideas and policy. Hence strong growth and popularity within the HY. Some members walked four hundred miles to be part of the annual Nuremberg rally, and show their support for the Nazis. Enthusiasm was also shown through fund raising efforts.
Members collected donations during propaganda marches. Marches displayed esprit de corps with children singing Hitler Youth songs. Tireless propaganda activities of the movement which t helped enormously the Nazi party in the 1932 German elections, would not have been possible without strong morale within the movement. This implies that the German youth believed in Hitler. Although, as Hitlers power increased and the movement began to play a role in enforcing Nazi ideas, Hitlers “guarantee for the future” was beginning to show signs of failure.
By the end of the 1930s attraction to the once forefeeling Hitler Youth movement declined . Many youths didnt want the regimented lifestyle or detested how every element of life was controlled. Alfons Keck writes that everything was competition based, different branches competed in every activity, from fund raising to singing . The Nazis believed “German youth must no longer be confronted with choiceit must shaped according to the principles of National Socialism”. This belief prompted resentment. Other youth groups or gangs evolved.
Street clashes between a Hitler Youth patrol and a gang, such as the Edelweiss Pirates were not uncommon. A swing movement, which followed jazz music and dancing, also developed. Group sex and late night parties were protest to Nazi policy of sex separation and a nine oclock curfew. The war bought with it military drafting, and consequently the Hitler Youth lost many of its leaders to the war effort. This meant that young people were in-charge of large groups of boys.
It was not uncommon for a sixteen-year-old to command seven hundred boys, and in one instance a seventeen year old Hitler Youth leader commanded 2, 800 others. For this reason the leadership deteriorated, while to movement dramatically increased in size, as the Third Reich absorbed surrounding countries. By 1939 membership was 7, 287, 470 or a total 8, 970, 000 ten of eighteen-year-olds.
The Second World War meant that the Hitler Youth had to play a key role in the war effort. Its success in doing this is evident through initiatives and tasks assigned to Germanys reliable youth. At the beginning of the war the movement helped replace labour drafted to war. Members delivered ration cards and military notices.