|The Hitler Youth:
An Effective Organization for Total War
by Guy Nasuti
Youth organizations have been a part of most cultures for generations. Seldom
have they been organized for total war. After Adolf Hitler took power in
Germany in 1933, it was decided by members of his totalitarian regime to
organize the youth of the nation so that they would one day become the future
warriors for the armed forces. These young Germans could be manipulated and put
into service for the good of the Third Reich and would also go on to become the
future warriors that would carry out the total war policies of Hitler and his
loyal henchmen. In time, many of these youthful Germans would become
fanatically devoted to the Nazi cause themselves. The Nazis molded the Hitler
Youth into an effective organization for total war through its racist and
martial education of young Germans, the pressing of Hitler Youth members into
an impressive labor force, and the creation of the 12th SS Panzer Division
(Hitlerjugend), famed for its ferocity on the battlefield.
The one man most instrumental in organizing German youth was a fervent Nazi.
Baldur von Schirach, a fawning admirer of Hitler's, and the son of an American
mother, rapidly climbed the ladder of success, and was appointed the leader of
the Hitlerjugend (HJ) organization. Schirach was a great organizer and quickly
began educating his new charges. One way he educated the young masses were by
holding youth rallies, the first two occurring on October 1 and 2, 1932 at
Potsdam, near Berlin. The thunderous marches, speeches, drills, and other
fanfare were what moved the crowd and also added new recruits into the HJ. That
single occasion in Potsdam drew "an impressive 70,000 boys and girls from all
over Germany, all of whom paid for the journey themselves." The organization
grew remarkably up until the start of the Second World War. By the end of 1933,
2 million young Germans had become members. Three years later that number more
than doubled to 5.4 million. Schirach soon claimed to "have the allegiance of
60 percent of all young people from ages ten to eighteen." And yet, Schirach
would not be satisfied until membership hit the 100 percent mark.
Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, also had a hand in educating
budding young Nazis. Propaganda was the most effective tool used by the Nazis
for brainwashing its citizens. With complete control over the press, speech,
education, and the relatively new medium of the radio, the Nazis were able to
influence young boys and girls in a way which had never been done before in
history. Hitler, Goebbels, von Schirach, and other party leaders were able to
speak directly to the youth of Germany, to exhort them to give their all for
the good of the Fatherland. In a speech given on 29 September 1940, a year
after membership in the Hitler Youth became mandatory, Goebbels tells his
||"Educating the youth during war can only be
done successfully by working closely with the youths themselves…. The war is
not only a great equalizer, it is a great educator….War once involved only a
small part of the population, whereas today it requires heroic work by all.
Since our enemy is waging war even against children, children too must play
their part…. When a nation is fighting for its future, which after all is the
future of its children, the youth have to be involved, they have to support the
battle with their full energy…. It is a good thing for the German youth to
fully experience these great days. They should do their best for the war,
giving their courage, their idealism, and their faith.
What Goebbels neglected to add, was that the youth should also give their
Many German youth thus joined the HJ because of speeches such as Goebbels', and
because of other various reasons. During the early years, before the war, the
Hitler Youth held camping trips where they would sing songs devoted to the
Fuhrer, athletic competitions, and the camaraderie that is found in being a
part of a team. In the 1930s, at the height of their power, the Nazis often
held mass rallies that celebrated not only their Fuhrer, but the new Reich as
well. These rallies became almost religious in scope, with all the pageantry
that attends large rituals. The swastika, which had been used as a symbol of
peace in other cultures, came to stand for the strength of the German state.
Mystical runic symbols were used to provide the youth with a connection to the
Aryan race, and the Teutonic knights of old. Alfons Heck, a young German boy
from the small town of Wittlich, described what drew him to the HJ:
||"The party had made a fine art of staging
enormous spectacles that inspired a new sense of national pride. Each September
in Nuremberg, seemingly all of Germany went on a seven-day nationalistic binge
that inspired the nation and stunned the rest of the world….it was a jubilant
Teutonic renaissance with the unmistakable message that Germany had regained
its rightful place among the great powers of the world."
Karl Schnibbe joined the HJ at the age of twelve. He remembers that he "could
hardly wait for the ceremony to begin." When Nazi leaders came recruiting
eligible children in his neighborhood, he could not wait to sign up. His father
did not approve, but it did not stop young Karl. "It was very exciting. The
overnight trips, campfires, and parades sounded like a great deal of fun." The
boys and girls who joined the HJ had to prove not only that they were healthy,
but also that they were "true Aryans." Interestingly, physically disabled
children were allowed to join a special section called the "Disabled and Infirm
Hitler Youth," so long as they passed the racial tests. Blind and deaf children
could join as well, provided their disability was not inherited. Mentally
challenged children were not allowed to join the HJ, even if their parents were
loyal party members. Jews were strictly forbidden from joining, although some
did, hiding the fact that they were Jewish and living constantly in fear of
being found out. In the trial period of membership, boys were required to
demonstrate their physical fitness: They ran races, swam, and performed
gymnastic routines. The boys had to undertake a three-day cross-country hike
and, to prove their courage and devotion, were also "required to dive off the
three-meter board (about ten feet high) headfirst into the town's swimming
pool." After the completion of this, the youth leaders presented their eager
charges with the coveted HJ dagger, which bore on the blade the militaristic
inscription "Blood and Honor." All of these physical activities, racist
indoctrinations, and brainwashing were intended for one simple reason: the
education of German youth into believing they were a master race which would
subjugate all other races after winning a global war.
The Hitler Youth was not just an organization for educating young boys however.
Young German girls between ages ten and eighteen were able to join the Bund
Deutscher Madel, or BDM (League of German Girls). The purpose of the BDM, in
the patriarchal movement of Nazism, was to train girls in "three important
interrelated functions." The first was to "serve as helpmates to the men," the
second to "bear them children and rear them according to Nazi values," and the
third was "to be faithful homemakers." Hitler needed these German girls to
understand that they must procreate to continue the Aryan race and move it
forward. The girls also participated in the same activities as the boys, such
as hikes in the country, campfires, theatrical plays, and folk dances. The
attractive uniforms were designed, much as the boys' officer-like outfits, to
subliminally impart conformity and sameness. A few of these girls, once they
were older, became female SS guards in Nazi concentration camps. Having been
taught anti-Semitism from their time in the BDM, women such as Irma Grese, a
former fanatical member of the BDM, entered the SS Female Helpers' training
camp. She watched and learned how to practice cruelty on inmates and engaged in
promiscuous sex with male SS guards. Such discipline "was designed to rob the
girls of any vestiges of conventional morality." Grese shortly thereafter
became the "Beautiful Beast" of Auschwitz and was later hanged by the British
for crimes against humanity. The BDM, like its male counterpart, was extremely
effective in educating girls for life in Hitler's Germany.
Hitler Youth School's were set-up around the country, to further indoctrinate
Youth Leaders, but a "normal" education could not be had at these institutions.
Instead, they were indoctrinated in Nazism and learned about race, religion,
and duty. The Nazis' devised a new standardized school curriculum, which was
called Weltanschauung, or "worldview." The Nazi flag and Hitler's
portrait hung in every classroom throughout Germany. "In the morning, we stood
at attention, and there was the Nazi flag," remembers Karl Schnibbe. "We always
had to start class with ‘Heil Hitler!' There was no more, ‘Good
morning, children.'" Any teachers who refused to teach the National Socialism
agenda were dismissed. HJ students were also more than happy to harass and
intimidate teachers who "did not espouse the Nazi worldview." The Nazis' did
little to stop their young charges with this outlandish behavior, until
Schirach became embarrassed and ordered the boys in his organization to obey
Alfons Heck, who had been educated in a prestigious Gymnasium, an education
that was "still largely the privilege of middle-and upper-class children,"
despite the eradication of class distinctions by the Nazis. Heck was able to
learn English at the Gymnasium, despite having "history lessons depicting the
Communist-Jewish infamy beginning even during World War I," that "prepared me
well, long before the Hitlerjugend knew I existed." The Nazi education
system was effective in its propaganda against the Jewish population. The
hatred instilled in many young Germans became intense enough to allow the
horrors of the Holocaust to happen. Few Germans questioned what they were being
taught, even if they had had personal relationships with Jews prior to their
re-education by the Nazis. Heck remembers pestering his teacher, Herr Becker,
to describe "how and why" the Jewish children were so different. Herr Becker
did so in his weekly "racial science" instruction, which contained such
observations as the "shape of their noses….[being] shaped like an upside-down
6." Yet, Heck admits that his childhood friend Heinz looked "more Germanic than
I with my French blood." When Heinz and the other Jewish children were kicked
out of the Gymnasium, Heck later has to undergo "character interviews in the
Hitler Youth prior to promotions," and "always denied having associated with a
Jew even at the age of seven." Heck was hardly the only HJ member to formerly
have, and then later deny having, Jewish friends. The Nazi education system
brainwashed an entire generation in its racist policies.
Twisting education in order to brainwash students was not the only effective
way the Nazis were able to exploit the HJ. Every HJ member, male or female,
were required to spend time in a labor force, working for the good of the
party, as well as the land. Heck remembers that:
||"When he [Hitler] came to power in 1933, there
were six million people unemployed in a population of 64 million. By 1938, that
number had sunk to a miniscule 200,000 out of a work force of 25 million. It
was an impressive achievement, even if it depended on conscription…. Finally,
there was the introduction of compulsory labor service for all young Germans,
regardless of their social status."
The HJ-Landdienst, or agricultural service, often spent summers helping
peasants work the land. These strong, exuberant, and healthy young Germans
helped in "harvesting, cutting wood, or milking cows." Such field activity
"helped serve the purpose of keeping the youths physically fit, while at the
same time honored the Nazi dogma of "Blood and Soil," while also attempting to
"put a stop to the current exodus from the land to the cities." There was also
a more sinister reason that the Nazis kept sending HJ members to go help on the
farms in the eastern territories-once the war machine came sweeping down to
conquer these lands, the HJ "would know those territories and how to exploit
them." During the war, this mission was put into effect, and teenagers "were
sent to the newly conquered western areas of Poland….The mission of German
youth was to re-educate those ethnic Germans, or Volksdeutsche , and
lead them back to the proper ways of the life and livelihood of their
forefathers." This "re-education" also occurred in occupied parts of Belgium,
and the Alsace-Lorraine area, which had been reconquered from France. The HJ
also "gave German lessons to ethnic Germans who had lost or adulterated their
language." They also spread Nazi-specific culture, such as that "derived from
traditional German music or folk dance." By 1942 this colonization work had
"become mandatory for members of the Hitler Youth, and they were typically
deployed during the summer or fall for a period of six weeks," when entire
classes were sent to the job. HJ members also became the guards of other youth
in the conquered territories, being "taught the techniques of subjugation,"
learning and becoming effective in making the indigenous populations slaves on
their own land.
Also during the war, the HJ became extremely helpful to the wartime effort at
||"The Hitler Youth went from door to door
collecting valuable raw materials, such as rags, paper, and scraps of metal for
recycling, an activity that was essential for the war economy. HJ members also
had to participate in the search for mushrooms and for herbs, used for tea and
medicinal purposes, as well as helping out in town and country in various
auxiliary positions, such as tram conductor, ersatz-coffee dispenser at train
stations, or letter carrier."
In addition to these duties, HJ members also assisted soldiers who were home on
furlough or sick leave, "many exhausted or disabled, some of them maimed beyond
recognition." The boys and girls of the HJ also helped in building
fortifications in the streets or near the frontlines and were on call for
emergencies and catastrophes such as fire and flooding. Many teenagers also
served as air raid wardens and helped pull civilians out of their bombed homes
and shelters. With many of their brothers and fathers off at war, the young
members of the HJ made a valuable contribution to Nazi society.
Many of these same HJ children became so infatuated by their Nazi education and
work ethic, that they became hostile towards anyone who did not share the Nazi
view of the world. Often, this included members of their own families. Since it
adversely affected whether or not they could become HJ members, these young
Germans demanded that their parents tow the party line or at least act like
Nazis for their sake. The appeal of the HJ was clear to all Germans, including
the parents. In one of the great ironies of history, parents suddenly became
afraid of their own children, especially if their sons were HJ members. The
adults found themselves living in fear that their son or daughter could report
anti-Nazi talk or behavior to the Gestapo, whereby they would end up in a
re-education or concentration camp. Alfons Heck, who during the war would end
up commanding 800 Hitler Youth soldiers, was completely devoted to the Nazi
cause. In his memoirs he writes that he occasionally heard other Germans, both
soldiers and civilians, make derogatory comments about Hitler or the Nazis and
debated whether to report them or not. He claims never to have done so, but it
is telling that Alfons' father once told his younger brother Rudi that he
thought his son was "an utter fanatic." The two never spoke about politics
throughout the war years. Even while the Allies were closing in on Germany,
Heck claimed that he continued to believe that Hitler would see them through,
and that German forces would push the Allies back. Schirach, the Reich
Youth Leader, "issued patriotic appeals and used psychological ploys such as
invoking peer pressure, which would serve as a powerful incentive for
non-organized German youths to join." But up until 1939, he did not have the
power to force anyone to join, and there were those who resisted, either
because of religious reasons, their parents not giving their consent to join,
or simply out of not wanting to conform. A popular example of one such group of
non-conformists was the Swing Youth, a group of music-and-dance loving German
youngsters who refused to join the HJ. Other groups consisted of young toughs
who battled the HJ in the streets and delighted in taunting and bloodying any
Hitler Youth they caught in their neighborhoods. By March 1939, on the eve of
war, Schirach finally got what he had been craving for years. Hitler now
thought it "prudent to fashion the HJ more strictly as a training cadre for the
Wehrmacht, and this could not be accomplished without coercion." It was thus
decreed that all adolescents from age 10 to 18 were "obligated to put in
service to the Hitler Youth." This pool of adolescents served as reserves for
all the soldiers that the Nazis would lose during the course of the war, with
the majority being lost on the Eastern Front. Within a few years, these young
boys would become the unquestioningly loyal and brutal soldiers of the 12th SS
Panzer Division, the Hitlerjugend.
In 1943, hundreds of thousands of young German lives had been lost on the
Eastern Front, with huge casualties in and around Stalingrad. According to
Hubert Meyer, who was the chief of staff of the 12th SS "Hitlerjugend"
Division, "these events led to extraordinary measures on the German side which
can most easily be summed up with the expression ‘Total War.' The Hitlerjugend
Division was created from volunteers from the HJ born in the year 1926. The
division "was to be a symbol of the willingness of the German youth to
sacrifice itself and of its will to achieve victory." On 10 February 1943,
Hitler gave his agreement to its formation in principle. Reichsfuhrer SS
Henrich Himmler, in a letter to Reichsjugendfuhrer Artur Axmann (who
replaced von Shirach in 1940), wrote:
||"I have submitted to the Fuhrer your offer, on
behalf of the youths born in 1926, to form a division of volunteers for the
Waffen-SS, and of the same value as the "Leibstandarte." I have also informed
him of your desire and request that this division be identified in a manner
which would clearly emphasize its origins and its simultaneous membership in
the HJ. The Fuhrer was highly pleased and has directed me to convey to you that
you should immediately begin the recruiting of volunteers…. I have further
proposed that the name "Hitlerjugend" be conferred on the division."
Much like the strict requirements needed to be a member of the 1st SS, Hitler's
Praetorian Guard unit, it was stated that volunteers for the Hitlerjugend
Division must be "recruited from those born during the first half of 1926."
Minimum height for the infantry soldier was 170 cm and 168 for Panzer,
motorcycle, and communications units. By comparison, minimum height for a 1st
SS "Adolf Hitler" trooper was 180 cm. The youth had to be fit for service and
"should have been, preferably, in possession of the HJ achievement badge." Once
recruited, members had to attend a pre-military training period of six weeks.
This training was allowed to replace the national labor service. The man who
was put in command of the Hitlerjugend was a highly decorated Russian front
veteran named Fritz Witt, former commander of the 1st SS. Because the 1st SS
had taken so many casualties fighting the Russians, it was also ordered that a
number of officers and noncoms be transferred to the new unit as well. Within a
few months after its formation, the HJ had a total available strength of 20,540
fanatical and fiercely loyal soldiers.
The HJ soldiers, contrary to widespread relief, had not had military training
in peacetime. Instead, their prior education in all things Nazi, coupled with
their strong work ethic during summers spent in labor units, made them
predisposed to become good soldiers. Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, a liaison
officer of the army to the Reichs-jugend leadership for a time said of
these young men:
||"There is no trace of mindless drill. Rather
too much spontaneity than too little. It is surprising that the boys adapt to
the discipline as recruits without any friction."
HJ leaders who had been wounded in other units, and then sent to the HJ to once
again become instructors to these teenaged warriors conducted the training.
Three priorities were set during training. The first was physical fitness,
which many if not all were already extremely well fit, due to the hikes,
sports, and games played by them while in the HJ. Interestingly, the recruits
were not allowed to smoke, and were not issued cigarettes, but received candy
instead. The second priority was character development. Because of the lack of
noncoms, many HJ recruits were encouraged to show initiative and leadership
abilities so that they may become noncoms. Those that succeeded were sent for
additional training to a special noncom course, where others would be chosen as
officer cadets. The third and probably most important training priority was
weapons and combat training. The youthful soldiers were trained in firearms in
open terrain. Often, they trained in battlefield conditions, with live
ammunition. This training would later lead to combat effectiveness on the
In April 1944, the HJ Division was redeployed to Normandy, between the lower
Seine and Orne rivers. The division began to dig in and make its defenses
ready, camouflaging its tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft guns. They had
endured nine months of training since officially being formed, and according to
Jochen Leykauff, a volunteer born in 1926, "was waiting for the attack across
the Channel….we were looking forward to it." Leykauff's determination and
confidence in throwing back the Allied attack can be gleaned from his memoirs:
||"The Allies planned to take apart the "baby
milk division," as they called us. But we were not afraid. Sometimes we even
got carried away a bit, and big-headed….We trusted our officers and noncoms who
had been hardened in battle….During combat training with live ammunition we had
enjoyed seeing them in the mud together with us…."
On 6 June 1944, the Allies invaded Normandy, France. The HJ Division was
finally going to have its chance to prove itself in battle, fighting for the
Fatherland and their Fuhrer.
With the confusion that accompanied the paratroop airdrops and the successive
landings of the Allied forces from the sea, the 12th SS was ordered to do
reconnaissance duties in the area of Caen, France. On 7 June, the HJ Division
was ordered to attack the right flank of British and Canadian forces near the
Caen-Luc sur Mer railroad line and drive the enemy into the sea. Close to
20,000 HJ soldiers were ready for battle and twenty-eight Canadian tanks were
promptly knocked out of action. One former HJ member said, "Our division fought
valiantly." By the middle of July, the division had lost 3,000 soldiers and
replacements were becoming more difficult to find. Many of these youthful
soldiers engaged in suicide missions that seasoned Wehrmact soldiers would
never have dared to attempt, such as allowing tanks to roll over them and then
detonating a grenade. Their commanding officer, Kurt Meyer, proudly claimed,
||"I know every single one of these grenadiers.
The oldest is barely eighteen. The boys have not yet learned how to live, but
by God they know how to die!"
But they became more hated for their war crimes than their utter fanaticism. In
the late summer of 1944, the HJ Division shot sixty-four British and Canadian
prisoners-of-war (which led to the sentencing of death of their commanding
officer Kurt Meyer after the war). Other sources put the number of POWs killed
outright at one hundred and sixty-four. Many Allied soldiers came to hate the
young fanatics, but they also earned grudging respect. One Canadian soldier
said, "They're a bad bunch. But are they ever soldiers!"
After being pushed out of Caen, the HJ became encircled some twenty miles south
with only 600 men fit for duty and no tanks. The Allied air attacks had helped
destroy the division in Normandy, and the 12th SS regrouped as part of the 6th
SS-Panzer Army. During twelve weeks of fighting in France, they lost 8,626
personnel, with at least 1,951 confirmed dead, including their beloved general
Fritz Witt. As tenacious as they were, the teenaged soldiers could not counter
Allied airpower or the massive amounts of soldiers and materials of the Allied
The HJ Division also played a role in the Ardennes Offensive, Hitler's bold but
ultimately useless plan to push the British and American armies out of Germany,
as well as being redeployed to Hungary, before being pushed back by the
Russians. Towards the end of the war, the HJ was refitted and were fighting
American troops in lower Austria. Near the river of Enns, the Americans
arranged for the unconditional surrender of the division. A general of the
division thanked his boys for "their valor, loyalty, and comradely spirit."
They had fought until they could no longer hold out, long after their beloved Fuhrer
committed suicide. With a heavy heart, the Brigadefuhrer closed with
||"….We set out on the bitterest journey of our
life as soldiers with our heads held high. In quiet composure, we will march
toward our destiny. We have fought bravely and with integrity on all theaters
of war, still, the war is lost. Long live Germany."
When the HJ entered captivity on 8 May 1945, 328 officers, 1,698 NCOs, and
7,844 men, a total of 9,870 men of the 12th SS "Hitlerjugend" were going into
American POW camps. The war for the Hitlerjugend division was over. But other
members of the Hitler Youth swore to continue to fight on against the Allies
approaching Germany from all sides. They called themselves, "Werewolves."
Joseph Goebbels had created the Werewolves, a desperate gamble to continue the
war through guerilla warfare. It would rely on German youth that had been
reared in Nazi doctrine. These young guerilla fighters, some younger than
twelve, would hold out and strike at the Allies behind the lines. Author
Michael Kater states "in order to inure HJ adolescents to inhuman acts, to make
them complicit in the crimes of the Third Reich, and to bond them to their
murderous reputation, its leaders ordered them to commit atrocities." Escaped
concentration inmates were hunted and killed, Allied soldiers were sniped at,
and wire was strung across roads in order to decapitate soldiers driving down
German roads. Kater claims: "Werewolves, by the more narrow and technically
correct definition, were small suicide commandos of boys and sometimes even
girls who were dropped behind enemy lines on what was already foreign-occupied
German soil, to reverse the conquest…." Werewolf commandos of the HJ were
organized and trained by the SS. The most successful Werewolf attack was the
assassination of the anti-nazi lord mayor of Aachen, Franz Oppenhoff. An SS
man, two HJ boys, and a BDM girl parachuted into Aachen, entered the mayor's
home, and shot him to death in March 1945. All were killed on their way back to
Germany after stepping on land mines. Many other young HJ members were
parachuted behind enemy lines, either Russian or American, to wreak havoc. Two
Hitler Youths were captured by the Americans near Brunswick, and were executed
on 1 June 1945. They were sixteen and seventeen years old. The Werewolf program
was ultimately a failure and never really got off the ground, due to lack of
weaponry and coordination, but not because of lack of will on the part of the
HJ. Many of the most fanatical HJ members were regrouping towards Berlin for
the final battle.
As the Allies approached Berlin, SS squads, including young HJ members, were
rounding up every available man and boy that could fight. Anyone who failed to
show up for training or report for duty was considered a traitor and was hanged
or shot on the spot. Karl Damm's Hitler Youth battalion was sent to the front
lines to dig trenches thirty miles east of Berlin. He stood guard duty one
night and heard rifle fire. The next day he counted fifty Russian tanks drive
past his unit's position. He later found his comrades dead in one of their
freshly dug trenches, all shot down by the Russians. Still, the youth continued
to fight. At the Havel River in Berlin, five thousand Hitler Youth were ordered
to defend the Pichelsdorf Bridge so a relief army could arrive from the south.
The relief army never came, as the Russians had destroyed it. The HJ held the
bridge for two days and nights against Russian tanks until 4,500 of them lay
dead or wounded. One of these wounded boys, carried into a hospital was told by
a doctor, "You dummy! Look at what this has gotten you!" The boy straightened
up, spit in the doctor's face, and said, "Long live the Fuhrer!" Such was their
fanaticism, even at the end.
Their Fuhrer however, did not live much longer. While his youth were making the
Russians pay a heavy price for entering Berlin, their leader had committed
suicide, rather than suffer the humiliation of surrender. He would leave that
for his own people. With the war finally over, many young Germans had to come
to terms with the horrors they had unleashed on the world. Like Reinhold
Kerstan, who was indoctrinated as a young boy into the HJ, later serving as a
flak-gunner in an adolescent anti-aircraft crew, many would take years to admit
that the man they admired most had wronged them:
||"Adolf Hitler, my beloved Fuehrer, had died.
Crushed with grief….[I] started to weep. Yes, I cried, great wracking sobs that
had built up in me for years. The old admonition, "A Hitler Youth never cries,"
meant nothing to me now that he was gone. I was no longer a Hitler Youth. It
was over, the dream, the fantasy. No one could ever take his place. The tears,
unstoppable, poured down my face."
Some would never admit that they had been wronged or had done wrong. Such was
the awesome hold that Hitler had had on their young psyches. A few, like the
former BDM-turned-SS guard Irma Grese, who never showed any remorse for her
murderous deeds, were held accountable for their war crimes and were executed
by the Allies. But most former HJ members were forced to live on with the
desolation and despair that the Nazis had inflicted on Germany. Their education
and work ethic, dictated and enforced by the Nazi regime, had been a way to
control and use them for Hitler's own evil purposes. The creation of the 12th
SS Hitlerjugend Division was deemed necessary by an army losing thousands of
soldiers to the Allied war machine. The fact that they were adolescents barely
of high school age was unimportant. They had been the recipients of a Nazi
education and were raised to believe that they owed their lives to Hitler and
the Fatherland. Many of them were fanatical followers who fought until the
bitter end. The 12th SS had amassed an impressive war record against the Allies
for having existed for such a short time. One of the most tenacious, fanatical,
and effective fighting units in Hitler's army, the Hitlerjugend slowed the
Allied advance in Normandy, giving the Allies an enormous amount of difficulty
in securing its flanks and making progress towards Paris. They later held the
Russians for a time and inflicted a steep price upon them for entering the
Fatherland. While the Werewolf program never got off the ground because of poor
planning and lack of materials, the will of the adolescent Nazis was there to
continue fighting on for the Fuhrer and the Fatherland. The Nazis, while
unsuccessful in their claims for world domination, were successful in creating
the means of an effective fighting force to unleash total war.
Show Footnotes and
. Michael H. Kater, Hitler Youth (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 2004), 18-19.
. Randall Bytwerk, 1998. "Die Jugend und der Krieg. Ansprache zur Eroffnung
der Jugendfilm stunden in Berlin," Die Ziefohne Beispiel (Munich:
Zentral verlag der NSDAP., 1941), 324-330. Downloaded from website:
http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/goeb33.htm. Accessed 12 November 2006.
. Alfons Heck, A Child of Hitler (New York: Bantam Books, 1985),
. Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow
(New York: Scholastic Inc., 2005), 26-27.
. Kater, 70-85.
. Bartoletti, 37-39
. Heck, 12-18.
. Ibid., 19.
. Kater, 33-35.
. Ibid., 35-36.
. Heck, 36.
. Ibid., 23.
. Hubert Meyer, The 12th SS: The History of the Hitler Youth Panzer
Division., vol.1 (Mechanicsburg, Pa: Stackpole Books, 2005), 2-10.
. Ibid., 12-17.
. Ibid., 47, 54.
. Bartoletti, 136.
. Kater, 214-215.
. Hubert Meyer, The 12th SS: The History of the Hitler Youth Panzer
Division ., vol.2 (Mechanicsburg, Pa: Stackpole Books, 2005), 500-50
. Kater, 226-229.
. Bartoletti, 141-143.
. Reinhold Kerstan, Blood and Honor (Minneapolis: David C. Cook
Publishing Co., 1980), 101.
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Hitler Youth: Growing Up In Hitler's Shadow.
New York: Scholastic, 2005.
Bytwerk, Randall, 1998. "Die Jugend und der Krieg. Ansprache zur Eroffnung der
Jugendfilm stunden in Berlin," Die Ziefohne Beispeil . Munich: Zentral
verlag der NSDAP., 1941. Downloaded from website:
http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/goeb33.htm. Accessed 12 November 2006.
Heck, Alfons. A Child of Hitler. New York: Bantam Books, 1985.
Kater, Michael H. Hitler Youth. Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
Kerstan, Reinhold. Blood and Honor. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook
Publishing Co., 1980.
Meyer, Hubert. The 12th SS: The History of the Hitler Youth Panzer Division.
Volume 1. Mechanicsburg, Pa: Stackpole Books, 2005.
___________. The 12th SS: The History of the Hitler Youth Panzer Division.
Volume 2. Mechanicsburg, Pa: Stackpole Books, 2005.
Copyright © 2006 Guy Nasuti.
Written by Guy Nasuti. If you have questions or comments on this
article, please contact Guy Nasuti at:
About the author:
Guy Nasuti was raised outside of Detroit, Michigan, and is a veteran of the US
Navy, having served in the Iraq War. A gradute student seeking his Masters in
Military History with a concentration in World War II, Guy currently attends
American Military University and is also attempting to write his first book
about his grandfather, Guy I. Wetherell, a veteran of the Second World War. He
currently resides in historic Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Published online: 12/03/2006.
* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent
those of MHO.