After Hitler had won the election in 1933 his main aims consisted of making a racial Germany, a strong Germany and a Volksgemeinschaft (peoples community). To do this he had to win over the hearts and minds of many German youths, to ensure that his dream of making a 1000-year Reich was fore filled. The ‘hearts and minds’ of people just meant that Hitler wanted all youths to think the way the nazis did and feel the way the nazis did and have the same thoughts that the nazis did. Hitler wanted to make youths feel as if the Nazis were a close, trusting, sharing community.
Hitler wanted to create a volksgemeinschaft, where everyone worked together for the good of the country, and where everyone was the same race with the same thoughts and feelings. He wanted the members of the volksgemeinschaft to be healthy, fit, loyal to him and to be Aryan. The volksgemeinschaft was so important to Hitler because it united all people in the country, ready for the nazi plans for war.
Hitler also wanted to create a 1000-year Reich. This is why he saw children as the most crucial element for nazi success. They would be the citizens that would be carrying on the German race, not the adults.
In 1939 Hitler said in a speech,
“We older ones are used up…We are rotten to the marrow”
This shows that Hitler felt that he didn’t need the older generations because the could not provide him with the things that he needed, they were useless to him in the respect that he wanted to create a 1000-year Reich.
“But my magnificent youngsters! Are the finer ones in the world!
With them I can make a new world”
This was the sentence that followed and shows that Hitler knew that youngsters were the key to the nazi success. He knew that he could transform Germany with them and also go on to change the world.
Throughout this essay I am going to examine the consequences of the nazi policies for youths and how successful Hitler was in doing this.
Firstly Hitler had to change the way that children thought about certain issues. He knew that children were influenced by what they were taught and what they read in school. The Nazis didn’t want a mass of inelegant children because they would probably not fight well for the country in the war because they would grow into rich businessmen and some children may start to think of their own opinions and perhaps argue against the Nazis.
This is why Hitler organised the burning of many books – so that children would not be influenced by non-nazi ways and ideas.
Schools did change under the Nazis but not a great deal, because Nationalistic teaching had been common long before Hitler had come to power. It was mainly the timetables that changed, along with the actual lessons that were taught.
PE and games was increased to 2 hours a day so that young children would be fit for fighting. In some schools it was common that children were expelled because they were unfit! History focussed mainly on the modern world, such as the nazi rise to power and the treaty of Versailles. Biology was a key subject because it explained nazi eugenics. Geography taught children about land that had been taken as a result of the treaty of Versailles, which would turn many youths against France and England. Every single subject had a purpose for the nazi plans.
Girls were taught differently to boys because they could not fight in a war. They were encouraged to be taught domestic science and maths so that if Germany had to ration food they would be able to use the minimum ingredients possible. They were taught housekeeping and eugenics so that they would produce Aryan offspring.
Religious education had been abolished by 1939 because it was simply no use to the Nazis. Despite what I have written about Nazis not needing intelegant people, they did need some intelegance for their future leaders. So the Nazis set up schools called NAPOLA’s. These schools were military in character and were boarding schools with even greater emphasis on PE and games. There were only 39 of these schools in 1943 because the Nazis needed only a small amount of intelegance.
Jews were often mentioned in maths textbooks as part of a question. One question describes the bombing of the centre of the Jews (Warsaw). This would have influenced the children without them knowing that it was an extremely terrible thing to even mention, and would have encouraged hatred towards the Jews.
The Nazi party were basically indoctrinating all children’s minds with nazi ideas and the nazi way of life.
The Nazi policy for education was successful in some ways but not in others. By 1937 an amazing 97 % of the countries teachers had joined the Nazi teachers organisation. However a staggering 67% of these were forced to join. Dr Schuster, a geography teacher, obviously did not approve of the nazi interference with education and said,
“Education is being degraded by
There were many other teachers who shared these views, which shows that the Nazis did have opposition.
Children also had to give the Nazi salute at the start of school each day, as this source shows.
This does not prove, however, that the pupils believed in the nazi ideas, For example I sit every day in assembly with the entire year group, we are all silent but this does not prove that everyone is listening.
The Nazis did, I believe, succeed in controlling universities and how many people went into them, as there was a 56,000 decrease in students entering in 1933. However they were unsuccessf7ul in controlling the leaders there. The following statistics show that students in university and leaders were quite strong opposition: –
* 10% of university teachers were sacked.
* Albert Einstein was lost to the Americans.
* 25% of students avoided joining the Nazi controlled German students league.
I think that it was much easier to indoctrinate the minds of vulnerable 5-10 year olds than it was to convert the minds of 15-20year olds. This is because the older generation has already been taught right from wrong and has the ability to develop its own opinions. When you are young you tend to believe a lot of the things that you are told especially by teachers and elders.
The Nazi party also wanted to control what the youths were taught outside school because if a child would go home after school and tell his/her parents about a question which involved bombing the Jews the parent could interfere with the indoctrination of his/her mind. Therefore the Nazis involved itself in youth movements for both boys and girls. This meant that youth spent lots of time away from home and more importantly away from their parents. The Hitler youth was founded in 1926 and offered exciting activities for young teenage boys and girls and therefore many youths joined. The Hitler youth not only took children away from their interfering parents but also made the children even more fit after they did activities such as chariot racing. It also made the nazi party seem exciting and active. In school the Nazis could not really have pupils taking part in fire jumping.
By 1933 all youth groups had been taken over by the Hitler youth, and it was compulsory to join by 1936, which made it seem like a chore and therefore made it a little less successful.
The Hitler youth was split into the ‘ Hitler youth boys’ and the ‘league of German maidens girls’. At the age of 13 the youth became eligible for the Hitler youth, from which he was graduated at the age of 18. At the age of 18 he became a member of the Nazis and served in state labour services and armed forces until he was 21. German girls were trained for comradeship, domestic duties and also motherhood.
The Hitler youth boy’s activities were fitted directly to the nazi aims. The activities involved sport, Military activities, hiking, camping, fire jumping, and even practising funerals. This was to prepare them for Hitler’s war plans. The league of German maidens took part in activities that would make them a good mother such as bed making, and also were made to do exercise so that they would produce perfect Aryan offspring.
To begin with, the Hitler youth was a roaring success. Many youths joined because they were,
“Fired by high ideals such as comradeship, loyalty, honour…”
As Anton Klonne, a former Hitler youth remembers. Youths were actually joining for the reasons that Hitler wanted them to join for – they wanted to be part of a Volksgemeinschaft. Some youths however joined because they wanted to do the activities that were on offer, not because they were interested in the Nazis and Hitler. Some children just wanted to go on a camping holiday away from home.
Marianne Gartner joined the Hitler youth at the age of 12 in 1938, and in her memoirs she wrote,
“I was, however, not thinking of the Fuhrer, nor serving for the German people; when I raised my right hand, but of the attractive prospect of participating in games,”
This quotation shows that some people joined the Hitler youth because they liked the look of the activities. They were not remotely interested in Hitler and the Nazi policies.
However, after the Nazi’s downfall, we cannot be sure that she is not lying to make us believe that she was not won over by the Nazis. This is why we have to be careful when analysing peoples memoirs – they may be biased.
Some children just wanted to get away from their parents and escape from childhood as Melita Maschmann said,
“I wanted to escape my childish narrow life and I wanted to attach myself to something that was great and fundamental.”
There were many different reasons why youths joined the Hitler youth and there are many reasons that are told that are not true.
As WWII approached Hitler focussed mainly on military training and many youth were turned off as a result. The military activities were fun to begin with but they began to take over hiking and camping, which made the activities seem like a school lesson.
Towards the end of WWII Hitler even began to use youths to defend his cities because of a lack of soldiers.
The Nazis did not succeed in winning over the hearts and minds of all German youths. The military activities turned many people away and various gangs started to appear and the anti-hitler youth movement appeared.
The Nazis identified three groups of anti-Hitler youths – The ‘swing’ movement, the Edelweiss pirates and the White Rose.
The ‘swing’ group was made up mainly of middle-class teenagers. They often went to parties where they listened to American and English music. They even accepted Jews at their clubs! They were basically teenagers who liked a good time with their friends smoking, drinking and talking about and having sex.
The Edelweiss pirates were working class teenagers and had different names in different cities. The members were mainly aged 14-17 and were very anti-Nazi. They did activities like camping but changed them slightly from the way they were done in the Hitler youth – this also proves that children did join because they liked doing various activities. The pirates were much freer in their attitude towards sex and almost everything else. They were known to actually attack Hitler youth members. There were about 2000 members by 1939 and this number raised during the war.
The white Rose was one of the unsuccessful anti-Nazi groups. They fought mainly against the Nazi slaughter of the Jews and Poles. They distributed leaflets attacking the nazi methods. In 1943 most of the leaders were caught and publicly executed. This led to the extinction of the White Rose.
To begin with the pirates were just seen as rebellious teenagers but later in the war they caused massive problems for the nazi authorities. The Nazis could not just treat the pirates like the Jews and exterminate them because they needed the workforce and soldiers for the war. They sometimes arrested the pirates and sometimes ignored them. By 1944 in cologne pirate activities escalated. The pirates helped escaped prisoners and army deserters and even killed the Gestapo chief! AS a result the ringleaders (12 in all) were publicly executed.
I would think that by the end of the war or even towards the end of the war, there would be the majority of all youths in anti-Nazi groups.
In conclusion it does look like the Nazis succeeded in controlling the Hearts and minds of people on the front, but then again people may have just been scared to speak out. Hitler did stay in power for a very long time, which shows that either people liked him and the way he managed the country or were scared of him.
Hitler was a great manipulator. He made the majority of Germany believe that they would benefit from his actions, and he promised an idealistic world to everyone, even though he knew that he couldn’t make it happen. He knew that to make an idealistic world he had to get people to think the way he did so that there were no rebels. Therefore he focussed on what would be the future – the children.
Hitler succeeded in having 82% of all German youths attending his camp. The other 18% could just have been Jews who were not allowed in the camp, country folk, or anti-Nazi’s. He succeeded in controlling all areas where children were influenced, but I believe that he did not win over the hearts and minds of children.
To begin with, I believe that youths followed Nazi policies because it involved fun activities; more sport in school and it benefited them. They were not following the policies as part of a volksgemeinschaft as Hitler had aimed; they were independent and were acting on their own behalf. Youths didn’t join Hitler youth to learn the Nazi way of life and the Nazi policies. They joined simply to have fun with their friends on camping holidays.
As the Hitler youth grew older and WWII broke out I believe that the activities both inside and outside school became bore some, but people were to afraid to speak out because the penalties were so severe even for people who just grumbled about Nazi methods. Hitler now had potential anti-nazis in his camps. The only problem was, that no-body dared speak out and so people felt that they just had to go along with what the Nazis said.
All there needed to be was one small group to stand up, or express their feelings towards the Nazis. I believe that the turning point and the very start of the Nazis downfall was when various groups such as the Edelweiss pirates, the swing movement, and White Rose began to become noticed. If one person speaks out and many other people have the same views this has a snowball effect, and more people become confident to express their feelings. When the Nazis made the Hitler youth compulsory was another factor that encouraged youths to rebel. As soon as anything is made compulsory it is natural for anyone, especially a youth to rebel. The fact that more and more people joined anti-Nazi groups is my evidence that supports the fact that people were scared to speak out – as more people spoke, more people joined the groups.
A factor that makes it very hard to determine whether the hearts and minds of German youths were won over is that many people will lie about whether the Nazis won them over or not because the Nazis failed. There are many memoirs etc, but there are very few sources written in the time that Hitler ruled.
In the response to the question,
“Did the Nazi’s succeed in winning over the hearts and minds of the German youth?”
I would probably say no. I believe that Hitler controlled the minds of the German youths but did not win them over. There is a very big difference between controlled and winning over, but on the front they can seem very similar and I believe that Hitler thought that he was succeeding up to the point where youths began to take action against the Nazis not when they began to rebel.