At first, Adolf Hitler was indifferent toward the youth of Germany, from a political perspective at least, since they could neither vote nor join the Nazi Party. But at the urging of his supporters, he came to understand the huge potential of Germany’s young people as future standard bearers of the Reich, and the boys as future soldiers in the Wehrmacht.
Youth leagues and clubs were prevalent in Germany from the period prior to World War I. Through a sequence of proclamations, laws, and effective public relations, Hitler eventually consolidated these numerous groups into the Hitler Youth for boys and the BDM for girls, between the ages of ten and eighteen. Soon service became compulsory, and by the end of World War II nine out of ten juveniles had been in the Hitler Youth.
Beyond the predictable appeal of outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, calisthenics, ball games, fencing, and shooting air rifles, young people were drawn to the Hitler Youth because it represented a new and exciting alternative to the traditional family and the conventional education system, not to mention the sharp uniforms that everyone got to wear. Of course, the insidious undercurrent of the movement is that the skills and values taught were specifically designed to turn out superior soldiers for malevolent goals, and in the case of the girls, obedient wives and mothers to produce children for the Reich. The use of young people to defend the Reich in the final...
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