Extended Essay Hitler Youth

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Candidate name: Tara Subba

"To what extent did German youth conform to Nazi youth policies between 1933 to 1945?"

Session: May 2013 Subject : History Candidate Number : 002389046 Name of Supervisor: Mr. Sanjay Perera Word Count: 3935

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Candidate name: Tara Subba

Abstract This extended essay addresses to what extent German youth conformed to Nazi youth policies between 1933 and 1945. Throughout this investigation, both primary and secondary sources have been used in order to examine the extent to which youth compliance (outward conformity) and youth internalization of Nazi ideals (inner conformity) occurred during the Nazi rule. Furthermore, conflicting historical interpretations are examined; radical views expressed by traditional historians (e.g. Norman Rich and Karl Bracher) advocate total youth conformity in a totalitarian Germany, whilst revisionist historians (e.g. Detlev Peukert) discredit this theory by advocating how the escalation of youth resistance resulted in a 'growing crisis' during the latter stages of war.

To a large extent, German youth outwardly conformed to Nazi ideals between 1933-39, but beneath the surface, political and ideological hostility remained and an element of dissension continued in counter-cultural youth movements. A majority of German youth accepted National-socialist ideologies in the school curriculum due to apathy and natural obedience, whilst the increase in Hitler youth membership reflected artificial support for the establishment; membership increased due to conscription and the prospect of 'enjoyable' activities and of 'youth unity' which attracted widespread support. From 1933-39, youth conformity was based on compliance (rather than on the internalization of Nazi ideals) that deteriorated during the war years. This essay supports Peukert's argument that during the latter stages of war, outward conformity deteriorated with the escalation of active youth resistance and the development of opposition movements against the regime. The existence of counter-cultural youth movements clearly demonstrate how youth conformity, and in turn Nazi control over German society, was not absolute.

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Candidate name: Tara Subba

Acknowledgements I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Ms. Rachael Plumridge and Mr. Sanjay Perera for their relentless support, guidance and patience in making this challenging essay possible. I would also like to thank Mr. Alan Jacques and the library team who have assisted me in gathering source materials, invaluable to my investigation.

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Candidate name: Tara Subba

Table of Contents: Abstract…….........................................................................................................................................2

Acknowledgements…….......................................................................................................................3

Table of contents……..........................................................................................................................4

1.Introduction....................................................................................................................................5-7

2. State control over the school system and youth movements...................................................8-12

3 . Existence of youth resistance..................................................................................................12-15

4. The breakdown of youth conformity from 1933-1939...........................................................15-17

5. Conclusion.................................................................................................................................17-18

6.Bibliography...............................................................................................................................19-20

7.Appendix …................................................................................................................................21-23

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Candidate name: Tara Subba

1. Introduction This extended essay will address the extent to which young people in Nazi Germany conformed to Nazi youth policy between 1933 and 1945. Adolf Hitler gained the chancellorship in January 1933 and the National Socialist German Workers' Party (i.e. NSDAP or the Nazi party) sought to establish a dictatorship based on the principles of Totalitarianism; to exert power and control over all aspects of German society that demanded total conformity towards the state (Grobman, 1990/2012) . One main facet of society that the Nazi party centralized their focus on was German youth.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler exposed his political ideology (National-socialism) that placed strong emphasis on anti-Semitism (prejudice against Jews) and the racial superiority of the Aryan race in the pursuit to create the Volksgemeinschaft (The German people's community); anti-individualism and state centralism in the quest to establish an autocracy; and militarism in the domestic sphere to rebuild German strength for the forcible acquisition of Lebensraum (living space) and war (The History place, 2001/2012). In Mein Kampf, Hitler stressed the importance of instilling Nationalsocialist ideologies 'into the hearts and brains of youth' (Murphy, 1925/2002), upon the belief that 'He alone who owns the youth, gains the future' (The Hitler Youth, 2009/2012). This principle attested to the strict state control over state education and youth groups as leading priorities in the mobilization of the National-socialist spirit. It was a co-ordination process that emphasized conformity from 1933-1945.

This topic is worthy of study as in order to evaluate the extent to which the Nazi party had control over the youth population, it is essential to asses the magnitude of youth opposition during the Nazi dictatorship: their actions, motivations and intentions towards challenging the regime. The Nazis conducted various propaganda schemes and terror-tactics to remain in control; this assessment is

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Candidate name: Tara Subba

therefore fundamental to evaluate the degree to which indoctrination and domestic policies influenced youth conformity and ultimately, the extent to which Germany under the Nazi dictatorship can be considered a totalitarian state. This topic is relevant to our modern epoch as authoritarian-based governments present in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Libya amongst others, also abolish political freedoms; state terror and violence are common repressive measures to pressure conformity and are procedures similar to that conducted by the Nazi Party. This investigation will therefore allow us to draw comparisons between Germany and present autocratic regimes concerning their influence upon youth obedience and state control.

It is natural to assume that in an era of dictatorial control, conformity is practiced by the majority of the public. However, the Nazi regime failed in winning over the entire youth of Germany. The historical debate as to whether Germany can be considered a totalitarian state corresponds with the extent to which youth conformity existed in Nazi Germany. The existence of youth resistance discredits traditional historians such as Karl Bracher (1984) who advocate that Hitler was 'the master of the third Reich' (1984, p.165) governing a totalitarian state. It is important to acknowledge that counter-cultural movements existed, many of which objected to rigid Nazi control (McDonough, 2001, p. 15). Revisionist historians such as D. Peukert have put forward exaggerated views that throughout the Nazi regime, 'we can trace an entire career, from non-conformist youth behaviour, via refusal, to protest and resistance' (Hite & Hinton, 2000, p. 333) and that despite legislation for ultimate obedience towards the state, the second half of the 1930s reveals a 'growing crisis', which during the war years developed into a massive opposition movement on the part of groups and gangs of young people.

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Candidate name: Tara Subba

Throughout this investigation, the internalization of ideals refers to the practice of acting and believing in accordance with state pressure, whilst compliance refers to publicly acting in accord with state pressure but privately disagreeing (Zanden, 2012/2012).

Overall, although the

internalization of Nazi youth policies (inner conformity) was not absolute, compliance (outward conformity) existed to a large degree between 1933-1939. Wilt (1944) stated that 'as many as 95 percent of the German Youth backed the Nazis, or at least Hitler, and that opposition for the most part remained diffuse' (1944, p. 66). Some historians, namely Sax and Kuntz (1992) argue that National Socialist training produced 'duller and stupider, though healthy individuals', that 'students were political programmed' and as a result lacked the ability to think for themselves (1992, p. 308) . Supposedly, conformism resulted from political indoctrination and Youth apathy as students were not only 'Incapable of providing political leadership' but were also 'intellectually inept' to resist the regime.

This essay will argue that the Nazi party did not have totalitarian control over German youth (and society) thereby discrediting the views put forward by traditional historians. This is most evident in the latter stages of war (from 1939 onwards) ; as outward conformity deteriorated , the Nazi regime faced growing (active) resistance by counter-cultural youth movements.

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Hitler hoped that by conditioning young people in groups like the Hitler Youth, they would “never be free again, not in their whole lives.”1  Many young people were deeply influenced by these groups, but support for the Hitler Youth was never as widespread and strong as Nazi leaders would have liked. Young people skipped some meetings and activities, even though attendance was compulsory, and their loyalty could be inconsistent. Their reasons for losing enthusiasm for Hitler Youth activities were not always political or moral; sometimes young people grew tired of the many requirements or just got bored. In 1939, the Social Democratic Party, which had been outlawed by the Nazis and was operating in secrecy, published a report on German youth that described some of this discontent. It said that “young people are starting to feel particularly burdened by the lack of freedom and the mindless drills practiced by National Socialist organizations. So it is no wonder that signs of fatigue would be particularly prominent in their ranks.”2

Contrary to Hitler’s hopes, membership in the Hitler Youth did not make all boys and girls ardent Nazis for life. Hans Scholl, who later founded the White Rose resistance movement with his sister Sophie and was executed by the Nazis, was at one point a member of the Hitler Youth (see reading, Protests in Germany in Chapter 9). His sister Inge Scholl describes how Hans slowly became disillusioned with the group:

Hans had assembled a collection of folk songs, and his young charges loved to listen to him singing, accompanying himself on his guitar. He knew not only the songs of Hitler Youth but also the folk songs of many peoples and many lands. How magically a Russian or Norwegian song sounded with its dark and dragging melancholy. What did it not tell us of the soul of those people and their homeland!

But some time later a peculiar change took place in Hans; he was no longer the same. Something disturbing had entered his life. . . . His songs were forbidden, the leader had told him. And when he had laughed at this, they threatened him with disciplinary action. Why should he not be permitted to sing these beautiful songs? Only because they had been created by other peoples? He could not understand it, and this depressed him, and his usual carefree spirit began to wane. 

At this particular time he was given a very special assignment. 

He was to carry the flag of his troop to the party’s national rally at Nuremberg. He was overjoyed. But when he returned we hardly dared trust our eyes. He looked tired, and on his face lay a great disappointment. We did not expect an explanation, but gradually we learned that the youth movement which had been held up to him as an ideal image was in reality something totally different from what he had imagined the Hitler Youth to be. Their drill and uniformity had been extended into every sphere of personal life. But he had always believed that every boy should develop his own special talents. Thus through his imagination, his ingenuity, his unique personality, each member could have enriched the group. But in Nuremberg everything had been done according to the same mold. There had been talk, day and night, about loyalty. But what was the keystone of all loyalty if not to be true to oneself? My God! There was a mighty upheaval taking place in Hans.

One day he came home with another prohibition. One of the leaders had taken away a book by his most beloved writer, Stellar Hours of Mankind by Stefan Zweig. It was forbidden, he was told. Why? There had been no answer. He heard something similar about another German writer whom he liked very much. This one had been forced to escape from Germany because he had been engaged in spreading pacifist ideas.

Ultimately it came to an open break.

Some time before, Hans had been promoted to standard-bearer. He and his boys had sewn themselves a magnificent flag with a mythical beast in the center. The flag was something very special. It had been dedicated to the Führer himself. The boys had taken an oath on the flag because it was the symbol of their fellowship. But one evening, as they stood with their flag in formation for inspection by a higher leader, something unheard-of happened. The visiting leader suddenly ordered the tiny standard-bearer, a frolicsome twelve-year-old lad, to give up the flag. “You don’t need a special flag. Just keep the one that has been prescribed for all.” Hans was deeply disturbed. Since when? Didn’t the troop leader know what this special flag meant to its standard-bearer? Wasn’t it more than just a piece of cloth that could be changed at one’s pleasure?

Once more the leader ordered the boy to give up the flag. He stood quiet and motionless. Hans knew what was going on in the little fellow’s mind and that he would not obey. When the high leader in a threatening voice ordered the little fellow for the third time, Hans saw the flag waver slightly. He could no longer control himself. He stepped out of line and slapped the visiting leader’s face. From then on he was no longer the standard-bearer.3

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