By Tom Dare
CHILLING FOOTAGE from a World War Two Nazi propaganda film showing how young people from across Europe contributed to the German war effort has resurfaced this week.
The film, released in 1944 to help boost morale in Germany, shows Slovakian youngsters going through cold weather training in preparation for front line duty against what they perceived the growing threat of Bolshevism.
Further footage from the video shows members of the Hitler Youth practicing a river crossing as a part of their training to become grenadiers and sappers, while the final clip shows how young people are helping on the ‘home front’ by working in the factories.
From its origins in 1922, the Hitler Youth was essentially a way of indoctrinating impressionable youngsters into the Nazi Party from an early age.
It took its inspiration from the Boy Scout Movement (which, ironically, was banned in 1935), and many of its initial activities revolved around camping, hiking and team activities. However, as time went by the organisation became more and more paramilitary in nature, with member activities increasingly taking on the appearance of military training.
As the Second World War approached alternative youth groups in Germany were banned, to the point that by the start of the war the Hitler Youth was the only organisation young people could join, with membership compulsory. By 1940, the organisation had eight million members.
As the war progressed the Nazi leadership began to slowly reform the Hitler Youth into an auxiliary force which could carry out war duties, with youngsters brainwashed into believing that the survival of the German state must come above all else. With an increasing number of men being killed in combat, it began to fall to the Hitler Youth to pick up the slack at home, mainly by assisting in the factories and fire brigade.
The casualties continued to build up for the Germans, though, meaning more and more strain was placed on the Hitler Youth. This culminated on D-Day in 1944, where nearly 20,000 members of the Hitler Youth were enlisted to protect Germany against the allied invasion. The organisation lost some 3,000 lives, with many reports of the youngsters being among the fiercest fighters.
With the allies advancing fast, the Nazi leadership began to enlist younger and younger members of the Hitler Youth to take part in the fighting. By the time the allies reached Berlin there were reports of children as young as twelve being used in the fighting, with the children being described as among the most fanatical. One recruitment poster from the 1940s read:
“The proudest and most manly thing a German can do is to bear weapons for the freedom and greatness of his people and Reich.
“The Reich Youth Leader and thousands of your leaders are dong their duty as soldiers. We require and expect you to imitate them, and also here in the homeland to behave honorably.”