Youth organisations in Nazi Germany

The activities and aims of the Hitler Youth and the League of German Maidens.

In 1933, Hitler Youth (HJ) took over all youth movements in Germany, except Catholic ones (which were eliminated in 1936).

The HJ aimed to:

  • control the activities of young people outside the classroom;
  • make them loyal to Hitler;
  • train boys to be soldiers and prepare girls to be wives and mothers.

There were separate organisations for boys and girls, and for different age groups.

Boys enrolled in the movement at six years old, and joined the main group, Hitler Youth (HJ), at 14. By 1939, 90 per cent of German boys aged 14 and over were members.

Girls enrolled in the movement at the age of 10. They moved into the main wing, the League of German Maidens (BDM), at the age of 14.

There were different activities for boys and girls. Boys fired guns and marched, while girls learnt how to look after a family, but all undertook fitness and indoctrination classes.

There were many reasons why young people joined the movements:

  • Initially membership was voluntary, but it was made compulsory in 1936.
  • Young people also joined because of peer pressure.
  • They were attracted by the novel activities, such as camping.
  • It was a chance to reject the authority and values of their parents.
  • Membership would help them get university places and a better job in the future.
  • Many joined hoping that by showing loyalty to the Nazis, their families would be safe from the SS.