The impact of Nazi actions and policies on young people

  • The quality and breadth of education in schools deteriorated. Academic subjects were most affected.
  • There were very few co-educational schools.
  • Girls educational opportunities decreased. Their curriculum was limited to home-making subjects and very few went to university by 1939.
  • Jewish children were persecuted at school and then excluded.
  • Young people got to experience a range of new activities, like hiking weekends, in the Hitler Youth. They helped with the collection and distribution of clothing and food for the poor in winter. Some were chosen to stand guard outside Hitler’s offices.
  • They had more freedom from their parents. Slogans like “Youth must be led by youth” appealed to them.

The effectiveness of Nazi actions and policies by 1939

The Nazis’ youth policies had mixed results.

There were some successes.

  • Seven million joined the Hitler Youth (HJ) movement.
  • Most young people did not oppose the Nazis. Indeed, many obeyed the Nazis rather than their parents. Some even denounced their parents to the SS.
  • Germany had a more disciplined youth than in other European countries.
  • The Nazis succeeded in ending most rival organisations, such as the Catholic Youth Movement in 1936.

Overall, young people were the most easily attracted to the regimes and became some of its most active supporters.

But not all young people complied with Nazi demands.

Some even established their own rival groups, such as the Edelweiss Pirates, the Jazz Group and the Swing Group.

Indoctrination was not totally effective. It reinforced existing beliefs but was less successful in getting young people to accept new ideas. The Nazis had less success indoctrinating university students.

Young people became more disillusioned with the youth movements as the years passed. The repetitive marching and monotonous propaganda took the fun out of it, and eventually made young people disinterested in taking part.

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