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Accordingly "the Hitler Youth movement emphasized activism, physical training, NAZI ideology, especially nationalism and racial concepts, and absolute obedience to Hitler and the NAZI Party. Indoctrinating children in National Socialist ideology was a key goal of the NAZI Party. Once Hitler assumed control over the German state, he used the Government to make the Hitler Youth the country's all encompassing youth movement" (HBU1, 1) The racial elements of the Hitler Youth indoctrination were also of critical importance to the Nazi movement as these propelled the aggressive social isolation and abuse of groups such as Jews, gypsies and homosexuals. The Hitler Youth would gain a sense of pride in the propaganda designed to project them as the future leaders of Germany. Essentially granted the right to defy those of any age who differed with the party's values, the Hitler Youth would be primed for a distinct level of enthusiasm based on this empowerment. In their numbers and the encouragement provided them to 'enforce' Nazi views on racial disparity, the members of the Hitler Youth would achieve a certain status of importance in the party that preyed on their collective level of psychological commitment. The party thrived on the level of dedication and outright cruelty of which the youth movement was uniquely capable.
In fact, there is a perspective which holds that the Hitler Youth was among the most successful avenues for the realization of Hitler's vision. Certainly the pace and scale of its growth in numbers would be demonstrative of this claim, with the organization originally founded in 1922, disbanded with Hitler's temporary imprisonment in 1926, and revitalized during the onset of Hitler's attainment of total power in Germany. It was at this juncture that the Hitler Youth would begin an intense campaign to prove itself that top group amongst the many Nazi oriented youth groups vying for favor with the new state authorities. None would be so successful of the Hitler Youth, who gradually gained the support and favoritism of Hitler himself. As the HBU tells, "the Hitler Youth grew from a group with a handful of boys to one of the most important uniformed youth group in Europe. No group so thoroughly suceeded in their stated purpose. Had the NAZIs succeeded, the elite of Europe would have been raised and trained through the Hitler Youth. Membership increased from about 1,000 boys in 1923 to nearly 8 million in 1939 when Hitler launched World War II." (HBU1, 1)
In this way, the Nazi Party used the Hitler Youth as a way to proceed toward an projected plan of continental and global domination in which the generation of emergent leaders would have been raised ensconced in Nazi ideals, training and propaganda exposure. Kater shows how this would produce not only a sense of dedication to the cause but a sense of ownership for its values and goals. For the members of the Hitler Youth, there was an impression that they were being primed to lead the New Order upon its emergence. In a sense, these was a shared belief produced by heavy indoctrination that they would eventually be handed the keys to the kingdom as it were. To the point, Kater would indicate that "most Hitler Youths in the fold loved its program of activities and did feel looked after, knowing that they would graduate to become bearers of the new Reich. From their subjective point-of-view, the sentiments of belonging, of sharing, of being willing to follow orders from tough but caring leaders, were very real. It is against this backdrop of a broad and general consensus among youth in Nazi German that exceptions and inconsistencies must be judged." (Kater, 15)
Like many of the movements associated with Nazism at that time, the Hitler Youth would only gradually attain a clear affiliation with the tenets of the Nazi party. In its initial phases, it was only one of many groups with ties to socialism and to a desire for greater national pride. But perhaps the cause for its elevation above many of its competitors was the degree of admiration which the group's founder held for Hitler. Kater tells that "the youth group was initiated by Kurt Gruber, a law student and admirer of Hitler from Plauen in Saxony, home to many blue-collar workers. Thus the beginnings of the Nazi youth affiliate were in the proletarian realm, and at least until Hitler's takeover in 1933, the groups emphasized their working-class mystique." (Kater, 16) It was only a matter of time however before the Hitler Youth become important and prominent among middle and upper class Germans as well. For the young members of German society, the organization offered a chance to join the push for change in an otherwise bleak economic era. The failures of the Weimar Republic that had alienated so many educated members of Germany's youth population were producing a greater push by those with career aspirations, interests in political change and desires for the growth of industry toward membership in the Hitler Youth. Though at first Hitler would only casually voice his support for the Hitler Youth -- based on the fact that as youths they did no possess the right to vote in German elections -- his eventual ascendance to power in 1933 would produce a totally different perspective on the importance of German youth activities.
It was at this juncture that the state would begin to produce its own standards and regulatory oversight for the group, giving prelude to its adoption as a state-sponsored organization. Simultaneously, it would achieve ever greater levels of social penetration with its elevated stature in the new power structure. Thus, its age of recruitment was lowered to expand its general reach. Therefore, "by the end of 1930, the age range for the HJ of both genders was from ten to eighteen. In October 1931, Baldur von Schirach was appointed by Hitler as chief of all the youth activities for the NSDAP. Schiarch had led the Nazi University Student League since 1928, as well as the Nazi Pupils' League . . . In 1931 the HJ already had close to 35,000 members, which still comprised about 69% young workers, 12% pupils, and 10% white-collar shop clerks." (Kater, 17-18) With respect to the motives drives these populations of young Germans toward membership in the Nazi party, Kater acknowledges that during the reigning Great Depression gripping the global working population, roughly half of all Nazi youth parents were struggling with unemployment at this juncture. Here we can see that as with adults in Germany and throughout Europe, for younger members of the party the state of the German economy was a primary impetus.
Hitler's rise to power in the German government was one prompted by crisis to begin with. Like much of the world in the 1930s, Germany was drowning in an economic depression that completely devalued the German dollar, had thrown masses into joblessness and poverty and had proved the German government of Bismarck to be a fully impotent one. It was in this vacuum of effective leadership and long-term resolution that Hitler emerged as a man possessing of power. Proud Germans, perhaps more driven by their nation's storied technological and philosophical developments than restrained by them, were desperate to associate their beloved motherland with power and prominence again. In all of Hitler's words, this promise permeated effectively. It found the most resonance perhaps with the young citizens of Germany, who were most concerned with the nature of their future. If Germany was to be returned to its former glory, Hitler promised, the enemies of the German people would have to be vanquished. This meant not only extending the sway of German nationalism to eastern Europe and eventually the world but it also meant addressing impurities to German strength within her own borders. Here, the Jews and other ethnic others served as the ideal shoulderer of blame. While Hitler may have exacted his plan on the basis of ideological self-assuredness, he implemented it with a strict adherence to principles of propaganda. The ideology came a distant second to the mass-marketing of deception regarding the Jews and targeted directly at the average German. The youth movement was proving itself most susceptible to the interests of shifting blame.
Where the themes of racial hierarchy were projected as having significant importance to the Nazi cause, the Hitler Youth were especially well-suited to enforcing the beliefs related to ethnic purification. As Kater tells, "it was one of the great propaganda achievements of the Nazi rulers that they were able to offer a political and ideological world view that granted status, certainty and power to young people, so much so that teenagers of both genders could accept and abide by the prescribed behaviors with hardly any qualms. Through the elaborate propaganda process and its propagation of racial theory and the superiority of the Volk, Hitler was able to shape private and public behavior as well as reinforce public support of the Nazi regime…[continue]
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