May 26, 1934 - Article - Hitler Youth (Part 1), by Kenneth Roberts
Erroneous ideas are easy to acquire and hard to lose. One who visited England in 1933 or early 1934 could not help but gather the same idea about Germany that most Englishmen have about Chicago - that it is an unhealthy place for any visitor with whom bullets and beatings disagree.
Yet out actual entry into Germany was less eventful than entering the Harvard Stadium for a Dartmouth game. An amiable young soldier, unarmed, came and looked at the automobile with some interest: then indicated the building where our papers would be attended to. When we entered it, we found two mild-mannered and slightly weary-looking customs officials sitting at a desk beneath a picture of the Führer, or Leader, Adolf Hitler. There is no way of discovering how many pictures of the Führer, or Leader, are today existent in Germany. The population of Germany is some 65,000,000. It seems reasonable to estimate that in shop windows, homes and government bureaus there at least ten paintings, engravings, half-tone prints, colored lithographs, crayon portraits, or photographs of Hitler for every man, woman and child in the Reich - which figures out at 650,000,000. Some of these, of course, are post-card size, but a great many are life-size or larger.
The transition, by road, from Germany to adjacent countries is surprising. On the German side of the border the towns are immaculate, pleasant, homelike, substantial. On the other side - especially on the French and Italian sides - the towns are often blowsy, unkept and down at heel. I must also add that in so far as possible for a traveler to judge, the people who inhabit the German villages, towns and cities seem to be by far the kindest, the healthiest, the most obliging, the most contented, the most hospitable and the gayest to be found in all Europe.
In case this last statement is skeptically received, I might ad that in Germany's neighboring nations, gayety and contentment, as they were known prior to 1914, seem not only to be dead but buried.
I mention these unimportant things deliberately, in the belief that they may help readers to understand why it is one of the commonest remarks to be heard in Germany, nowadays, from competent non-German observers, is: "What a shame for decent people to be so misled!" (pg. 8)
By this time we sere dazed and befuddled by the increasing number of uniforms, but we were enlightened by a policeman on point duty in one of Hanover's beautiful squares. He wore an Alice-blue overcoat, and was courtesy itself, as are all German policemen, If you ask directions of one of them, he may, and probably will, abandon his post, climb into your automobile and ride with you to your destination. (pg. 98)
"Look at that!" my friend said. "They've been out all afternoon, probably. Look at em! They're babies! And just getting home at thin time of night! You see em every day, wherever you go, marching, marching, marching!"
His estimation of the situation proved overoptimistic; for these infants not only weren't going home but wouldn't be in their homes for many long, cold hours to come. Before we could close the window, we heard shrill distant singing. We left the window open. A company of girls - a hundred of them, perhaps - marched briskly out of a side street in the wake of the black-uniformed infants. They were 14 or 15 years old. Like the boys, they were uniformed - black shirts, brown-leather wind breakers and black bérets. Two long braids of flaxen hair hung down on either side of each girl's face, flopping rhythmically as she marched. Far away we could hear the confused sound of more fifes and more drums and more shrill singing. (pg. 99)
The military organization of the Hitler Youth is almost identical with that of the S.A. The smallest Hitler Youth unit is a Kameradschaft, or comradeship. This corresponds to a squad.
A Schar is a platoon; a Gefolgschaft is a company; an Unterbann is a division; a Gebeit is an army corps; and an Obergebiet is an inspectorate or a field army.
Hitler came to power in March, 1933, and at that time there were in Germany 600,000 Hitler Youths. Almost immediately, Hitler's fellow Nazis reached out on every side and stuck their fingers and noses into everything, in accordance with the cardinal principle of a totalitarian state. One of their first conclusions was that the only sure way of perpetuating the National Socialist Party and the Nazi state was to obtain a stranglehold on the youth of the nation and fill them up to the muzzle with National Socialist ideals and theories.
Consequently, word went out that plans were to be laid to transform all German youth into Hitler Youth; and that no expense, in manner of speaking, was to be spared. The best brains in the Nazi Party were put to work thinking up plans, slogans, catchwords, uniforms, arm bands, gaudily colored insignia, and anything else that would make a strong appeal to flaming German youth. Having prepared he field with all possible German efficiency, the Nazis came out in the open and went to work.
Comments: Mr. Roberts saw that the Hitler Youth were everywhere; marching in the streets and drilling in fields. Some were so young they could not yet button their own shirts. But think how Mr. Roberts described Germany at the time. The German people lived in nice homes and seemed prosperous. They had plenty to eat. They felt secure. Let's say that Mr. Roberts approached some of the German people back then and told them they were in fact slaves and that they were not free. What if he told them that the rulers they were putting their faith in were herding them down a path that would lead to their nation's destruction. What do you think the German people's reaction would have been? Now let's move forward in time to the year 2006 in the United States and ask the same type of questions to the American people. Do you think the reaction would have been much different than that of the German people in 1934?