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The Hitler Youth, or Hitler Jugend (HJ) was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party. It existed from 1922 to 1945. The HJ was the second oldest paramilitary Nazi group, founded one year after its adult counterpart, the Sturmabteilung (the SA). It was made up of the Hitlerjugend proper, for male youth ages 14–18; the younger boys’ section Deutsches Jungvolk for ages 10–14; and the girls’ section Bund Deutscher Mädel. In the last months of the war members of the HJ were fighting on the front lines, some as young as twelve. There aren’t too many former members of the HJ alive these days, but one who lives is rather prominent.
The German-born Pope Benedict XVI rarely talks about when he was conscripted into the Hitler Youth as a teen. But yesterday, in an audience with a German Catholic group, Benedict made a rare mention of life under the Nazis, calling it a “dark time,” reports the AP. “It looked like the continent was in the hands of this power, which put the future of Christianity in doubt,” said the pope. The 84-year-old Benedict was forced to join the Hitler Youth in 1941, a time “already marked by war,” said the pope, when the Nazis “had already subjugated” much of Europe.
The HJ were viewed as future “Aryan supermen” and were indoctrinated in anti-Semitism. One aim was to instill the motivation that would enable HJ members, as soldiers, to fight faithfully for the Third Reich. The HJ put more emphasis on physical and military training than on academic study. The Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (NSRBL), the umbrella organization promoting and coordinating sport activities in Germany during the Nazi period, had the responsibility of overseeing the physical fitness development programs provided to the German youth.
After the boy scout movement was banned through German-controlled countries, the HJ appropriated many of its activities, though changed in content and intention. For example, many HJ activities closely resembled military training, with weapons training, assault course circuits and basic tactics. Some cruelty by the older boys toward the younger ones was tolerated and even encouraged, since it was believed this would weed out the unfit and harden the rest.
Do you think an organization like the Hitler Youth could flourish today? Could a dictator such as Hitler himself flourish today?