Taught to Hate- The Hitler youth.

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From the 1920s onwards, the Nazi Party targeted German youth as a special audience for its propaganda messages. These messages emphasized that the Party was a movement of youth: dynamic, resilient, forward-looking, and hopeful. Millions of German young people were won over to Nazism in the classroom and through extracurricular activities. In January 1933, the Hitler Youth had only 50,000 members, but by the end of the year this figure had increased to more than 2 million. By 1936 membership in the Hitler Youth increased to 5.4 million before it became mandatory in 1939. The German authorities then prohibited or dissolved competing youth organizations.

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The Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls were the primary tools that the Nazis used to shape the beliefs, thinking and actions of German youth. Youth leaders used tightly controlled group activities and staged propaganda events such as mass rallies full of ritual and spectacle to create the illusion of one national community reaching across class and religious divisions that characterized Germany before 1933.

Founded in 1926, the original purpose of the Hitler Youth was to train boys to enter the SA (Storm Troopers), a Nazi Party paramilitary formation. After 1933, however, youth
leaders sought to integrate boys into the Nazi national community and to prepare them for service as soldiers in the armed forces or, later, in the SS.

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In 1936, membership in Nazi youth groups became mandatory for all boys and girls between the ages of ten and seventeen. After-school meetings and weekend camping trips sponsored by the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls trained children to become faithful to the Nazi Party and the future leaders of the National Socialist state. By September 1939, over 765,000 young people served in leadership roles in Nazi youth organizations which prepared them for such roles in the military and the German occupation bureaucracy.

The Hitler Youth combined sports and outdoor activities with ideology. Similarly, the League of German Girls emphasized collective athletics, such as rhythmic gymnastics, which German health authorities deemed less strenuous to the female body and better geared to preparing them for motherhood. Their public displays of these values encouraged young men and women to abandon their individuality in favor of the goals of the Aryan collective.

Upon reaching age eighteen, boys were required to enlist immediately in the armed forces or into the Reich Labor Service, for which their activities in the Hitler Youth had prepared them. Propaganda materials called for ever more fanatic devotion to Nazi ideology, even as the German military suffered from defeat after defeat.

In the autumn of 1944, as Allied armies crossed the borders into Germany, the Nazi regime conscripted German youths under sixteen to defend the Reich, along side seniors over the age of 60, in the units of the “Volkssturm” (People’s Assault).

After the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces in May 1945, some German boys continued to fight in guerilla groups known as “Werewolves”. During the following year, Allied occupation authorities required young Germans to undergo a “de-Nazification” process and training in democracy designed to counter the effects of twelve years of Nazi propaganda.

The Hitler Youth was disbanded by Allied authorities as part of the denazification process. Some Hitler Youth members were suspected of war crimes but, because they were children, no serious efforts were made to prosecute these claims. While the Hitler Youth was never declared a criminal organisation, its adult leadership was considered tainted for corrupting the minds of young Germans. Many adult leaders of the Hitler Youth were put on trial by Allied authorities.

Below are some images of the Hitler Youth.

Hitler Youth members train with rifles. Date and location unspecified.

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A crowd of Hitler Youth gives the Nazi salute during Hitler Youth Day at one of the parties rallies in Nuremberg, circa 1930s.

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Hitler Youth members who had been wounded while on duty during an air raid receive decoration for their actions, September 23, 1943.

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Hitler Youth members play tug of war while training with gas masks in Worms, 1933.

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Four boys of the Hitler Youth stand in front of the Nazi flag at an unspecified location, circa 1935.

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Hitler Youth members force Jews to clean a street as a crowd looks on in Vienna, Austria in 1938.

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16-year-old Willi Hübner being awarded the Iron Cross in March 1945

Auszeichnung des Hitlerjungen Willi Hübner

Members of a Hitlerjugend company of the Volkssturm at the German-Soviet front in Pyritz, Pomerania, February 1945.

Volkssturm, Einsatz einer Hitler-Jugend-Kompanie

13 year old Hitler Youth captured near Nartinzell in April/May 1945

HitlerJugend aged 13 captured by Americans near Nartinzell in 1945

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Shlomo Perel-Jewish member of the Hitler Youth.

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Man’s primal instinct is to survive at any cost and in order to do so some have done things which could be considered as selling your soul to the devil. Does this mean we can judge them? In some cases we can but in other cases we have to understand the situation they were in. Faced with complete annihilation I am not sure how many would have acted differently, especially those who are still in their youth, dreaming of their life yet too come.

Solomon Perel (also Shlomo Perel or Sally Perel; born 21 April 1925)

For four years, Shlomo Perel didn’t dare go by his real name.

A German Jew by birth, Perel managed to survive the Holocaust as a teenager concealed as a member of the Hitler Youth and serving as a young translator for Nazi soldiers.

He even once saw Adolf Hitler up close.

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When the Nazis came to power, systematic persecution of Germany’s Jewish citizens began. In 1935, the Perel family relocated to Łódź, Poland, where Solomon’s aunt lived, after their shoe store was deliberately pillaged and Perel was expelled from his school.

After the Germans invaded Poland in September, 1939, Solomon Perel and his brother Isaak attempted to escape to the Soviet-occupied part of Poland. Solomon succeeded and was placed in a Komsomol-run orphanage in Grodno while his brother made his way to Vilnius in Lithuania.

Perel fled from the orphanage when Germany invaded the Soviet Union and was captured by a German army unit. Since he was a native German speaker, Perel was able to convince his captors that he was a Volksdeutscher (an ethnic German living outside Germany) and was subsequently accepted into his captors’ unit as a Russian–German interpreter. He played a key role in the capture of Joseph Stalin’s son, Yakov Dzhugashvili, and thereafter became endeared to his German army unit.

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The unit’s commanding officer even made plans to adopt him, providing him with further protection. As a circumcised Jew, Perel was constantly in danger of being discovered by his military unit, and attempted on several occasions to flee back to the Soviets, each time without success.

Since he was still a minor, Perel was told he could not remain with the army. Instead, he was sent to a Hitler Youth school in Braunschweig, where he continued to hide his Jewish identity under the name of Josef Perjell .

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“I felt like any other Hitler Youth and I was so convinced, that no one suspected I wasn’t,” Perel said. “I stopped eating kosher and believing in God, but I believed I’ll stay alive. I felt immortal, like ‘it won’t happen to me.’”

“I was schizophrenic. During the day, I was a German youth who wanted to win the war, I sang songs against Jews and yelled ‘Heil Hitler’ — and at night, in bed, I cried out of longing for my family,” he said.

At the time he had a girlfriend by the name of Leni Latsch. She was a member of the Nazi-instituted League of German Girls (BDM), so although Perel loved Leni he dared not tell her that he was Jewish for fear of her informing the authorities.

BDM, Gymnastikvorführung

Later, Leni’s widowed mother discovered he was Jewish but refused to reveal his secret.

“When talking about the Holocaust, there’s a clear division: The victims were Jews, and the perpetrators were the Nazis, while I was both,” Perel told Ynet. “From the moment I wore the uniforms with a swastika on, I became my own enemy and I had to escape myself to survive.”

The night of April 20, 1945, on the eve of his 20th birthday and close to the end of the war, Perel was captured by a U.S. Army unit, but released the next day. After traveling back to his birthplace, and making dozens of inquiries, he finally located his brother Isaak, who was married and living in Munich. Perel moved to Munich to be with him. He learned that his father had died of starvation in the Łódź ghetto, his mother was murdered in a gassing truck in 1944, and his sister was shot while on a death march. But his brother David was alive and in Palestine. Solomon resolved to join him, and in July 1948 he sailed for Haifa and the newly declared state of Israel.

Once in Israel, Perel joined the army to fight in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. He later left the Israeli army to become a businessman. Perel did not return to Germany until 1985 at the invitation of the Mayor of Peine to take part in a commemoration of the destruction of the Peine Synagogue.

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Perel later wrote a book about his exploits, titled Ich war Hitlerjunge Salomon (I Was Hitler Youth Salomon). His work was later adapted into the 1990 film Europa Europa, produced by CCC Film. He often tours and gives talks throughout Europe about his wartime experiences.

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The Dutch playwright Carl Slotboom wrote a play based on Perel’s story titled Du sollst leben (Dutch: Je zult leven; English: Thou Shalt Live), which was first aired in Zevenbergen, Netherlands, on May 4, 2012, which is also Remembrance of the Dead in the Netherlands. Salomon Perel visited Zevenbergen to see the play.

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