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Childhood in Nazi Germany: A Historical Perspective

How Nazi Germany shaped children’s education? 

The Nazi Party began focusing its propaganda efforts on German youth as a specific audience in the 1920s. These statements highlighted the party’s identity as a young, vibrant, resilient, optimistic, and forward-thinking movement. Nazism was able to win over millions of young Germans through extracurricular activities and classroom instruction.

The Hitler Youth had about 100,000 members in January 1933, but by the end of the year, the number had risen to almost 2 million. Before it became required in 1939, the number of members in the Hitler Youth had risen to 5.4 million by 1937. Subsequently, the German government outlawed or disbanded rival youth groups.

Were the parents wrong about voting for the Nazi party that was like a light at the end of the tunnel at that time? Because their children’s lives under Nazi propaganda weren’t sunshine and rainbows.

Keep reading to find out how Germany shaped children’s education and how much of an influence politics had over their minds.

Nazi Germany shaped children's education
Photo: Unidentified artist/illustrator. Booklet/pamphlet published in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. No known copyright restrictions., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Youth organizations

The Hitler Youth was first established in 1926 to prepare young men to join the Nazi Party’s paramilitary SA (Storm Troopers). But following 1933, youth leaders worked to assimilate boys into the Nazi national group and train them for military duty as soldiers or, eventually, as members of the SS.

Childhood in Nazi Germany wasn’t exactly bad, but not good either. While boys were trained to be future troopers ready to fight and protect their country, girls were led into gymnastics and sports; all this was nothing but a preparation for motherhood. Having a healthy body and mind would be beneficial for the Aryan race because Germany has to be perfect.

In other words, children were educated to give up their individuality in favor of Hitler’s goals.

Children were used for propaganda

To create the appearance of one national community that transcended the social and religious divides that defined Germany before 1933, youth leaders organized closely regulated group activities and organized propaganda events, including large-scale rallies filled with ceremony and spectacle.

In 1936, all boys and girls between the ages of 10 and seventeen were required to join a Nazi youth club. Children were indoctrinated to become devoted to the Nazi Party and the future leaders of the National Socialist state through weekend camping excursions and after-school gatherings organized by the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls.

More than 765,000 young people had leadership positions in Nazi youth groups by September 1939, preparing them for leadership positions in the occupying German administration and military.

When we look closely at this, we can see that it was more than manipulation; it was clearly brainwashing. Childhood in Nazi Germany was something interesting for the kids because they were tricked into believing that, with their help and implication, Germany would earn its place in Europe as a great, rich, and united country.

Education’s target was to glorify the Nordic and Aryan races

German children were instilled with the Adolf Hitler cult from the moment they stepped into school doors. His picture was a common sight in school walls. The excitement a kid felt upon first meeting the German leader was a common theme in textbooks.

Students were indoctrinated with the National Socialist worldview during their education in the Third Reich. Nazi academics and educators glorified the virtues of the Nordic and other “Aryan” races while degrading Jews and other supposedly subhuman groups as parasitic “bastard races” who were incapable of fostering civilization or culture.

The goal of the Nazis was to produce generations of submissive, selfless, and aware individuals. The intention was to sacrifice one’s life for the nation and the Fuhrer, the man responsible for restoring Germany to its former glory.

Nazi Germany shaped children’s education in the worst possible way turning them into racists, ready to fight even if some of them were too young to even hold a gun in their hands because it was too heavy.

Even the toys were meant to help with indoctrination

Childhood is meant to be the best period of a human’s life. There are no taxes to pay, and there are no worries about going to work or what to eat tomorrow morning. All these and other worries belong to the parents. All a kid needs to do is play, have fun, and enjoy these years that will fly by in the blink of an eye.

However, during the Nazi regime, children’s toys and board games were additional means of indoctrinating German kids with racist and political propaganda. Additionally, toys were employed as propaganda tools to instill a militaristic mindset among young people.

Nazi Germany shaped children's education
Photo by Andreas Wolochow from Shutterstock

Everybody celebrated Hitler’s birthday

One of the main focuses of Hitler Youth training was devotion to Adolf Hitler. His birthday, April 20, is marked as a national holiday in Germany and is used for membership initial training. Young Germans vowed to support Hitler and the country’s leader as future warriors and swore allegiance to him.

This article is way too short, and I couldn’t include everything about the Hitler Youth in it. But I recommend you check out this book, from which I got most of my inspiration. The Hitler Youth: The Nazis’s Dangerous Legacy is available on the Kindle version of Amazon for just $3.14. 

If you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed that I recommend many books in my articles. Not to boost Amazon’s sales, but simply because they often sell them at a lower price than other online stores.

Military service for boys under the age of eighteen

Boys had to enroll in the military forces or the Reich Labor Service as soon as they turned eighteen, having been prepared for this by their time in the Hitler Youth. Propaganda publications demanded an ever-greater conformity to Nazi ideology despite the German military’s relentless lack of success.

Little did they know that their future wouldn’t be so bright because, in the autumn of 1944, when Germany started to lose the war little by little, German youths under sixteen were asked to defend the Reich together with the seniors of the country.

Following the German military’s unconditional capitulation in May 1945, a few young German men carried on their combat with guerilla units dubbed “Werewolves.” To combat the effects of twelve years of Nazi propaganda, young Germans were forced to participate in a “de-Nazification” process and democracy training throughout the next year by the Allied occupation authorities.

They’ve lost all their innocence

Many children were deprived of a typical, happy childhood and replaced with a childhood of violence, terror, and brainwashing due to the regime’s severe policies, widespread propaganda, and the terrible realities of war.

During WWII a lot of German children were evacuated from the big cities to the countryside which implied separation from their parents. A lot of them even lost their parents in the bombings.

Bottom line:

The Hitler Youth organization is still regarded as one of the most horrifying aspects of the Nazi government and the best example of how a totalitarian government will care little about the lives or deaths of its citizens when it seeks to achieve its goals at all costs. To fuel their armies and poisonous ideas, they will even turn to youngsters, who are the most defenseless.
Many, if not all, of the kids who were raised under the Nazi dictatorship, suffered from PTSD and were traumatized.

And when do you think that everybody put their faith in Hitler to bring Germany back to its former glory? It was so wrong, but in such difficult times, all that remains is hope… Do you wonder how history would have been without this chapter of it? Tell me in the comments.

Related article: Adolf Hitler: 6 Facts That Will Give You Goosebumps


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