Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tomorrow’s Soldiers

Hitler Youth protect their ears during the firing of a belt-fed, water-cooled machine gun. Familiarity with different types of weapons prepared young German boys for national service in the Wehrmacht.

On the basis that the children of today are the soldiers of tomorrow, Hitler viewed Germany's youth with the needs of future war in mind. It was his intention that Germany's younger generation, without even knowing it, should be physically and mentally prepared for conflict. He was speaking quite literally when he told the 1935 Nuremberg party rally that "what we look for from our German youth is different from what people wanted in the past. In our eyes the German youth of the future must be slim and slender, swift as the greyhound, tough as leather, and hard as Krupp steel." In short, they were expected to develop all the characteristics of storm troopers.

If the goal of Hitler and the Nazis was to turn Germany's youth into life-long National Socialist supporters and then into soldiers, it was inevitable that the twin planks of youth policy would be the systematic indoctrination and regimentation of German children and adolescents. Accordingly, the Nazis set about changing the nature of everyday life for young Germans.

By focusing on stories about fighting and conflict, German language instruction became a vehicle for promoting militarism and a love of war. As one pupil of the time recalled: 

A large part of our compulsory, reading in German lessons was world war literature. .. As a rule these were books like "Seven at Verdun" or' "Bosemüller Group", in which, amidst all the horrors of modern warfare, the comradeship of the front was still triumphant and if you died you were at least awarded the Iron Cross.

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