Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Who were the members of the Volkssturm? II

The top leader of Hitler Youth was Baldur Benedikt von Schirach.  He claimed that he had no desire for the boys to fight, and that he used his power to prevent it, but he was demoted for criticizing the plans to keep the boys out of harm’s way. In addition to challenges to this claim, there remains the fact that Von Shirach’s purpose was to indoctrinate the youngest of Germans to remain loyal to Hitler and his cause. He later admitted that while he had opposed the idea of the youth taking part in the fight, his educational programs had caused the youth to desire to do exactly that.

Of the 5,000 Hitler Youth defending Berlin, only 500 survived, but Axmann abandoned his boys and hid in the mountains with another Hitler Youth group until after the war.   The fervor of the boys and girls was a result of a hard-line education that included lessons, songs, and poems, as well as a system of rewards and recognitions.  The official song of the Hitler Youth can be loosely translated “The Rotten Bones are Trembling” and shows the type of indoctrination that the youth heard in the organization:

“The rotten bones are trembling,
Of the World before the Great War
We have smashed this terror,
For us a great victory.

And if there lies in ruins from battle
The whole world,
therefore the devil may care;
We build it up again

And the elders may chide,
So just let them scream and cry,
And if the World decides to fight us,
We will still be the victors.

They don't want to understand this song,
They think of slavery and war.
Meanwhile our acres ripen,
Flag of freedom, fly!

We will continue to march,
Even if everything shatters;
Because today Germany hears us,
And tomorrow the whole World.”

Of course, for all the indoctrination and the pomp and circumstance, calling upon mere children to stand as a line of defense was beyond desperate. One Berlin resident described seeing one of the youngsters instructed to defend Berlin: “In honor of Hitler's birthday, we received an eight-day ration allowance, plus one tiny can of vegetables, a few ounces of sugar and a half-ounce of real coffee. No one could afford to miss rations of this type and we stood in long lines at the grocery store patiently waiting to receive them. While standing there, we noticed a sad looking young boy across the street standing behind some bushes in a self-dug shallow trench. I went over to him and found a mere child in a uniform many sizes too large for him, with an anti-tank grenade lying beside him. Tears were running down his face, and he was obviously very frightened of everyone. I very softly asked him what he was doing there. He lost his distrust and told me that he had been ordered to lie in wait here, and when a Soviet tank approached he was to run under it and explode the grenade. I asked how that would work, but he didn't know. In fact, this frail child didn't even look capable of carrying such a grenade. It looked to me like a useless suicide assignment because the Soviets would shoot him on sight before he ever reached the tank. By now, he was sobbing and muttering something, probably calling for his mother in despair, and there was nothing that I could do to help him. He was a picture of distress, created by our inhuman government. If I encouraged him to run away, he would be caught and hung by the SS, and if I gave him refuge in my home, everyone in the house would be shot by the SS. So, all we could do was to give him something to eat and drink from our rations. When I looked for him early next morning he was gone and so was the grenade. Hopefully, his mother found him and would keep him in hiding during these last days of a lost war."”

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