Thursday, September 29, 2016
HJ-Training and Preparation for War
Hitlerjugend training in what was known as the Marine-HJ, the naval Hitlerjugend. In northern Germany, it was very popular for the Hitlerjugend to join the Marine-HJ, which reached a total membership of nearly 62,000 boys. As in the case of other special formations of the Hitlerjugend, the Marine-HJ demanded great mental and physical accomplishment. Before the war, all the necessary sailing certificates could be obtained, and each member had the opportunity to sail on vessels used by the German Navy for the training of its naval cadets.
Adolf Hitler was obsessed with youth as a political force, and the creation of the Hitler Youth or Hitlerjugend enabled him to meet this goal. He was able to use this uniformed army of teenagers not only for promoting the myth of his own ‘invincible genius’ but also in war. The Hitlerjugend had been for a number of years trained in diverse para-military skills. The most elite formations were the boys who served in the special units of the Hitlerjugend. In the Flieger-HJ or air training Hitlerjugend, there were more than 78,000 boys alone that had joined during the 1930s. Wearing their distinctive Luftwaffe blue uniforms with light blue piping and the armlet of the Hitlerjugend, they were trained in almost all aspects of aviation. Most members, between the ages of fourteen and eighteen in the Flieger-HJ, tried to obtain his ‘wings’: the A, B and C certificates in gliding.
Another special formation of the Hitlerjugend was the Motorized-HJ. Nearly every teenager from the age of sixteen onwards obtained his first driving licence for a motor cycle. But driving was only one part of the training. Not only did they learn a sound knowledge of both German and international traffic codes, but they also expertly trained in motor mechanics. The ultimate purpose of this training was self evident, as it would later serve in the motorized units of the Wehrmacht.
In northern Germany, it was very popular for the Hitlerjugend to join the Marine-HJ, the naval Hitlerjugend, which reached a total membership of nearly 62,000 boys. As in the case of other special formations of the Hitlerjugend, the Marine-HJ also demanded great mental and physical accomplishment. Before the war, all the necessary sailing certificates could be obtained, and each member had the opportunity to sail on vessels used by the German Navy for the training of its naval cadets.
Apart from the main formations of the Hitlerjugend, there were also a number of smaller components, including a signalling unit which did not commence until during the war. Another group formed was the Reiter-HJ, a cavalry unit which attracted mainly boys in rural areas.
When war broke out in 1939, a special unit of teenagers was created to be Hitlerjugend air-raid wardens. During these first months of war, about 1,091,000 Hitlerjugend were deployed for the war effort. Most of them were given meaningful tasks to help the German war economy. They were asked to collect from house to house scrap metal, copper, brass, razor blades, paper and bottles. And while one group collected, another stood in the background and sang German folk songs.
While the majority of the Hitlerjugend participated in the collection drive towards strengthening Germany's war machine, other parts, notably the para-military wing of the movement, were in full training. By the time Poland was defeated at the end of September 1939, vigorous military training was intensified. The intensification of their training was to gear Hitler's youth movement for fighting on the battlefield. Initially, those being recruited were expected to meet very stringent criteria. Every volunteer had to be fit with excellent racial features and produce a certificate of good behaviour from the Police. During their training programme new recruits were indoctrinated into an almost fanatical determination to obey the Führer, even if it meant shedding one's own blood on the battlefield. Though many did not know it, Hitler was already planning to create a military force out of the Youth.
Out on the battlefield the war had not gone to plan and many thousands of soldiers had perished as a consequence. The failure to capture Moscow in late December 1941 had been a complete disaster for the Germans on the Eastern Front. Germany's forces had altered out of recognition from its victorious summer operations. Due to the considerable recuperative powers of the Heer, in June 1942 another German summer offensive was launched. However, instead of attacking Moscow again Hitler ordered Army Group Centre to consolidate its positions whilst Army Group South advanced to the Caucasus and the Volga. The outcome of this grand manoeuvre saw the loss of Stalingrad and German forces being pushed back westward.
By July 1943 when the Germans unleashed their long awaited summer offensive codenamed ‘Operation Zitadelle’, the war in the East changed forever. Within two weeks of the attack, the offensive was abandoned, primarily due to a shortage of infantry replacements, the Allied invasion of Sicily and the heroic but costly Soviet defence. With stalemate on the Eastern Front, in the West the Allied bombing campaign over Germany intensified. In late 1943 Hitler began suspecting that there would soon be an Allied invasion of France and this would plunge Germany tactically into fighting a three-front war. With manpower at its lowest ebb Hitler was determined more than ever to try to relieve the problem by turning to his youth movement. In his eyes they had been prepared for war with extensive military training. Now he was determined not only to see them fight on the battlefield, but to see them serve in an elite Waffen-SS formation. This would be alluring for the young recruits. By fighting in the realms of the SS order they would not only follow his orders to the letter but would not be afraid to shed their blood on the battlefield.