The Hitler Youth (German: Hitlerjugend, often abbreviated as HJ in German) was the youth organisation of the NSDAP. Its origins dated back to 1922.
From 1933 until 1945, the HJ was the sole official youth organisation in Germany. It's critics say the Hitler Youth was a "paramilitary" and "militaristic" organization.
For males, there were the "German Youngsters in the Hitler Youth" (German: Deutsches Jungvolk in der Hitler Jugend or DJ, also DJV) for those aged 10 to 14, and the "Hitler Youth" (HJ) proper for those aged 14 to 18.
For females, there were the "Young Girls' League" (German: Jungmädelbund)(JM) for those aged 10 to 14 and the "League of German Girls" (German: Bund Deutscher Mädel, abbreviated as BDM) for those aged 14 to 18. In 1938, a third section was introduced, the "Faith and Beauty Society" (German: BDM-Werk Glaube und Schönheit), which was voluntary and open to those aged 17 to 21.
These age categories were not unlike the international Boy Scouts (and Girl Guides) Movement which had Wolf Cubs from age 8 until 12, when they became Boy Scouts until 15, then Senior Scouts until 18, thereafter Rover Scouts until 21. Originally this was a quasi-military organisation where uniformed boys were taught marching, survival techniques, first aid, camping, Morse code and semaphore and a host of other things. They were not, however, taught weapon skills.
Following the surrender of National Socialist Germany in 1945, the organisation ceased to function. On 10 October 1945, it was formally outlawed by the victorious occupying Allies along with other NSDAP organisations. Under German law today, the Hitler Youth is an "unconstitutional organisation" and the distribution or public use of its symbols, except for educational or research purposes, are not permitted.
Baldur von Schirach was the head of the Hitler Youth between 1931 and 1940. He was found guilty at the International Military Tribunal, but not for his Hitler Youth involvement. In 1940, Artur Axmann replaced Schirach. He was sentenced to three years and three months by a "de-Nazification" court.
During World War II both branches of the Hitler Youth, along with the rest of the nation, engaged in supportive war effort activities. In the last stages of the war HJ boys were to be found in a wide variety of quasi-military roles such as dispatch runners and riders, and, in 1945, directly supported military units in a fighting capacity. USA General Patton remarked that they were "ferocious opponents".
Hitler Youth and BDM girls in Königsberg, 1935.
BDM choir singing Christmas Carols in a Roman Catholic hospital.
Poster encouraging Hitler Youth to join the forces when of age.
"From the Hitler Youth to Officer of the Army – your path!"; poster by Wolfgang Willrich, 1943.
- Through Innocent Eyes – The Girls of the Hitler Youth by Cynthia A. Sandor, Oldsmar, Florida, 2012. ISBN 978-0-9997550-0-6