Background: This is an essay by Baldur von Schirach, the Nazi youth leader, from a 1936 illustrated Nazi coffee table book on Adolf Hitler. Schirach presents Hitler as the model for the German youth, the man who has brought them together and inspired them to aim for great goals.
The source: Baldur von Schirach, “Der Führer and die deutsche Jugend,” Adolf Hitler. Bilder aus dem Leben des Führers (Hamburg: Cigaretten/Bilderdienst Hamburg/Bahrenfeld, 1936, pp. 105-.
The Führer and the German Youth
In every part of the Reich, our youth honors the Führer. His name today symbolizes a fiery, passionate youth that cheers and serves him. We have come to accept that as a matter of course. Whether on his travels he passes through vast crowds of this youth, or whether he is surrounded by a wall of youth at the great festivals of the movement, its parades and mass meetings, this youth is ever present where the Führer is, and always and everywhere it affirms him. To us Germans this is a familiar scene, but it always seems amazing to foreigners: this mystic communication of the Führer of the nation with the young generation is one of those mysteries that foreigners call “the German miracle.” In fact, there is hardly a better term for this total unity not only of all classes, occupations, and religious confessions, but also of all the generations of our people. This even seems a miracle to us Germans: that the Führer brought together all age groups of our people to serve a common ideal which each attempts to follow using his particular abilities. The young and youngest display a passion and enthusiasm that has ever been the mark of German youth storming forward; adults and the aged follow him with the quiet confidence, steadiness, and mature strength that mark their generations. Thus Adolf Hitler drew a whole people to serve an idea. Ten-year-olds are just as conscious of advancing his work and heralding his will as are those in their thirties and forties. Indeed, the youngest feel particularly close to the Führer, for they sense with a sure instinct that cannot be deceived that the Führerís thoughts and concerns center on them above all. They know that he serves the future that will be theirs.
Particularly in recent years, Germany has suffered tremendously because of conflicts between the young and the old. In the decade following the World War, this conflict was evident in each family. It is pointless to attempt to discover who was at fault. Let me say only that the clear lack of respect and discipline on the part of the youth was not solely their fault. The youth lacked role models in the older generations. The so-called “statesmen” of the period lacked personalities and achievements that could inspire. They were rejected or held in contempt. There remained the inadequate and false models provided by film and sports stars. Who can hold it against the youth of that period if they were not able to meet the expectations of their elders? Any teacher knows that a youth needs great and heroic models to develop in ways that their people requires. Men who had served heroically in the World War, and who could have served as such models, were mocked and insulted by the leading men in government. Those who publicly mocked the heroic ideal as stupid went unpunished. Under such circumstances, it is clear why the youth lacked any standard of good behavior. Because many members of the older generations behaved contemptibly, the youth came to hold all those who were older in contempt. Because cowardice was praised, they believed everyone was a coward, and lost all sense of justice and injustice, of limitations and laws. We remember the major sex trials against young people of that time, as well as the general youth criminality of the postwar years. It shows us with terrifying clarity what can happen to the German youth when it lacks leadership.
From the first days, Adolf Hitler attempted to call the youth back to itself. That his attempt succeeded to an extent greater than even the greatest optimists had hoped for is entirely the result of his inexhaustible strength of will and his persistence. Careless observers of the National Socialist movementís years of struggle all too easily overlook the low-level work the movement conducted alongside its great campaigns and battles, which was the foundation of its achievements. The National Socialist youth movement was not given to the Führer. It did not grow, as some think, from newspaper articles and speeches, but rather because here, too, as in every other area of the movement, the Führer struggled year after year until he discovered the fundamentals that his youth leaders had to follow. When Adolf Hitler said that “youth must be led by youth,” a new era in human educational history began. Only a genius can proclaim something that ends an old era and begins a new one. With his idea of educating the youth, Adolf Hitler won all the youth of his people for his flag. It is irrelevant that the Führerís principle was hardly understood at first, indeed that it was mocked and scorned like all of his programmatic principles. It is also irrelevant that his youth movement at the time had only a few thousand members. The only thing that is important and essential is this: Adolf Hitler understood the youth, and with an understand that no statesman and no teacher before him had had, he proclaimed a principle that — as we sensed at the time — had to make of the then tiny movement the largest youth movement in the world.
Aside from Adolf Hitler, all other statesmen, whether of the past or present, saw the leadership of the youth as exclusively a function of the older generations. To them, it was obvious that the older generations has the responsibility for leading the younger generation within their own activities, something they did not even question. The large youth organizations of other countries are guided and led in this way. In contrast to all previous methods, Adolf Hitler made the youth responsible for its own leadership. He proclaimed responsibility as an educational force.
It is an encouraging sign of the inner worth of the German youth that it did not disappoint the Führerís trust, but rather, despite many mistakes and uncertainties tried to justify that trust, which it always saw as an honor and an obligation. It followed the Führerís law, and through hard work, advancing step by step, it grew into a strong community unique in all the world. And it did all this without the pressure of a law or the guidelines of a minister, but rather only through the inner strength of a compelling idea. One has to imagine what it meant for the Führer to know, even before the National Socialist seizure of power, that the overwhelming majority of the German youth stood behind him! The Reich Youth Rally was held in Potsdam three months before the Führer was named Reich Chancellor. It was, and still is, the largest march by the youth the world had ever seen. The communist and socialist youth movements were defeated before 30 January 1933 not by means of brute force, but rather through the spiritual conquest of their members by the National Socialist idea. That is what separates the Hitler Youth the most from the youth organizations of other countries: It did not receive its mission after the fact, but rather was part of the decisive battle for power. It made its own sacrifices, and in spring 1936 its voluntary membership included well over 90% of the 10-14 year old group alone.
Even today, Adolf Hitler follows every aspect of the work of his youth movement. Each year, he receives the victors of the Reich occupational competition in the Reich Chancellery, giving them his personal congratulations. He examines plans for youth buildings. Plans for new youth hostels are presented to him, and he has suggestions for improvement that come from his extensive experience in construction. Often, he seeks contact with the youth, inviting groups of the Jungvolk of the BDM that he has met while traveling to visit him in Berlin or Berchtesgaden. He provides coffee and pastries to the surprised young people, listens to them sing, and hears their travel stories. The Führerís birthday is perhaps the strongest expression of the direct contact between him and his youth. On sees thousands of small gifts on a long table in the Reich Chancellery, sent to him by thousands of boys and girls throughout the Reich who wanted to please their Führer: crafts and handmade postcards, embroidery, and travel scrapbooks. All these, more eloquently than words, show how the thoughts of the young generation focus on the man who had given our youth a life in freedom with a consciousness of duty. How often have I seen the Führer pause longer before these small and modest gifts than before the more valuable and impressive ones. Gifts from the Pimpfs seem to bring him the greatest birthday pleasure. And in truth, they are made of the most valuable material: from the love of the youth, which Adolf Hitler more than anyone before him receives.
The Hitler Youth is the only organization that bears the Führerís name. The connection of our peopleís youth with the leader of our Reich is a symbol for the deep inner relationship between Adolf Hitler and the youngest of the nation. Today each boy and girl once more has an educational model that they feel obligated to, and try to imitate, and the individual as well as the entire community is sworn to a common ideal. The German people can look with confidence to the future. The mistakes of the past have been overcome. The conflict of generations is over. In the past, the youth groups of the political parties stood against each other. Today, the whole youth is joined in one front. Once, the rich and poor were engaged in a terrible battle of the classes, but today the faithful federation of the youth has a social sense stronger than any personal self interest. What a while ago seemed impossible and even as utopian is today persuasive reality. Many a youth group of the past that honesty sought a great goal had to be sacrificed for the sake of the great community of all the youth. And the Hitler Youth itself had to bury some comrades on the path to final unity and determination without which no community on this earth can survive. The youth who died did so with faith in the Führer and in the coming Reich, and the millions of living young people are bound together in the same faith. They all feel that they are bearers of a duty given them by the Führer, and feel joined with him in service to the greatness of the Reich. Adolf Hitlerís work can never perish, for the German peopleís entire youth is ready joyfully to serve his work their whole lives so that they can pass it on to those who will come after them.
With that will, they welcome the coming millennium.
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