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German History in Documents and Images
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Members of the Hamburg Jungvolk are Instructed in the Use of Carbine Rifles at a Hitler Youth Camp on the Baltic Sea (1938)
The Hitler Youth [Hitler-Jugend or HJ] was founded in 1926 as a recruiting organization for the NSDAP. Until 1933, however, it was relatively unimportant, both in terms of size and its place within the organization. At first, Hitler showed little interest in the National Socialist youth movement. His attention was directed to the adult electorate, which was supposed to bring him and the NSDAP to power. But after Hitler took office and the Nazi dictatorship began to develop, Nazi youth education was given the highest priority, because only ideologically steadfast and physically hardened young people could ensure the existence of the Thousand-Year Reich. With this in mind, Reich Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach arranged for the dissolution of almost all German youth associations by the end of 1933; their memberships were incorporated into the Hitler Youth. Membership in the Hitler Youth remained voluntary until 1936, but the organization used various pressures and inducements to get children and young people to join. HJ events such as scouting games, parades, and bike tours served not only to occupy young people's free time, but also to provide for the ideological, physical, and increasingly militaristic training of HJ members. The photo shows members of the Junior Hitler Youth [Deutsches Jungvolk or DJ], the Nazi organization for children ages ten to fourteen. Teenagers from fourteen to eighteen belonged to the regular Hitler Youth.