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How widespread and dangerous was Youth opposition in the Third Reich?

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Introduction

Simon Haug Internal Assessment How widespread and dangerous was Youth opposition in the Third Reich? Initially, Youth opposition in the Third Reich was uncommon, as in the beginning Nazism was a popular and energetic movement, especially with young people. Only a few saw Hitler's real intention to militarise youth and start a world war. This is why from 1933 to 1939, i.e. in peacetime, Nazi youth organisations were popular; in contrast, in wartime they became increasingly unpopular and hence opposition grew. Although this opposition was reported on and treated severely, a real danger did not radiate from it, as only a few groupings had political intentions and were far from overthrowing or placing lasting damage on the regime. In addition there were only local groupings and not one big organisation resisting Nazism, which on the one hand made it difficult for the regime to target resistance, on the other a political change impossible. Likewise, this essay will regard youth as those born starting from 1915; why this is significant will be explained in the following. Initial Youth opposition in Nazi Germany was small in peacetime, because the surrounding did not allow youth to oppose Nazism, for any free time in the life of a German youngster was pre-occupied with activities, camps or sports. Hence any opportunity to think or to learn about different ways of thinking and different values, such as democracy, freedom or humanity, was not available to most youngsters. Also, education in school was under Nazi control and had indoctrinating purposes. Although subjects as German, History and Physical Education had a greater emphasise in the Nazi timetable, than subjects as Maths and foreign languages, a lot of indoctrination took place unconsciously as shown in the following extract of a Maths book: "...According to estimates, there are 300,000 mentally ill, epileptics, etc. in care. (b) How much do these people cost to keep in total, at a cost of 4 RM a day? ...read more.

Middle

Detlev Peukert sees the ultimate resistance towards Nazism20, as the regime tried to abolish any kind of class and clear patterns can be seen, that the `Swing Youth` only consisted of members of one class and hence, probably without purpose, undermined Nazism. The other type of youth resistance organisation, the "cliques with an asocial-criminal character"21 was the "Edelwei�piraten" or "Meuten", which had mainly proletarian origins and other than the `Swing Youth` were politically active. They targeted HJ leaders ambushing and robbing them; therefore "Edelwei�piraten" were in addition to their sense of freedom and independence clearly oppositional to the regime and therefore politically dangerous. They usually consisted of 14 to 18 year olds, as with 14 one had reached the minimum school-leaving age, was therefore able to earn his own money and to escape from the HJ. With the war progressing almost any 18-year olds were recruited to the front. The "Edelwei�piraten" were described in a report from the Hitler Youth in 1942 as having "once again formed gangs consisting of significant numbers which organise outings, publicly provoke the Hitler Youth and undermine the work of its leaders...Leaders of the Hitler Youth have been ambushed, pestered and even shot at."22 However, despite these warnings, the physical aggression of the "Edelwei�piraten" was small. They rather concentrated on slogans as "Down with Hitler", "Metals for Murder" and "Down with Nazi Brutality"23, as well as hiking trips away from the HJ and singing anti-Nazi songs24. Similar groups, as the "Fahrtenstenze" (Travelling Dudes) from Essen, "Kittelsbacher Piraten" from Oberhausen and D�sseldorf and the "Navajos" from Cologne, existed throughout the whole Reich, but were not included in one whole organisation and rather were local groupings of people with same goals. In addition, the former "b�ndische Jugend" differed from region: Whereas the Prussian "Meuten" were more orientated on Communism, the Bavarian ones had almost only leisure purposes25. In 1942, the Communist Party distributed "stickers and leaflets to pass on"26 to the Edelwei�piraten. ...read more.

Conclusion

20 As he points out : " The two central projects of Nationalist Socialist social policy- the abolition of class division through feelings of a belonging to a `racial community` ... and the smashing of the perceived threat to traditional values from modernity and internationalism- seem to have run aground even before the end of the Third Reich loomed ahead with military defeat.", stated in R. Bessel: "Life in the Third Reich", Oxford University Press, Oxford (1989), p.40 21 Burleigh and Wippermann: "The Racial State Germany 1933-1945", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991, p. 238-239 22 Report by the Reich Youth Leadership on `Cliquen- und Bandenbildung unter Jugentlichen``, September 1942, reprinted in Peukert, Edelwei�piraten, Penguin, Harmondsworth, (1989) pp. 220-223 23 A D�sseldorf Hitler Youth report to the Gestapo in April 1942, printed in Detlev Peukert: "Inside Nazi Germany: conformity, opposition and racism in everyday life", Penguin, Harmondsworth (1989), p.160 24 Detlev Peukert: "Inside Nazi Germany: conformity, opposition and racism in everyday life", Penguin, Harmondsworth (1989), p.158: "...We're going to get rid of Hitler...and smash in the skulls of the bosses in brown" 25 26 27 Detlev Peukert: "Inside Nazi Germany: conformity, opposition and racism in everyday life", Penguin, Harmondsworth, (1989), p.161 28 Those being Hans and Sophie Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Chritsoph Probst, Willi Graf and Professor Kurt Huber 29 Noakes and Pridham, "Nazism 1919-1945 vol.2", University of Exeter Press, Exeter, Devon (1984) p.419: "All German young people, apart from being educated at home and at school, will be educated in the Hitler Youth..." 30 Noakes and Pridham, "Nazism 1919-1945 vol.2" University of Exeter Press, Exeter, Devon (1984), p.420 31 32 33 Burleigh and Wippermann: The Racial State Germany 1933-1945, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1991), p.224-225: "one was established for male juveniles...which has been used as a concentration camp since 1933. The `youth custody camp` for females was established in the immediate vicinity of the women's concentration camp at Ravensbr�ck...The latter were mostly compulsorily steilised and sent to `proper` concentration camps on their eighteenth birthday." 1 ...read more.

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