Life Inside The Hitler Youth: 44 Revealing Photos

Published March 23, 2017
Updated April 5, 2019

These revealing historical images take you inside the Hitler Youth and show how mere children became Nazis.

Hitler Youth Photos
Hitler Youth Parade
Hitler Youth Street Cleaning
Hitler With Child
Life Inside The Hitler Youth: 44 Revealing Photos
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The war was over and few but the Werwolf remained.

It was the summer of 1945 and Allied forces had defeated the Nazis, who had officially surrendered in May. German soldiers were now prisoners, concentration camps were now empty, the Nazi war machine was no more, yet the Werwolf fought on.

A loose collection of Nazi resistance fighters, the Werwolf — named for a German novel whose title translates to "war wolf" — intended to carry on after the surrender, creating havoc in the newly occupied Allied territory.

While most modern historians contend that the group was largely ineffectual and valuable mostly as a propaganda tool, the small force may (the reports are sketchy and varied) have succeeded in carrying out a handful of bombings and assassinations of Allied personnel in Germany in the months and even years immediately following the war.

Which Nazis would dare press on with such actions even after the war had ended? Who made up the Werwolf?

The group comprised some members of the Nazi SS, as well as some volunteers, but also a significant number of the Nazis' youngest fighters — very young men still in their teens, some might even say children.

And why, of all people, would these children have the zeal to forge ahead to the bitter end for such a violent cause even after defeat?

That story begins more than 20 years earlier with the formation of the Hitler Youth.

Birthed in its first incarnation in 1922 and officially christened the Hitlerjugend ("Hitler Youth") in 1926, this was the only official youth group of the Nazi Party. By 1939, "official" became "mandatory," increasing the group's ranks to some 8 million and leaving just a tiny fraction of eligible members who managed not to join despite immense social and legal pressure.

With so many members in the fold, the Hitler Youth's purpose was to indoctrinate boys into the Nazi worldview, prepare them for combat, and thoroughly transform them into effective cogs in the Nazi machine.

As Adolf Hitler himself said in 1938:

“These boys and girls enter our organizations [at] ten years of age, and often for the first time get a little fresh air; after four years of the Young Folk they go on to the Hitler Youth, where we have them for another four years . . . And even if they are still not complete National Socialists, they go to Labor Service and are smoothed out there for another six, seven months . . . And whatever class consciousness or social status might still be left . . . the Wehrmacht [German armed forces] will take care of that.”

Indeed, the aim of the Hitler Youth was to take an incoming 14-year-old and systematically mold him into the person that the party needed him to be by the time he was 18 and ready to leave the organization.

That molding took many forms, some of them much more benign, even pleasant, than others: weapons training, physical exercise, camping, officers' training, athletic competitions, academic schooling, music performance, and more.

And while the Hitler Youth started out by emphasizing more of the benign activities — the group even took some early inspiration from the Boy Scouts — they began to privilege the more violent and hateful ones as the war drew closer and ultimately dragged on toward its destructive end.

As the war reached Germany's borders and the fading Nazi war effort grew more and more desperate for bodies to throw at the approaching enemy, the Hitler Youth placed more and more emphasis on military training and even began sending some of its children, even those as young as 12, into battle.

Despite their age, many of these young soldiers fought until the very end — and some, like those who made up the Werwolf, continued to fight even after that.

After years of intense indoctrination, it's easy to believe that these boys, even with the war over, knew little else besides fighting for the cause in which they'd been immersed for virtually their entire lives.

See what life was like inside the Hitler Youth in the photos above.

After learning about the Hitler youth, have a look at 33 photos of "normal" everyday life in Nazi Germany. Then, view this collection of Holocaust photos that reveal both the tragedy and perseverance of this horrific episode.

John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society of history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.