Hitler Youth members burn books at an unspecified location, 1938.Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
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Hitler Youth members undergo boxing training, circa 1934.ullstein bild via Getty Images
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Hitler Youth members pose in uniform at an unspecified location, 1933.German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons
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Adolf Hitler and Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach (to Hitler's left) arrive at the stadium in Nuremberg for a Hitler Youth rally, 1934.Heinrich Hoffmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images
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Members of the Hitler Youth train with gas masks at an unspecified location, June 1939.Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
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Hitler Youth members cheer and salute the Führer during May Day festivities at the Berliner Post stadium in Berlin on May 1, 1936.Heinz Fremke/ullstein bild via Getty Images
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Adolf Hitler addresses a crowd of Hitler Youth at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin during a May Day celebration on May 1, 1939. The crowd's contrasting blue and white uniforms spell out the words "We belong to you."Heinrich Hoffmann/New York Public Library
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A boy wearing his Hitler Youth uniform poses with his mother and siblings in February 1943.German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons
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Hitler Youth members train with rifles. Date and location unspecified.Hamann/German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons
Hitler Youth members pose in a tent during a camping trip at an unspecified location, 1933.German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons
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Adolf Hitler receives a bouquet of roses from a member of the Hitler Youth, 1932.ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images
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Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels speaks to a member of the Hitler Youth at an unspecified location, 1936.Heinrich Hoffmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images
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Hitler Youth members pose on a motorcycle at an unspecified location, 1944.German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons
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Four Hitler Youth members salute while riding on bicycles in Berlin, 1932.German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons
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Hitler Youth members cheer on the Führer as he exits Olympic Stadium in Berlin after giving a speech to the group there on May 1, 1938.Herbert Hoffmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images
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Hitler Youth members play tug of war while training with gas masks in Worms, 1933.German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons
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Accompanied by their parents, ten-year-olds are forcibly enrolled into the Hitler Youth on March 1, 1940.Heinrich Hoffmann/New York Public Library
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Hitler Youth members help clean up the ruins following an attack at an unspecified location, 1943.German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons
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Hitler Youth members receive a charitable contribution to the Nazi Party's Winter Relief charity (to provide food, clothing, and the like for the less fortunate) from Adolf Hitler in Berlin, circa 1935.FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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.
“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.
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.