Analyse and evaluate the validity of these two interpretations of the opposition to the Nazis in Germany during this period
The two extracts address the issue of youth opposition to the Nazis during the period 1933-1945. Source A an extract from an analysis “What was the extent of the opposition to Hitler’s regime? ” by S. J. Lee (1998) suggests that despite a centralised youth movement, the Nazis failed to maintain complete control and influence of all of Germany’s youth. One consequence of this was the emergence of “alternative” and even opposition cultures and groups” among Germany’s youth.
Source B by Collier and Pedley writing in the text book “Germany 1919-1945” (2000) also identifies elements of dissatisfaction with the regime but implies that the affinity of young people with the Nazi dictatorship was “sustained”. Adolescents were not the only opposition provided by the youth, the students, especially those in Berlin and the major cities, where metropolitan lifestyles encouraged such behaviour were rife. The most notable was the White Rose movement, but there was numerous dissent from the ranks of the students, in the form of pamphlet distribution on the lines of anti-Nazism.
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The alternative groups that challenged the Hitler Youth did so out of resentment for the lack of liberty they had under the regime, and the emergence of the “jazz” and American trends such as swing and chewing gum made these people further affiliated with something other than Germany. Himmler, in a speech, gave the nazi view on these saw this as being unpatriotic, and said that all children listening to swing should be severely beaten, before being set arduous work.
Frank McDonough states that although youths faced punishment and during the latter part of the war even death, the Anti-Nazi youth groups continued to operate and many of them teamed up with army deserters to attack the regime at the end of the war. The emergence of opposition to the Nazi regime amongst the youth created problems for the Nazis, Geoff Layton, in his book “Germany: The Third Reich 1933-45”, even saying that the youth contribution to crime soared by 300% from 1933 to 1939.
This is true, increased regimentation, hours spent marching in army tradition bored many young Germans and it was clear that it was a form of army training and preparation. Old commanders of the Hitler Youth were out of touch with the youth. Many resented the fact that in 1939 it was made compulsory to join the Hitler Youth, which allowed the leaders of it to concentrate on indoctrination of the youth. The extract from source A, “the emergence of “alternative and even “oppositional cultures and groups” and lines two to three in source B refers to the “Edelweisspiraten” and the “Swing Jugend”.
The former acted by going on camping trips in war time when travelling was strictly limited and singing insulting songs about Hitler and the Hitler Youth. Later as the war progressed however, we see this “alternative youth group” shielding army deserters and joining resistance groups that fought the Nazis, especially communists. This shows that overtime their adversity towards the regime increased. The latter, the “Swing Jugend”, set up illegal swing clubs and organised dances, showing a desire to ape the American/modern culture.
Source A is an extract from an analysis into the opposition the Nazis faced, and was written by S. J. Lee; while Source B is from Collier and Pedley’s book, “Germany 1919-1945”. The research that goes in to the work of academic historians is enough to ensure that to the best of the historian’s ability, the source is correct; reading up on the subject in great detail, and reading from sources, judging their bias and reliability in the work they produce. The sources have both been written recently and so we can assume that the sources used are accurate and up-to-date.
The following extract from source A, “deficiencies of the Hitler Youth”, is referring to the fact that not everybody was convinced with the Hitler Youth. It placed strong emphasis on military exercise and sport for boys, and home economics and motherhood for girls, which some resented. It also refers to the fact that the youth leaders were often old, going against the slogan “the youth should lead the youth”, and were out of touch with the youths in any case.
Source A implies that the youth were the most socially deviant group in Germany, “Social deviance was most apparent among younger Germans” placing special emphasis on the working class youth. The Edelweiss pirates were scattered around the working class towns but shared an identity in the form of all wearing checked shirts, short dark trousers, white socks, a windbreaker and a metal edelweiss flower badge; effectively a uniform, and could be said to be a youth group themselves.
They stood against the regimentation, rules and restrictions in the Hitler Youth and indeed disagreed with the regime itself, with the Raving Dudes based in Essen and the Navajos based in Cologne being closely linked to them. These facts help show the validity of source A, they actually proved to be opposition to the Nazis, and as is explained partook in a wide range of acts to belittle the regime. One of the main goals of the Edelweiss pirates was to challenge the Hitler Youth, they didn’t merely dislike it, and they despised the members of it.
Source B takes a different view; it is clear that M. Collier and P. Pedley think that the youth of Germany remained true to Nazism. It is has been established that these are academic historians, and that it is a recent production. The first line is fact, by 1939 there were indeed 7. 5 million Hitler Youth Members, claiming approximately 90% of the population of youths. It says that by 1939, The source mentions dissatisfaction with the Nazis with “young people became disaffected by growing regimentation, petty restriction and ineffective and ageing youth leaders.
Also, the fact remains that these other groups remained a minority, as a whole representing only around ten percent of the population of the youth. Membership remained high in the Hitler Youth, through fear, both by parents and the children themselves, through them still being inspired due to the camaraderie in it, and by the fact that Hitler Youth members were far more employable in Germany by this time, especially in the civil service. So this shows that there was an “affinity of young people with the dictatorship” and it was upheld.
My knowledge shows that the closing line of source B is correct, Hitler’s staunchest supporters were indeed children, and it was they who fought for him tooth and nail in the final days of the war on the streets of Berlin. The sources do also have bad points. Criticisms applying to both extracts given are that they are both edited, this means the sources are not complete and therefore, lacking the context in which the source is set, one could be missing the full picture of what it is trying to portray. The sources underestimate the extent to which some youths acted against the regime.
Geoff Layton, in his book “Germany, 1933- 1945″, says that twelve youths were hanged publicly in 1944 for attacking military targets and the assassination of a Gestapo officer. The sources seem to avoid altogether opposition from students in universities, as we must not forget this proportion of the youths. The most famous of which was the White Rose Movement, Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans Scholl and a professor named Karl Huber at Munich University, distributing pamphlets containing anti-nazi propaganda and they also wrote graffiti on walls throughout major cities but mainly in Munich. The name of Germany will be tainted forever unless the youth arises … by annihilating these torturers”, this is an extract from the white rose movement manifesto, February 1943, referring to crushing the nazis. Also in February 1943, Paul Giesler, the gauleiter of Munich, delivered a blunt speech to the students ridiculing the males saying they were to “physically unfit” for service in the army, and told the females to “stop wasting time reading books” and produce children for the Fuhrer.
This resulted in a full scale riot against Nazism, but was quickly put down, though it is still a notable event as it was the first public demonstration against the Nazis since 1933. I feel it is important not to overlook the students when considering youth opposition, as students in the metropolitan cities had very liberal ideas, and partook in resistance to the regime. However, while Source A places emphasis on the working class as opposition groups among youth, the Swing youth movement consisted of mainly the upper-middle class affluent youth who desired and craved for the swing music that was big in America.
It was these who could afford to get gramophones and import music recordings. The swing dances were attended by up to six thousand people at a time; showing their popularity and it can be seen that this feeling of resentment towards Nazi restrictions was widespread, regardless of social standing. Source A blames the lack of imagination of the Hitler Youth for the springing up of alternative youth groups; where as the Hitler Youth achieved 90% membership of all youth. This did not further decline much as the war went on, suggesting that those who joined tended to stay.
With Source B, the following extract “young people remained Hitler’s staunchest supporters”, in source B, suggests that M. Collier and P. Pedley do not agree with lots of historians including F. McDonough, with their view that the youth provided a strong base of severe opposition to the Nazis and the war effort. An instant drawback in source B is that the source is from a book that is very general, covering lots of topics in Germany from 1919-1945, so is not specialised in opposition.
To conclude, I would like to point out that Hitler placed the utmost importance on controlling and converting the youth to the Nazi cause even going so far in one speech to say people hostile to the regime were unimportant as “your child belongs to us already”, he saw them as the future of Nazism. The presence of these “counter-cultural” groups, (for example, the Edelweisspiraten), therefore, were seen as a failure to Hitler, and as they were deemed so important their opposition was dealt with brutally.
This fact means that the youths were bold and brave in taking place in even the most trivial resistance. The fact that these youths counted for a substantial minority of the population, especially in large German cities such as Dusseldorf and Munich shows that there was more than an element of opposition, and this got worse as the war went on and the youths started to assist the allied war effort. The idea that the Nazis were achieving a Volksgemeinschaft falls down here as well, as these groups showed a desire to have a separate and individual cultural identity.
This shows that there were non-conformists, and as source B says, even though there were 7. 5 million Hitler Youth members in 1939, youth enthusiasm for the regime did fall, even before the collapse of the regime. So the sources are proven to be reliable to a certain extent and are to be trusted in an evaluation of the opposition that the Nazis faced; though more sources are needed to give a substantiated judgement on the opposition which will enable us to gain a fuller picture of the topic.