Book On Hitler Youth Warns Of Communitarian Dangers
When pondering the evils of Nazism and Adolf Hitler, one's mind reflexively turns to the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust because of the overwhelming loss of life surrounding these historical events. However, coming in high on the list of the Third Reich's atrocities was its use of state power to undermine the most basic of human rights and the subordination of all other social institutions to the prerogatives of the Party. In “Life In The Hitler Youth” by Jennifer Keeley, the reader learns of the Nazi subversion of the family and realizes the disturbing parallels that can be drawn with developments unfolding in our own nation.
According to Keeley, all of German life (including the minutest detail of one's personal life) was brought under Nazi control through the policy of Gleichschaltung or coordination) so that all of society and culture reflected National Socialism (9). As such, the 1936 Law Concerning The Hitler Youth decreed that all of German youth were to be incorporated under the banner of this organization.
Most Americans would probably marvel how all these things unfolded in Germany and take comfort thinking the same sort of thing could not happen in the United States. However, then reading “Life In The Hitler Youth”, one comes away with an uneasiness in the pit of the stomach when one realizes the similarities of the philosophies justifying a number of the programs in Nazi Germany and the United States of America.
Many will be outraged by such a statement. And though the United States is nothing like Nazi Germany in terms of destroying innocent human lives (at least in regards of those making it out of the womb without being hacked to pieces), if Americans do not now get a hold of certain ideological trends festering below the surface of public policy, the nation could very easily find it self sliding in this kind of downward direction.
In both the Nazi and secular progressiveist systems, it is not so much the individual created in the image of God protected by a set of unchanging eternal laws that matters but rather the larger group that counts. For as much as the word “community” is used in “Life In The Hitler Youth”, one could end up thinking one was reading the press releases of the national service proposals of either the Democratic or Republican parties. For example, the 1936 Law Concerning The Hitler Youth read in part, "The whole of German youth is to be educated, outside the parental home and school, in the Hitler Youth physically, intellectually, and morally in the spirit of National Socialism for service to the nation and community (16).”
Often, justification for the Hitler Youth was couched in language that would not be al that foreign to our own ears. As evidenced in one of Hitler’s speeches: “learn...that life for you must mean sacrifice, sacrifice of your personal freedom, sacrifice of your free time, sacrifice of many of the small pleasures of life; sacrifices when you take on yourself charges, not for the individual, not for yourself alone...but for your small, and yet so great community (39).” Ladies and gentleman, have we not heard as of late the word “sacrifice” on the lips of another aspiring demagogue that has irrationally mesmerized the dupable masses?
Sophisticates will groan that Hitler Youth programs were compulsory while Obama’s are voluntary (at least for now anyway). Eventually, it was indeed compulsory to join the Hitler Youth; however, the communalist rhetoric justifying such is worthy of Amitai Etzioni.
In much the same way the national service proposals brought before Congress and the American people claim to be voluntary, some of the service required of German youth was not explicitly obligatory but mandated anyway. Keeley writes,
“To teach Hitler Youth the importance of their Volk community, the National Socialists suggested members participate in a form of land service. Although not obligated to do so by any mandate or decree, every year young people ... were expected to help the Volk community...This was designed to teach young people about putting the needs of the community before their own (40).”
The objective of such programs --- be they either in a dictatorship or even in a representative democracy --- is ultimately to undermine the loyalty of its participants in regards to other authorities such as family or religion and to replace it with an absolute fealty to the organs of the state. In pursuit of this goal, a number of policies were implemented to get the young away from what would likely have been moderating and counterbalancing influences.
Though always of maniacal intentions, the first phase of this program was seemingly innocuous enough as it consisted of scheduling so many activities and meetings that the good Nazi family had to take part in that they were basically kept running around, away from one another, and unable to reflect more critically about what they were being lured into. This wasn't really all that much different than what is going on in many of these Emergent and Purpose Driven megachurches these days where activities and meetings are scheduled multiple nights per week and it is insinuated you are less than an ideal Christian if you only show up for the traditional scheduled Sunday and perhaps Wednesday services.
Those running afoul of National Socialist authorities underwent a process of scrutiny by the social service agencies of that day in a manner those under suspicions other than quantifiable physical abuse in our own time could relate to. Parents refusing to go along with the Hitler Youth agenda could have their children taken away on the grounds of being “politically unreliable” (the old term for politically incorrect). One might say such parents failed to have their children “properly socialized”, a term often invoked by those opposing home and private forms of education.
Common to all forms of socialism --- be they the Communist, Fascistic, or even more democratic and less blatantly homicidal varieties --- is the aspiration to so totally order the existences of those living under these systems that the state comes to take the place once reserved for God in the hearts of the people. Unlike Communism that was blatantly atheistic early on, the Nazis were a bit more sly in their manipulations to get Germans to unseat the Lord as the supreme authority in their hearts.
Keeley writes, “Finally, the Nazis attempted to replace Christianity with National Socialist ideology in the lives of youth. Some National Socialists expressed discontent with the so-called Jewish roots of Christianity...The Nazis began to remove symbols, such as the cross, from schools (57).” Sounds like a move straight out of the ACLU playbook.
An example of the extent to which the Nazis would go to accomplish this objective was epitomized by a prayer children were required to recite in order to receive a free school lunch (a form of welfare also prominent in our public schools today): “Fuehrer, my Fuehrer, bequeathed to me by the Lord, protect and preserve me as long as I live. Thou hast rescued Germany from deepest distress. I thank thee for my daily bread. Abideth thou long with me, forsaketh me not, Fuehrer my Fuehrer, my faith and my light. Heil mein Fuehrer (58).”
With President Obama regularly refusing to speak with the name of and images pertaining to Christ in the background in a manner similar to the way a vampire cringes before a cross and with Youtube videos of songs such as “Sanctuary” being applied to him that should only be applied to Jesus, it is only a few short steps until the word “Fuehrer” is replaced with “Barack” in that blasphemous invocation.
From her work as an historian in this particular publication, one cannot decipher the politics of Jennifer Keeley regarding the election and administration of Barack Obama. However, if allowed to speak for themselves, the facts and truths of history as chronicled in “Life In The Hitler Youth” serve as a warning no freedom loving American can afford to ignore.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.