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Children of the Swastika: The Hitler Youth

"You are destined to be the leaders of a glorious new order," Adolf Hitler told the young people of Germany in 1938. This was the calculated appeal that masked the Nazi leader's plan to mold the youth of a nation to his will. His main tool would be the Hitler Youth, an organization that began as one of many German youth groups in the 1920s. Soon after Hitler came to power in 1933, all other groups were disbanded. By the time World War II broke out in 1939, membership in the Nazi group was compulsory. German boys were taught that the highest honor was to fight for their country. German girls were taught that their role was to bear strong sons. All were taught that they owed unquestioning loyalty to Hitler &8212 even if that meant turning in parents who made anti-Nazi remarks.

The youth programs mixed fun with indoctrination, holding sports competitions, camping trips, holiday celebrations, and rallies. Gradually, the youth of Germany were also drawn into police work, propaganda, population resettlement, agriculture, and the military. By 1944, boys as young as 15 were flung into battle.

Hitler exploited the idealism of Germany's young people so he could harness their exuberant energy for his cause. Built on extensive research, including interviews with former Hitler Youth members, this book helps shed light on the events that led a generation to give up the right of independent thought.

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