Hitler Youth vs. Boy Scouts
It’s March, 1946, a little less than a year since Adolf Hitler committed suicide and World War Two came to a merciful end. Dr. Herbert Lewin is asked to outline in the Journal of Educational Sociology what must be done to rehabilitate Germany’s fascist Hitler Youth. Dr. Lewin, a German Jew, spent the war years as a physician in several prison camps. His conclusions are both startling and insightful.
He begins with perhaps is the most important objective in undoing the Nazi indoctrination of young Germans: “In the wildest sense the re-education of German youth must have as its goal the securing of peace by getting the German people to accept peace as a desirable and permanent goal rather than a necessary intermission between wars.” As part of his assessment, Dr. Lewin compared literature for members and leaders of the Hitler Youth and the Boy Scouts of America. He rated the Hitler Youth and Boy Scout literature on what percentage dealt with thinking and behaving as a unit of a national group, thinking and behaving as a face-to-face group member and as an individual seeking personal growth and satisfaction for its own sake. The results:
Thinking and behaving as a national group: Hitler Youth 65% Boy Scouts 25%
Thinking and behaving within the local group: Hitler Youth 19% Boy Scouts 28%
Thinking and behaving as an individual: Hitler Youth 15% Boy Scouts 47%
Dr. Lewin’s literature assessment reveals two major differences in the training of the two groups: Hitler Youth were exposed to more than twice as much literature dealing national ideology and the Boy Scouts were exposed to three times the amount of literature extolling the virtues of individuality. He says re-educating the Hitler Youth had to overcome three significant problems:
- The group replaced the traditional family, severing the normal emotional dependency of the child to his parents.
- Hitler youth were pre-occupied with national welfare and nationalistic goals. They had unrealistic, as well as anti-social, aspirations and perceptions as to the role of the German national group.
- The loss of personal identity had eliminated the sense of responsibility for personal thoughts and actions and for any freedom of choice.
Dr. Lewin says the primary tasks of the German nation were to restore the family unit as the basic unit of social control. He also stressed that German youth needed to be re-trained in the ability to make personal decisions and take personal responsibility. Dr. Lewin warned that there would be significant resistance to these efforts. “New aggressive tendencies will emerge…expect resentment, frustration and even despair in the over-all defeat.”
There is much to abhor about National Socialism. The Holocaust stands alone in its inhumanity and barbarity. Also abhorrent was the insidious indoctrination of young boys and girls into the Nazi ideology. A generation of Germans had to bear the psychological scars as evidence.
 Herbert Lewin. Problems of Re-Educating Fascist Youth. The Journal of Educational Sociology. Vol 19, No. 7 March, 1946. Published by American Sociological Association. P452-458 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2264059
Photo: Boy Scouts Poster www.flickr.com/photos