The Hitler Youth programs at their star held a mass appeal for young people in Germany, but later became a victim of its own success as these groups became more mainstream and less popular. Just as impetuously as the various Hitler Youth groups sprang up and received massive support, they started to loose members. This trend was later augmented by the formation of counterculture groups that opposed these Nazi groups, to the point of random violence and in some cases anti-government plotting.
Speilvogel(2014) uses a passage from the Allen’s Nazi Seizure of Power to illustrate the enthusiasm of the young people of Germany to join such youth organizations. A former Hitler youth talks about why he joined, which was centered around group activities like camping and hiking. Early on in the movement, he admits that the indoctrination was minimal and not invasive at first. Because of the depression, home life was not as desirable and the boys wanted an escape.(162-163)
Despite the appeal to young boys to belong to a group, the activities and increasing ideology of conformity and state loyalty diminished the initial appeal of novelty and originality. Sax and Kuntz(1992) describes the event, “To youth in the secondary schools, the continuous force-feeding of National Socialism is having the same effect as the heavy emphasis on school curriculum. Consequently National Socialism has lost much of its appeal.”(323) As young people in every generation tend to do to some degree, resistance symbols of authority manifested themselves in the form of unsanctioned groups such as the Edelweiss Pirates, a term used to describe factions of anti-Hitler-Youth groups.
A comparative analogy for Americans would be the punk rock anti-conservative, anti-establishment sub-culture. These Edelweiss (named after the Edelweiss flower badge they wore) gangs tended to gangs tended to dress in casual uniform, remaining somewhat indiscreet. They would fight the Hitler youth, perform sabotage pranks against allied forces, helped Jews, army deserters, writing “down with Hitler in subways, they even attacked the Gestapo Head in Cologne.(Libcom.org)
This full German 2005 film is available for streaming free at IMDB next to this trailer, pretty good description.
Spielvoglel, Jackson J., and Redles David. Hitler and Nazi Germany: A History. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., 2014
Sax, Benjamin C,.and Kuntz, Dieter. Inside Hitler’s Germany: A Documentary History of Life in the Third Reich. Lexington: Heath and Company, 1992.
“1939-1945: The Edelweiss Pirates.” Libcom.org. accessed 22 Oct 2015. https://libcom.org/history/1939-1945-the-edelweiss-pirates