The Ambassador in German (Dodd) to the Secretary of State

No. 3186

Sir: I have the honor to report on certain legislation of general political interest which has recently been promulgated in Germany. …

[Page 190]

(a) State Youth Law.77

Membership in the National Socialist Youth organizations is made compulsory for all German children of both sexes by an act referred to as the “State Youth Law.” Declaring in its prologue that “the future of the German people depends upon its youth,” the law provides that “the entire German youth within the Reich territory is to be comprised in the Hitler Youth,” in order, it is stated in a subsequent paragraph, that “outside of the home and school the youth may be educated in the Hitler Youth physically, mentally and morally in the spirit of National Socialism for the service of the people and the community Herr von Schirach, the present head of the organization, is to bear the title of “Youth Leader of the German Reich” and is to have a central office in Berlin which is to be dignified with the name of “Oberste Beichsbehorde” and is to be responsible directly to Hitler alone.

Inasmuch as it has been common knowledge that a draft of this law has been under consideration for the better part of the present year, the delay in its promulgation has caused more surprise than the law itself. As intimated in previous reports, the postponement seems to have been caused by objections emanating from the Ministry of Education and also, it is said, from the Army authorities, to entrusting the German youth up to the age of 18 to Baldur von Schirach, himself only 30 years old. Opposition has also arisen to von Schirach’s insistence that the Führerprinzip must be inculcated at an early age and that “youth should only be led by youth” without interference from grown-ups. While recognizing the service rendered by the Hitler Youth in developing the boys physically, the Army authorities, moreover, have frowned upon various attempts made by the Youth leaders to give the boys intensive pre-military training, the Army holding that any training of this character beyond a little target practice and “wehrsport”, which principally consists in crawling upon one’s stomach through the woods, involved the risk of making the boys “stale” as regards the real military training they are to receive later on.

Although he apparently failed in what was said to have been his desire to attain Cabinet rank as “Youth Minister,” Herr von Schirach seems to have done exceedingly well in succeeding in having the entire German youth conscripted under him, in making himself immune from criticism except through the Führer himself and finally in obtaining for himself an office which has a status almost equivalent to that of a Reich Ministry, and which will certainly bring with it a handsomely increased appropriation. The bestowal of so much power [Page 191] upon Herr von Schirach who is notoriously anti-Christian and who is bent upon training young Nazis of the most fanatical type must be regarded as a knocking out of one more prop from the forces still endeavoring to conserve the Germany of the past.

The law says nothing about dual membership in other youth organizations and therefore leaves the status of the Confessional youth associations undefined. Catholic circles, however, look upon it as a death blow to their groups as it is seen that children drafted in the Hitler Youth will find little time for service in any other organization. That the Government foresaw the passing out of existence of the Confessional associations was perhaps indicated in the fact that the penalties decreed by General Göring in the summer of 193578 for the wearing of uniforms and the carrying of flags by Confessional youth associations were rescinded by a law published November 19. While indirect means have been chosen to force the disappearance of the Confessional youth associations, the Catholics, however, consider them as but another breach of the Concordat, inasmuch as the existence of the associations is guaranteed therein. In their present comprised [compromised?] position the Church authorities apparently feel themselves powerless to protest against violations of that much-abused instrument.

The State Youth Law is only a sort of general empowering act and remains to be implemented by subsequent ordinances which will regulate the question of age and formalities of entrance. It has not yet been established whether the actual conscription will take place in the near future or on next April 20, the date of Hitler’s birthday, when admissions to the Hitler Youth occur; presumably it will apply to children of the age of the Deutsches Jungvolk, or those ten years old. Herr von Schirach in an interview given to the German press on December 2 declared that children who were already members of the Hitler Youth or of the Band of German Girls before the passage of the law on December 1 would be given special recognition. Discrimination would be avoided, however, and the principle of “voluntary initiative” be upheld by an arrangement whereby those entering the Hitler Youth organizations after that date might by exceptional service attain privileged status, he declared.

On the evening of December 9 Herr von Schirach addressed a radio broadcast to “the German parents” whom he endeavored to reassure concerning the religious orthodoxy of the Hitler Youth. There would be no interference with purely Confessional training, he said, mentioning that he had given orders that no Hitler Youth exercises be held on Sunday morning in order that the children would be completely [Page 192] free to attend church. “I have never suffered a godless person in the Hitler Youth,” he declared and recalled that the oath of allegiance of his organization ends with the words “so help me God.” Religious leaders point out that they have heard similar declarations on von Schirach’s part before, and that they are all largely beside the point. They claim never to have accused the Hitler Youth of being “godless” but maintain that the God revered by von Schirach and his kind is not a Christian God but a sort of tribal deity of the new Germany. Herr von Schirach, it is observed, can afford to be generous to the Churches in small matters inasmuch as the long hours of service in the Hitler Youth and its many attractions enable him to impress his ideas upon his adolescent following.

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Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Adopted by the Reich Cabinet, December 1, 1936.
  2. See despatch No. 2141, July 13, 1935, from the Ambassador In Germany, Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. ii, p. 354.