Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005
 
Lots of fuss about the new pope having been a member of the Hitler Youth at the age of 14. Big deal. By then it was compulsory. And he was, like, 14.

In point of fact Britain came close to making membership of a youth organisation compulsory during the war.

"A year later it seemed as if the State was about to take a further step - compelling young people to belong to youth organizations. This was to be the first stage in the introduction of pre-military training. However, the practical and ideological questions were such that, the resulting Circular 1577 (Board of Education, 1941) simply required all young people aged 16 and 17 to register with their LEA. Young people were also to be interviewed and advised as to how they might spend their leisure time and of the local opportunities for them to give voluntary help to the war effort. This was usually done under the auspices of local youth committees. At first there was an attendance rate nationally of around 70 per cent. But as people began to realize the interview was not compulsory, the rate dropped, and the system was gradually dismantled as pressure for a paramilitary training scheme disappeared."
I don't mean to minimise the vast gulf between making people join the Hitler Youth and thinking about making them join the Boy Scouts. But, given the deeply statist climate of opinion throughout and just after the war, I'm sometimes amazed that we in Britain did as well as we did in maintaining our liberties. Rather puts the present generation to shame, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Interesting Jerusalem Post story which I found via Random Jottings, Ratzinger a Nazi? Don't believe it. He wasn't a hero. But (have I mentioned this?) he was only 14.

ANOTHER RANDOM THOUGHT: Why is everyone so much more worked up about his having been in the Hitler Youth than in the Wehrmacht? Maybe it's because he eventually deserted from the army, or maybe because everyone knows that you couldn't say "no thanks" to an invitation to join the Wehrmacht. Maybe it's just the vivid mental image that the words "Hitler Youth" call up.