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German Youth Movement

The German Youth Movement (German: Die deutsche Jugendbewegung) is a collective term for a
cultural and educational movement that started in 1896. It consists of numerous associations of young
people that focus on outdoor activities. The movement included German Scouting and the
Wandervogel. By 1938, 8 million children had joined associations that identified with the movement.

In 1896 the Wandervogel was founded in Berlin, and soon they crystallized many vital concepts from
the ideas of earlier social critics and Romantics that came to reach great and extensive influence on
many fields at the onset of the 20th century.
To escape the repressive and authoritarian society of the end of the 19th century and the adult values of
a new modern German society increasingly transformed by industrialism, imperial militarism, and
British and Victorian influence, groups of young people searched for free space to develop some
healthy life of their own away from the increasingly contaminated cities growing all around and from
where most of them came to be disappointed. Also a romantic longing for a pristine state of things and
older cultural diverse traditions played a part. They turned to nature, confraternity and adventure.
Soon the groups split and there originated ever more organisations, which still all called themselves
Wandervogel but were organisationally independent. Nonetheless, the feeling was still of being a
common movement but split into several branches.

Bndische Jugend
After the First World War, the leaders returned disillusioned from the war. The same was true for
leaders of German Scouting. So both movements started to influence each other heavily in Germany.
From the Wandervogel came a stronger culture of hiking, adventure, bigger tours to farther places,
romanticism and a younger leadership structure. Scouting brought uniforms, flags, more organisation,
more camps and a clearer, more rational ideology. There was also an educationalist influence from
Gustav Wyneken.
Together, this led to the emergence of the Bndische Jugend, a movement of many different youth
associations. There were Wandervogel groups, Scouting associations and others, all of which mixed the
elements described above with new ingredients. New styles and groups developed. A new tent form,
the kohte, was invented, which are still the typical black tents of German scouts on international scout
camps. The Deutsche Freischar and then the Jungenschaft was founded.

Nazi Germany
In the German Youth Movement one can find all the different reactions of German society as a whole
to the rise of the Nazis. Many welcomed it as a freedom movement to break free of the perceived

injustice of the Treaty of Versailles and make Germany strong again. The notion of a
'Volksgemeinschaft', a people's community, was also popular. On the other hand there were also many
in the German Youth Movement who saw their associations as an elite superior to the more primitive
Nazis. Some groups were genuinely democratic, or even left wing. Many more, even some of those who
tended to the right, still wanted to carry on their independent work and existence as organisations.
This led inescapably to a confrontation with the Nazi state, since the Nazi state did not allow any youth
groups separate from the Hitler Youth, which itself adopted many of the outer forms of the Bndische
Jugend after 1933. The groups remaining outside the Hitler Youth were outlawed and pursued, while
some of them (e.g., the Edelweiss Pirates) tried to carry on.
One thing which might have been different from other sections of German society is the following: The
Youth Movement was very idealistic, romantic and moral. Therefore its members tended to take
greater risks in following and acting upon their beliefs and persuasions. This might be the reason why
one can find significant members of the Youth Movement on both sides, among the Nazis and among
the Widerstand.
Examples for this are the following: Adolf Eichmann was one of their members from 1930 to 1931.
Hans Scholl was a member of the Jungenschaft, an especially independent-minded association of the
Bndische Jugend. Claus von Stauffenberg was a member of the Scout association of the
Neupfadfinder, also an association of the Bndische Jugend.

After the war

After the war many associations were refounded in West Germany, when the allies allowed it. In East
Germany the Communist government did not allow it but instead outlawed all independent youth
organisations. On the other hand there were some connections between the German Youth Movement
and the Free German Youth.
In West Germany the Youth Movement became strongly dominated by Scouting, although
Wandervogel, Jungenschaft and other groups were also refounded. In contrast to the situation before
the war, all groups tried to have a more rational ideology and declared their support of the new Basic
Law. German Scouting also approached world Scouting (the World Organization of the Scout
Movement and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and was admitted to the world
organisations for the first time.

Today there are still many groups and organisations which see themselves as part of this movement.
German Scouting is still heavily influenced by this history, although the historical influence varies from
group to group. The most distinctive features of German Scouting trace from this history.


Howard Paul Becker. German Youth: Bond or Free. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946.
Detailed history and sociology of the various aspects of the youth movement. Remarkable for the
times, the discussion of homoeroticism and homosexuality within some of these groups is nonjudgmental. OCLC 2083809 In 1998, Routledge reprinted this work as Volume 8 of its
International Library of Sociology and The Sociology of Youth and Adolescence series. OCLC
761549797 ISBN 978-0-415-86351-3
Peter D. Stachura, The German Youth Movement, 1900-1945: An Interpretive and
Documentary History (London: Macmillan, 1981).
Barbara Stambolis: Jugendbewegung, European History Online, Institute for European History,
2011, last retrieved: 21 February 2013.
Walter Laqueur: Young Germany: A History of the German Youth Movement, Transaction Pub,
1984, ISBN 0-87855-960-4
There are many articles in the German Wikipedia about these topics. Start with
de:Jugendbewegung or the category de:Kategorie:Jugendbewegung.