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Hitler Youth Training Film

This film captures young recruits performing training exercises in a Hitler Youth camp.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Exercise was a fundamental element of the Nazi regime’s public health campaigns, and Nazi propaganda depicted physical fitness as every German's “national duty.”1 Nazi leaders did not call for Germans to exercise out of interest in their individual health, but they believed that a population of physically fit citizens was necessary to build a strong military that could conquer “living space” (Lebensraum) for the so-called "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft").

The regime especially emphasized the importance of physical fitness and athletic activities for young people.2 Nazi youth groups such as the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls indoctrinated German youth in Nazi ideology while engaging them in exercises, games, and sports. These activities were designed to physically condition their bodies and encourage a sense of camaraderie.3

The featured film was made at the Hitler Youth training camp at the Austrian town of Grödig near the Berghof, Adolf Hitler’s mountain retreat in the Bavarian Alps.4 The undated clip shows a camp experience filled with games and outdoor activities as well as military training, physical conditioning, and ideological indoctrination.5 The young men in the film are shown competing in athletic events, learning to march, and training in the use of compasses, maps, rifles, and grenades. They also work outdoors and hike a mountain, reflecting Nazi thinking about the importance of exercise, hard work, and a “nature-loving lifestyle.”6

As shown in the film, the Hitler Youth actively prepared young men for military service. Athletic competitions, aggressive games, and rugged outdoor activities helped shape young men into soldiers. In one drill shown here, for example, trainees practice throwing mock grenades at a target. The German army and SS recruited from the Hitler Youth, and the organization’s links to the German military grew closer during World War II.7

As the Hitler Youth’s activities prepared young German men to become soldiers, the regime encouraged young women to stay fit with exercises intended to promote camaraderie and cooperation. For example, in the propaganda film, “Healthy Woman - Healthy Nation,” young women are shown performing coordinated group exercises and helping younger children with their gymnastics routines.

For more primary sources on Nazi propaganda, see the Experiencing History collection, Nazi Propaganda and National Unity.

For more on Nazi public health policies targeting German youth, see the Experiencing History items, "Nazis Hit Alcohol, Tobacco" and "Sexually Transmitted Disease Is an Obstacle to Marriage."

Although over 80 percent of "Aryan" German youth became involved in the Hitler Youth, not all teenagers who participated were enthusiastic about these activities. For more, see Gerhard Rempel, Hitler's Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989); and Michael H. Kater, Hitler Youth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).

It is unclear who recorded this film or for what purpose it was made, but it appears to have been made by an amateur filmmaker with access to the camp rather than an officially sanctioned professional film crew.

The German-American Bund closely patterned its youth camps in the United States on the structure of Hitler Youth camps. For more, see the Experiencing History item, "German Youth in the USA."

Nazi ideas about exercise and nature were heavily influenced by the public health policies of the Weimar Republic. To learn more, see the related Experiencing History item, "Born from Necessity."

A Hitler Youth division was formed within the Waffen-SS, and members of the Hitler Youth became an important element of the Volkssturm (a conscripted militia of teenage boys and men over 60 that was activated to defend the German homefront in the final months of the war). For more on the Volkssturm, see David K. Yelton, Hitler's Volkssturm: The Nazi Militia and the Fall of Germany, 1944–1945 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2002). 

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 2013.22.1
RG Number RG-60.1381
Source Number 2963
Date Created
Duration 00:02:39
Time Selection 3:46-6:25
Sound No
Grödig, Austria
Reference Location
Berchtesgaden, Austria
Moving Image Type Raw Footage
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