Oral History

Herbert Oppenheimer describes activities of the Hitler Youth

Herbert Oppenheimer was born on January 4, 1926, in Berlin, Germany. He lived with foster parents, who were Seventh-Day Adventists. While living with his foster parents, he had to join Hitler Youth along with everyone else in his class at school. During this time, he learned that he was Jewish. The school consequently expelled him from the Hitler Youth. All prospective members of the Hitler Youth had to be "Aryans." He had to leave his foster parents in April 1939, and lived in an orphanage run by the Jewish community until he was 14.  

Beginning in 1933, the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls had an important role to play in the new Nazi regime. Through these organizations, the Nazi regime planned to indoctrinate young people with Nazi ideology. This was part of the process of Nazifying German society. The aim of this process was to dismantle existing social structures and traditions. The Nazi youth groups were about imposing conformity. Youth throughout Germany wore the same uniforms, sang the same Nazi songs, and participated in similar activities.   

Herbert describes the focus on physical exercise during the time he was a member of the Hitler Youth. 

Transcript

I should, I should tell you, I ... it happened so that uh I, as a student in school, everybody had to join the Hitler Youth. And I joined like everybody else in my class, and we had uh played games and stuff like this. And we went swimming and made a lot of exercises. And um one day after about ... I think it was 3 months, something like this, and this … every afternoon we had to go there to a certain place. So, you know, it was a daily affair. And, uh, I was called into the office there and they told me that uh I should go home, that I don't belong here. And I said "why did you say that?" and he says "you’re a Jew." So, I went home.


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