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Reich Ministry of Justice Report on the Emergence of "Youth Cliques and Gangs" and the Struggle against Them (early 1944)

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(a) Politically hostile gangs

These associations derive from the so-called bündisch youth. It is, therefore, necessary to look briefly at the earlier youth movements. Around the turn of the century, a youth movement emerged from the desire to resist the bourgeois superficiality of the Wilhelmine period and to provide youth with a real experience through nature. As time went on, this basically good idea was overlaid by a desire for an autonomous youth, which soon separated youth off from the nation as a whole. A large number of organizations were established, each of which wanted to continue to operate as a league [Bund] and pursue its own ideas into adult life. While the HJ educates boys and girls to be efficient national comrades and members of the community, the leagues wanted precisely to pursue a distinct life outside the national community. Their league was their life and gave their life its meaning. They advocated male friendship and thereby encouraged homosexuality among the naive to a horrific extent. Instead of community education they chose the principle of selection and favored a distinct life style and the notion of a group bound by fate. The boys themselves had—and this explains the considerable attraction—the satisfying feeling of having their own world view, which in fact was extremely unclear. In addition, the experience of the bündisch young people remained stuck in a false Romanticism which in part descended into a wild criminality or finally into male prostitution. After the change of regime, the bündisch—confessional and politically hostile—youth organizations were dissolved or integrated [into the HJ]. But soon a considerable number of groups re-established themselves, which must be regarded as illegal successors to the bündisch groups.

The Reich Youth Leadership established a special 'West' central office to combat these groups with its HQ in Düsseldorf, which was in operation from 1937–8. With the outbreak of war the groups revived. The politically hostile groups organized mostly bündisch or Marxist elements and mainly included young people who had not yet belonged to the HJ or had left it. This partly explains their hostile attitude to the HJ.

The best-known politically hostile group is the Edelweiss Pirates. They organized in the West, namely in Cologne and Düsseldorf, but have subsequently spread over wide areas of the Reich. The Cologne juvenile court judge has recently described their external characteristics in a report. They wear the Edelweiss badge on or under the left lapel or colored pins in the color of Edelweiss or in black, red and yellow. In so far as they belong to the HJ these badges are worn either openly or secretly on the uniform. One often sees the skull badge. The regulation uniform of the Edelweiss Pirates is short trousers, white socks, a check shirt, a white pullover and scarf and a windcheater. In addition, they have very long hair. A comb is worn in the left sock and a knife in the right one. In so far as girls belong to the gangs they wear white socks, a white pullover or waistcoat. In the warmer months they leave town in their hundreds on foot, by bicycle or train. They distinguish between gatherings and trips. Normally, they meet at night on street corners, in doorways or in parks. They sing their own songs which mostly come from the bündisch movement or reflect Russian culture; they exchange experiences from their trips and report on criminal acts they have committed. There is little homosexuality. Instead, they practice sexual intercourse with the female members. The boys belong mostly to the 14–18-year-old age group. But there are also some pre-teens and adults. The leaders, in particular, who are mostly tough and intelligent, come from previous leagues or from political parties. The members have often not learned a trade or are constantly changing their jobs. There are often absentee workers among them. The organization is divided into groups which are named after streets, squares, parks or bunkers. It is astonishing that groups are marked by common external characteristics. This suggests that an umbrella organization or at least a uniform leadership exists which issues directives. However, this is not certain.

The characteristics described here are also manifest, though sometimes in a slightly different form, in the structure of other groups, which appear under a variety of names, e.g. Mob, Blasé, Mete, Platte, or Schlurf. They base themselves largely on bündisch ideas without being conscious of it and have links with other groups of either a friendly or a hostile nature.

As is demonstrated by the examples referred to above, most have an anti-HJ attitude, hate all discipline and thereby place themselves in opposition to the community. However, they are not only politically hostile (recently their attitude has reached the point of being hostile to the state), but, as a result of their composition, they are also criminal and antisocial, so that one often cannot make a distinction between the two types of group.

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