Baldur von Schirach was head of the Hitler Youth movement in Nazi Germany. The young of Nazi Germany had a very important role to play in Hitler’s Germany, so Schirach, as the head of all youth movements, must have been held in the highest esteem by the Nazi leader.
Schirach was born on March 9th 1907. His mother was American and for his first five years he spoke English before learning German. In 1917, Schirach joined a military cadet unit and he joined the Nazi Party in 1925. Schirach first met Hitler in 1926 and the future Fuhrer took to him and advised Schirach to move to Munich if he was to advance his position within the party. In 1929, Hitler appointed Schirach head of the National Socialists Students’ League. In 1931, he was promoted to head the youth movement in the Nazi Party and in 1933 became the head of Hitler Youth.
Schirach himself viewed the youth of Germany with the same importance as Hitler. He wrote that “the NSDAP is the party of youth” and he frequently compared the honesty and freshness of the nation’s youth with the corruption and ‘oldness’ of Weimar Germany. “Youth had right, hope and the future on its side: age had death.” (Joachim Fest) “Faust, the Ninth Symphony and the will of Adolf Hitler are eternal youth and know neither time nor transience.” (Schirach)
Fest claims that the fledgling Nazi Party specifically targeted the disillusioned youth of Weimar Germany – those who has seen the failure of past regimes and old political parties in the horrors of World War One and the chaos witnessed during the years of the Weimar government. It was Schirach’s task to focus their energy totally and completely towards Hitler as, in the words of Rudolf Hess, “Hitler is Germany and Germany is Hitler”.
Nazi education policy and post-school activities all came within Schirach’s remit – or at the least within his influence. His book ‘Revolution in Education’ (1938) was a clear statement of intent as to what he wanted from the Nazi education system.
Schirach was a devoted Nazi and in 1940 he volunteered to join the army and fought in France where he won the Iron Cross. However, he was recalled to Germany. No longer in charge of Hitler Youth, Schirach was appointed Gauleiter of Vienna. Here he oversaw the deportation of Jews; it is estimated that Schirach oversaw the deportation of 185,000 Austrian Jews, which in 1942 he stated was a contribution to the culture of Europe.
At the end of World War Two, Schirach was arrested and put on trial at Nuremburg. Like Albert Speer, during his trial he denounced Hitler. This may have saved him from being hanged – though his defence also pointed out that he had in 1943 protested about the conditions Jews were kept in; protests that were ignored. On October 1st 1946, Schirach was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to twenty years in prison. He served his full term and was released in September 1966.
Schirach spent the rest of his life in southern Germany and died on August 8th 1974.