Artur Axmann was a senior official in Nazi Germany who was entrusted with leading the Hitler Youth movement from 1940 to 1945. It is a sign of how much Adolf Hitler trusted Axmann as it is known that Hitler believed that the future of Nazi Germany lay with its youth and anyone selected to lead its youth had to be held in the highest regard by the Fuehrer. Axmann obviously fitted this criterion.
Axmann was born on February 18th 1913. He had a legal background and came to prominence when he founded the first Hitler Youth group in the important state of Westphalia. As the support for the Nazi Party increased at national elections, so did Axmann’s progress up the ranks of Nazi leaders. In 1932, with the party the most popular in the Weimar Republic, Hitler made Axmann a Reich Leader of the party. His specific task was to reorganise the youth movements that had developed within the party as the party itself grew in voter popularity. As with a lot of senior Nazi officials, Axmann was given a grand title: ‘Chief of the Social Office of the Reich Youth Leadership’.
In this capacity, Axmann did a lot to modernise what the Hitler Youth movement stood for. He introduced vocational training for members. Axmann also succeeded in changing attitudes towards those youths who worked on farms. Previously they had been seen as just labourers. However, Axmann sold the story that Nazi Germany required food and that those Hitler Youth who worked in the fields were keeping Germany going down the road to self-sufficiency – autarky.
When World War Two broke out, Axmann served in the campaign in Western Europe. On August 8th 1940, he was made Reich Youth Leader replacing Baldur von Shirach. However, Axmann continued serving in the military and was badly wounded in Eastern Europe in 1941. His injuries resulted in him losing an arm.
He returned to Germany and continued his work in the Hitler Youth. This was so appreciated by Hitler that Axmann was awarded the ‘German Order’, the highest decoration that the Nazi Party could bestow on its members.
Axmann also thought along the same lines as Hitler in that he believed that women should remain in the home. In the last weeks of the Third Reich he was asked to use young girls to fight the Red Army. However, he refused to do this stating that women did not take lives.
However, Axmann was happy enough to use young boys in the war. In the final weeks of the war and as units of the Red Army homed in on Berlin, Axmann organised Hitler Youth units into the Home Guard. They had neither the training nor the equipment to fight the Red Army and in essence what they tried to do was completely futile. However, such was the fear of the ‘Plague from the East’ and the patriotism that had been instilled into them, that a great number of Hitler Youth did fight in the Home Guard – and a great many of them were killed.
Axmann remained one of Hitler’s inner circle until the end. He was in the ‘Fuehrer Bunker’ in the last days of the war and only left it when Hitler gave him permission to do so. He left with Martin Bormann. They both went their separate ways and Axmann survived and disappeared into the chaos of Berlin. He lived under an alias – ‘Erich Siewert’ before being arrested in December 1945 and was sentenced to three years three months in prison for being a “major offender”.
After his released, Axmann was re-arrested by the West German government and tried as part of the ‘De-Nazification Trials’. Axmann was obviously going to be found guilty having already served time in prison for offences. He was fined a total that was half of the value of the property that he owned – 35,000 Marks – for indoctrinating the youth of Germany with Nazi ideas.
Artur Axmann died in 1996.
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