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Youth Under Dictators

The Indoctrination of Children in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia

The twentieth century saw the rise and fall of many authoritarian regimes. While each of these societies had unique characteristics, much of what they did to secure, hold, and expand their power and influence exposes certain similarities between dictatorships. One such feature shared by many ideology-driven regimes is their means and methods of controlling and indoctrinating their nation's youth. In the case of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, controlling the youth was a central part of what made these regimes so dangerous. 

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Youth Under Dictators

This exhibition was inspired by a children's book of the same name. Written for American youth in 1941, Oril Brown's Youth Under Dictators describes the daily life of ordinary German and Russian children around the same age as the intended readers, following what would have been a typical day for a child living under the reigns of Hitler and Stalin. Like this book, the "Youth Under Dictators" exhibition explores the similarities and differences between the youth movements of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and seeks to understand what life was like for children in these tyrannical societies.

The Soviet Union


While often referred to broadly as the Komsomol, the state-sanctioned youth organization of the U.S.S.R. was divided into three age-based categories: the Little Octobrists, the Young Pioneers, and the Komsomol. Each division fed into the next: Octobrists became Pioneers, Pioneers became Komsomol, and the highest-achieving Komsomol members received invitations to join the official Communist Party. While membership in these groups was technically optional, the vast majority of children in the Soviet Union joined them. It was considered unusual, if not outright suspicious, to elect not to participate.

The Little Octobrist, Young Pioneer, and Komsomol organizations prepared children for devotion to the State and, ideally, membership in the Communist Party. Every activity, ritual, and event was designed to indoctrinate, to firmly affix the ideals of communism within the psyches of these children. They were taught to prioritize communism above all else, be it their families, social life, or personal desires. By way of these youth organizations, the Soviet Union politicized the experience of childhood, using it as a means of social engineering in order to create the perfect communists.

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Young Pioneers Trumpet and Banner

A trumpet and banner of the Soviet Young Pioneers. These were often carried by Soviet youth while out on parade among other social functions.

Tin Wind-Up Toys

One of a variety of Soviet-produced tin windup toys. This windup toy features cars and buses that turn in and out of a car park and tunnel. The switch controls not only the speed of the traffic but also turns the toy on and off. Other variations of this toy exist that feature trains.

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Porcelain Sea Lion

A Soviet-produced porcelain sea lion for young and old alike. The Soviet Union and her partners produced many different types of porcelain figurines. Many focused on Soviet youth and the Red Army, yet animals and plates with nature themes were also widely produced and sold all over the USSR. Tourists to the Soviet Union also enjoyed picking these up as souvenirs.

Young Pioneer Uniform

A male uniform of the Soviet Young Pioneers. The red scarf, red side cap, and white button-up shirt became the standard look that was copied, albeit with some alterations, in other socialist countries as well.

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Sampler Album of Red Army Music

A mini album of sampler music. Many of these vinyls were meant from only a few listens before they became too ruined to use again. They were meant to showcase new songs being released. This album features music for the Red Army.

Youth Magazines

A set of Soviet youth magazines in their original wrapping. Many of these magazines were used for both enjoyment and also as teaching material.

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Who to Be?

A children's book entitled Who to Be? by Vladimir Mayakovsky, a well-known poet and author who often wrote pro-Communist works. Originally published in 1928, the book describes different professions with catchy poetry and playful illustrations. It was one of the most popular children's books in the Soviet Union. 

Komsomol Propaganda Poster

A propaganda poster for the Komsomol celebrating the anniversary of the organization's founding.

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"Murzilka" Magazine

An issue of “Murzilka,” one of the most popular Soviet youth magazines. It was named after the hero of a popular children’s series by A. A. Vedorov-Davydov, focused on literature and art for a 6 to 12-year-old audience. Founded in 1924, the magazine is still published to this day.

Octobrist Flag

A flag depicting the Octobrist symbol, which was a five-pointed star containing a picture of Lenin in his youth.

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Komsomol Side Cap

A standard side cap worn by members of the Komsomol.

Komsomol Peace-Themed Side Cap

A side cap with the peace dove. Like many socialist youth movements, the Komsomol promoted peace as one of the guiding principles of their organization.

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Nazi Germany


The Hitler Youth was the youth section of the National Socialist German Workers Party, which can be traced to 1922. While strictly voluntary in the early years, membership became mandatory and was even necessary for any young German who wished to find employment in the future. Most HJ members were forced to leave the youth movement at the age of eighteen and served six months in the Reich’s Labor Service before transferring, at first to the storm troopers and later on to party organizations or the army. Even girls spent time serving the public by being sent out to farms to help with the harvest. The Hitler Youth was based on the military structure of the German Army and was indoctrinated to embrace racism, collectivism, hero worship, the will of the Führer, and the national struggle to build a stronger Germany that they, the youth, would inherit and rule along with the entire world.


The Hitler Youth would grow to become instrumental not only for the Nazi Party but in the war effort where the HJ would serve as policemen, fire fighters, anti-aircraft batteries, and as soldiers on the front lines of battle in Normandy and on the eastern front. The history of the Hitler Youth is one of seduction, of grand false promises, of glory and heroism, of community, of insiders and outsiders, of brutality, violence, hate and anti-Semitism. As this concise look into the darkness of organized and politically sanctioned child abuse will show, the Hitler Youth was a crucial organization for the NSDAP and, more specifically, for Hitler to exercise his will over those who lived under his dictatorship.

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Luftwaffe Board Game

This board game was produced by the Luftwaffe magazine "Der Adler." As with most goods made for young consumers, games and toys were designed to make children excited about becoming future soldiers for the Reich. Children would play war before joining the youth organizations that would begin training them for the military. This game gave children a playful introduction to air defense and assault strategies. The wooden plane pieces contain bombers and fighters that can be hindered by the barrage balloons or get a direct hit on a factory. All this depended on the roll of the dice. 

Toy Soldiers

The Elastolin toy soldiers were one of the most desired and sought-after toys for children growing up in Nazi Germany. Elastolin made SA stormtroopers, SS men in their black uniforms, the personalities of the Third Reich, such as Hitler, Goebbels, Göring, Himmler, and many more. There were army soldiers, tanks and other armor, artillery pieces, bunkers, and even wind up tin tanks that drove on their own. Together with the army steel helmet made just for children, a boy would be ready to march into Poland in the comfort of his living room.

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Cigarette Collecting Cards

German cigarette companies have, even before the rise of Hitler, printed numerous collecting cards that could be found in cigarette cartons or bought separately to fill out collecting books. Much like stamp collecting, children would either buy these cards themselves or have one of their parents give them whatever cards they received. Topics ranged from nature to airplanes and, under the Third Reich, topics turned towards those of the Nazi Party and its propaganda aims. Some focused on Hitler, others on the Olympic games of 1936, and most were of a military nature. The books, once completed, became coveted treasures for youngsters of the Reich. The collecting cards presented here show a range of topics from Nazi Party members to Hitler Youth military events, to Hitler, his generals, and exotic machines being invented at the time.

"Proof of Heritage" Pass

This Ahnen-Paß, or heritage pass book, was used to certify that a person's family was of Aryan descent. Post offices around the country also kept these documents as well, especially after 1935, when the Nuremberg Laws restricted citizenship, marriages, and more, to only pure Aryans. Jews were no longer citizens and marriages between Jews and Germans was considered race defilement and illegal. Most schoolchildren also had to prove their heritage back to 1700.

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Sixth Grade Racial Theory Textbook

This textbook, entitled Race, People and State of the Indo-Germans, Germanics, and Germans, was designed to teach sixth graders their supposed "racial heritage." It is an alarming example of the perversion of the teaching profession and the extent to which Nazi ideology penetrated into the schools of Germany. Most teachers embraced the new curriculum and even became Nazi Party members.

Anti-Semitic Library Book

Britain, Hinterland of World Jewry was a book that outlined the Nazi's anti-Semitic views about British plutocrats and Jews running the ailing empire and ultimately the world. This book is but one of many teaching aides used to instill in children the virulent hatred of Jews the Nazis hoped to pass on.

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Hitler Youth Membership Booklet

This Hitler Youth Membership ID booklet was issued to Georg Jülies. Georg joined the Hitler Youth on August 1, 1933, the same year Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.

Bund Deutscher Mädel Climbing Jacket

This Bund Deutscher Mädel  (BDM - the girls' division of the Hitler Youth) Kletterjacke, or climbing jacket, was worn by a girl from the Oberdonau region of Austria. The red and white life rune patch indicates that this girl had medical training. Most of these girls would end up serving in the German Red Cross as nurses.

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Athletics Accomplishment Booklet

Each member of the Hitler Youth carried with them an athletic accomplishment booklet. In these booklets the athletic track record of each HJ member was kept and could be presented upon request to HJ leaders, health experts, and the military.

Photograph of Hitler Youth Members Marching

Marching was part of the standard routine for HJ boys and girls.

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Wartime Travel Poster

When the war broke out, many parents of young children living in or near major cities worried about air raids. A program was set up that sent children into the countryside, where city children lived on farms and with any families able to take these children in.

"Morgen" Magazine

The youth magazine "Morgen," distributed by the NS Youth Papers office in Berlin.

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If you enjoyed this exhibition, please consider purchasing the catalog. It contains more items and detailed information about the Hitlerjugend and Komsomol programs. All proceeds benefit Regimes Museum's educational programming. Thank you!

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