From the archive - Problems of German Youth: the human material

22nd October 2010 at 01:00
29 June 1946 - The scars of the Second World War soon turned to bitterness for Germany's post-Nazi young

It would be a mistake to imagine that organisation could appreciably contribute to the reorientation of German youth. The nihilistic cynicism and disillusionment prevelant among young Germans will require the utmost patience and goodwill if more than mere opportunistic "change of mind" is the goal.

Talking to young people in Germany today quickly reveals the tragic magnitude of the problem. Some young men who were active in the Frankfurt Youth Council told me how confused their young members were. One of them was an unusually intelligent youth of 20 with two years of army service. Through the influence of a Socialist father and a Catholic mother, he remained untouched by Nazi teachings.

"Our young people," he said, "are the real victims of the Nazi regime. They could never choose what they should do. They were simply brought up by the Nazis without any alternative. Everything in which they believed is now shattered. The virtues of yesterday are the crimes of today. It is not surprising that they are suspicious, cynical and bitter. They have to reconsider plans that they have made for life. We are despised by the world but we cannot feel guilty."

Nationalist sentiment is predominant, as is great pride in everything German. Most think that national socialism was "not entirely wrong" and their ignorance of the social philosophy is complete. Their refutation of collective guilt is violent, and significantly most have a distrust towards the German officials who have appeared since the collapse.

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