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  • All around you is a ruined city, its streets  reduced to rubble by years of aerial bombardment,  

  • and now a storm of enemy artillery. Civilians  huddle in basements, desperately scavenging for  

  • food where they can. Soldiers frantically dig inimprovising defensive positions in the wreckage.  

  • In the tense hours before the enemy attack beginsyou and your fellow fighters are told to expect no  

  • mercy, to give no ground, and to fight to the  last man. It is your duty and honor to die for  

  • your country, and anyone who panics and tries to  run away will be shot as an example to the others.

  • You and your comrades have few  weapons, little ammunition,  

  • and have had little training. When the  attack finally comes, it is overwhelming.  

  • Shells rain down, and the enemy infantryskilled in the tactics of urban combat-  

  • slowly make their way forward, street by  street, supported by thousands of tanks.  

  • The fighting is brutal and at close quartersand casualties on both sides are appalling.

  • Now, imagine you are only 12 years old.

  • It is Berlin, in April 1945,  and the situation is desperate.  

  • The war is already as good as lost. The German  army is incapable of holding its front lines  

  • against the never ending pressure of Allied  attacks. The Third Reich is crumbling fast,  

  • but Hitler orders the armed forces and the  civilian population to fight on to the bitter end.

  • In the West, American and British Commonwealth  forces have liberated France and pushed through  

  • Belgium. The last great German offensive on the  Western Front has ended in catastrophe in the  

  • frozen fighting of the Battle of the Bulge, losing  more than 90,000 men and hundreds of tanks that  

  • cannot be replaced. Now the Allies have crossed  into Germany itself, reaching the Elbe River.

  • In the East, the unstoppable Soviet juggernautafter pausing in its relentless advance to  

  • secure its flanks and improve its supply, has  once again broken through the weakened German  

  • defensive lines. Berlin is surroundedunder constant artillery bombardment,  

  • and awaiting the final Soviet assault into  the city. Hitler continues to give orders  

  • for relief forces to punch through the Soviet  stranglehold on the city and relieve the capital,  

  • but these are fantasies. German forces outside  the city are exhausted and far too weak,  

  • and all their efforts to break through  have already failed. No help is coming.

  • Germany's military has already lost more than  three million dead over the course of the war,  

  • with another more than one million missing  and taken prisoner. Her manpower reserves  

  • are completely exhausted by nearly six  long years of total war, waged across  

  • continents. An entire generation  of German men has been devastated,  

  • and the German high command is desperate for every  living soul they can throw into the front lines.

  • They have been scraping the bottom of the barrel  for some time now. In September 1944, as German  

  • forces are pushed back further and further on  both fronts, Hitler orders the creation of the  

  • Volkssturm. A sort of improvised militia, separate  from the Army, it officially drafts males as young  

  • as sixteen and as old as sixty. But much younger  boys sometimes volunteer, and are sometimes forced  

  • to serve in its ranks. Some of the older men  are veterans of the First World War, called  

  • on once again to fight and die for their country  in a titanic struggle. But most have no military  

  • experience at all, and are given only the most  basic training, and sparse and outdated equipment.  

  • Some even go into battle carrying weapons from the  previous century. These old men and teenagers are  

  • hurled unprepared into combat alongside the armyand take terrible casualties. By February of 1945,  

  • as the military situation continues to deteriorate  hopelessly, the Volkssturm starts conscripting  

  • women and girls as auxiliary personnel. But  none of these measures are nearly enough.

  • The Nazi leadership had long been interested in  preparing children for war. Nazi youth groups had  

  • been formed as early as 1922, in the social  and political upheaval after the disastrous  

  • First World War, and in 1926 the Hitler Youth was  officially christened. Boys as young as 10 years  

  • old were encouraged to participate in the junior  branch of the group, the Jungvolk, and for girls  

  • a parallel organization was created, the League  of German Girls. There were more than 25,000  

  • Hitler Youth members by 1930, and membership  swelled as Hitler's political fortunes took off.

  • By 1936, membership in the Hitler Youth had been  made mandatory for every young boy in Germany,  

  • whether his parents wanted him to join or not - as  long as he was consideredracially acceptable”.  

  • Parents who declined to register  their children for enrollment  

  • could face fines or imprisonment. No other youth  organizations were even permitted to exist,  

  • so for many boys the Hitler Youth was the only  way to participate in activities like sports  

  • and camping. But political, ideological and racial  training were always the main focus of the group.  

  • The entire reason for its existence was to teach  children and young teenagers to be obedient Nazis,  

  • and members were even encouraged to inform on  their parents if they voiced opposition to the  

  • Nazi Party. Every member swore a personal oath of  loyalty to Adolph Hitler as the savior of Germany.

  • Once the war broke out, Hitler Youth were  given increasingly militaristic training.  

  • They learned how to use weapons, and  were taught basic assault tactics.  

  • Their training emphasized physical  fitness, and they were subjected to  

  • army-style drills meant to teach them total  and automatic obedience to orders. Above all,  

  • they were taught that it was their duty to  sacrifice their lives for the Fatherland.

  • In 1943, as the war turned increasingly against  Germany, an entire SS division was formed from  

  • Hitler Youth members, the 12th SSHitlerjugend.”  Recruits were supposed to be at least seventeen  

  • years old, but many boys sixteen and under joined  its ranks. In 1944 the division was sent to  

  • Normandy to hold the town of Caen against British  and Canadian attacks. There in the dense urban  

  • terrain its young soldiers fought fanaticallyoften recklessly, showing just how far their  

  • indoctrination had gone. Often, they fought on  after all hope of victory was gone, refusing to  

  • retreat or surrender. Allied soldiers remembered  being forced to kill boys young enough to be their  

  • sons. In a month of hard fighting well over half  the division's young men were killed or wounded.  

  • After refitting and receiving replacements, it  would go on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge,  

  • again suffering appalling losses. The unit ended  the war making hopeless counterattacks in Austria.

  • In the final desperate months of the warthe dying Reich turns to younger and younger  

  • children. In the last surviving film footage  of Hitler, from March 20th 1945, the leader of  

  • Germany, looking feeble and exhausted, stands in  front of a line of teenage boys. As the Soviet  

  • Army prepares for its final offensive, the young  fighters have been summoned for a medal ceremony,  

  • and an opportunity to meet the man for whom  they have all sworn to sacrifice everything.  

  • They have been selected, as examples  of Germany's brave youth, to receive  

  • the Iron Cross for their heroism. Their faces  beam with pride as Hitler shakes their hands.

  • Most famous among them is Wilhelm Hubner, who at  16 years old was decorated for carrying messages  

  • from headquarters to forward positions under  heavy fire, and filling wheelbarrows full of  

  • weapons and supplies for the front line troopsBut the youngest boy present is Alfred Czech,  

  • aged only 12 years old. As the fighting  in Silesia approached his family's farm,  

  • the young boy had seen a group of German soldiers  under attack, taking casualties. Using his fathers  

  • farm wagon and horses, Czech made several  trips under enemy fire to collect the wounded  

  • and bring them back behind the lines for medical  treatment, rescuing 12 men. In the film footage,  

  • Hitler pinches the boy's cheeks as he  congratulates the young child soldier.

  • Hubner, Czech and the others receive their  medals, share a meal with the Fuhrer at which  

  • they recount their exploits, and then return to  the fight. A month later, on April 20th 1945,  

  • Hitler's birthday, just ten days before his death  by suicide, Germany's increasingly helpless leader  

  • makes his last public appearance outside his  heavily fortified underground bunker. As Soviet  

  • artillery pummels Berlin, and the suburbs of  the city are turned into bloody battlegrounds,  

  • he again meets with Berlin's child soldiershanding out medals and encouraging them to  

  • make the ultimate sacrifice for their countryHitler will never again leave his bunker alive.

  • Now, in the final weeks of the waras Germany's situation crumbles,  

  • children are enlisted wholesale. The Volkssturm  is routinely drafting children as young as 12.  

  • Allied soldiers report encountering  armed enemies as young as 8.  

  • Thousands of young boys are pulled directly out  of grade school, given little to no training,  

  • handed weapons, and sent directly into  combat against the unstoppable Red Army.  

  • In Berlin entire battalions of young Hitler  Youth boys are formed, and told to hold the  

  • vital bridges that will allow reinforcements into  the city - reinforcements that existed only on  

  • paper. Others are told to ambush Soviet troops as  they advance down Berlin's broad, rubble-filled  

  • streets. Some young children are even formed  into suicide squads, and told to charge Soviet  

  • tanks with grenades. Parties of SS soldiers  roam the ruined city, seeking out deserters.  

  • They execute them, shooting them or hanging  them from lampposts as an example to others that  

  • desertion offers no way out. Even the youngest  soldiers are executed for giving in to fear.

  • By now Berlin is under constant bombardment by  Soviet artillery, and the Red Army is in the  

  • process of surrounding the city. They punch  through the feeble defenses in the suburbs,  

  • and begin their bloody assault into the urban  center. The German defenders, from little boys and  

  • girls up to gray haired elders, fight tenaciouslybut there is no hope of success. Slowly, bloodily,  

  • the Soviet forces conquer the city block by blockuntil the last Nazi resistance is holed up in  

  • government buildings in the center of town. Some  of the most zealous defenders make their final  

  • stand in the heavily fortified Reichstag, once the  seat of German government before the 1933 fire.  

  • Now it has been turned into a deadly fortressSoviet infantry assault the massive building,  

  • clearing it out in brutal room-to-room  combat over the course of several days,  

  • and at last the remnants of the German  high command surrender the city.

  • The Germans lose more than one hundred  thousand military personnel defending Berlin,  

  • including thousands of children, and nearly  two hundred thousand civilians are killed.  

  • The Soviet Army loses more than  seventy five thousand dead,  

  • and three hundred thousand wounded. Once the  fighting finally stops, Soviet troops embark  

  • on an orgy of looting and raping throughout  the shattered city, terrorizing the survivors.

  • On May 7th, 1945, when all remaining German  forces surrender, the Nazi 3rd Reich, which  

  • was to last a thousand years, is no more. But for  the children who were thrown into the last bloody  

  • defense of their homeland, their lives are forever  scarred. Thousands of them were killed in battle,  

  • and many thousands more spent years in Soviet  captivity. 12 year old Alfred Czech would be  

  • shot through the lung while fighting in  what would become the Czech Republic,  

  • and spent the next two years in a prisoner of  war camp. He would return home to find that  

  • his father had been drafted into the Volkssturm in  the final weeks of fighting, and killed in combat.

  • Like Czech, those who eventually made it  home found their country occupied and divided  

  • between East and West. Like so many othersGermany's child soldiers would spend the rest  

  • of their lives trying to come to terms with  the enormity of what had happened to Germany,  

  • and their own roles in one of the most  brutal, inhuman regimes in history.

All around you is a ruined city, its streets  reduced to rubble by years of aerial bombardment,  

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Hitler's Child Army - The Bunker Boys

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/19
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