An Excerpt from ‘Joy, Discipline, Faith’

While rummaging through some used-book stalls at the University recently, I found this book (g), whose title translates as 'Joy, Discipline, Faith [the motto of the Hitler Youth]: Handbook for Cultural Work in the Camp':

Freude Zucht Glaube Cover

It's a manual for leaders of Hitler Youth summer camps, published in 1943 (4th edition!) by the National Socialist Party. It features a short foreword by Baldur von Schirach. The book addresses many issues: setting up the camp, raising the official Nazi flag every morning and bringing it down every evening, 'communal' song evenings, marches, and ceremonies, and even what sort of writers should be invited to the camp to recite their work. There's a section on sayings and songs appropriate for camp life, and even a 20-page section on recent German history for camp leaders, told from a …distinctive perspective. The words 'sacrifice' and 'betrayal' pop up frequently. There are also suggested 'political' songs and plays for the (apparently incessant) communal singing events as well.

I'll be translating sections of this fascinating document in the coming weeks. Here's a foretaste, from a section called: "Hosting a Writer" (Die Dichterlesung), pp. 220-222 (I translate the word Dichter with various equivalents below):

Visits by writers to the camp harbor a danger that it is best to eliminate during the preparatory phase. Not every writer who says truly important things in his writings has a personal appearance that is capable of holding its own with a camp full of exercise-honed young men. Camp life imprints individual boys strongly with the role model of an upstanding man who can speak in a loud, clear voice…

[Although poets in cities are permitted to slouch,] outdoors, in the camp, we want to hear only from men who, in their entire being and appearance, belong to our community (in the narrowest sense!). It should also be expected that young writers, if they belong to the Hitler Youth, should appear in the traditional summer duty uniform. If they are in another unit of the movement or not organized at all, they should still appear in clothing which is appropriate to the surroundings.

The writer should eat dinner together with the camp leaders, at the table sitting around the small camp flag. The boys should learn that poets — and they often have a strange idea about this profession! — eat the same plain bread that they do.

Afterward, the boys all go to the campfire, or sit in a  large ring. The poet should, if possible, read to a group that is not too large, so that he can sit among them like a comrade among comrades. It is now up to the poet to get across his desired message by a mixture of spoken and read words. The leader on duty will have spoken with the poet earlier about which points the reading or lecture should be interrupted with a song.

Even when the poet must leave the camp on the same evening, he should never fail to take part in the lowering of the flag. At this point, he will stand behind the camp leader. The lowering of the flag should be an obligation for him, through which he fits into the life of the camp as a comrade.

Perhaps the most basic rule for the writer's visit to the camp is: it is better that no writer come to the camp as for such an occasion to go awry for any reason — either through poor preparation or through the writer's clumsiness. Our boys should see the poet as a 'the people's bard', who lives in struggle and service as everyone else. They should believe him — and precisely because the boys are ready to believe, a disappointment can ruin a great many things.