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.

12 thoughts on “An Excerpt from ‘Joy, Discipline, Faith’

  1. Just a thought:

    “Zucht” does not mean “discipline”, as one would think by reading your translation.

    “Zucht” clearly implicates the thought of “breeding” – here the arean “Herrenrasse”. “Zucht und Ordnung” comes as a pair, in which “Zucht” points to the homogenous type, and “Ordnung” to the individual discipline.

    Since I don’t speak English, I cant offer a better translation. But “discipline”: It’s not! 😎


  2. I disagree, Bosso, and so does Duden. True, the first three definitions of Zucht in Duden relate to animal breeding, but that’s just the thing: they’re used for animals. The fourth definition is: (geh.: Disziplin) Discipline; fuer Zucht und Ordnung sorgen — keep order.


  3. Andrew, you’re right. In other circumstances I would go along.

    But here it’s a title of a book that explains how the Nationalsozialisten wanted to *breed* the coming generation.

    And it is meant that way, “Von der Aufzucht des Kindes”. While you can accomplish discipline with strong will, a (e.g.) jew may never be forced to meet the higher breed!

    “Zucht” is one of the core beliefs of the Nazis, and – trust me – “discipline” is merely displaced here.


  4. I’d love to read the German original/long version for your “poets in cities are permitted to slouch”. I think that’s my new motto (and I’m not even a poet).

    I think “Zucht” has connotations of both “breeding” and “discipline”. It’s a repulsive word, like a brutal teutonian version of “cultivation”.


  5. “Zucht und Ordnung” does not always come as pair. Stuff like “die rechte Zucht aufrecht erhalten” can be found very often in the 19th and early 20th century literature about education.


  6. Anyhow, all Anglo-Americans seems to be fascinated from the fascist era. 😉

    The discussion about Zucht is quite interesting.
    No, here is no direct link to breeding.

    It is meant as (self)diszipline, in the direction of chastly manners.

    You may look as well to the meaning of the relative words “züchtig”, “Unzucht”(contrary) and “züchtigen” (the penalty, if people did abide “Zucht”) to get the clue.


  7. The association with breeding is plausible, but in this case misleading. Kluge’s etymological dictionary says that it derives from “ziehen” (pull) and that there was an early meaning change connecting it with “erziehen” (raise, educate).
    Andrew’s translation of the title seems fine to me.

    The breeding in “Lebensborn” or elsewhere was supposed to begin a few years after the camping holidays 😀


  8. @bosso:

    “Zucht” does not mean “discipline”


    “Zucht” clearly implicates the thought of “breeding” – here the arean “Herrenrasse”.

    It’s true that “Zucht” also means breeding or rearing. Only that the title would then become “Joy, Breeding, Faith”, and that wouldn’t be a suitable motto for HJ camp life, but rather a What Doesn’t Belong game. Joy, discipline, and faith are virtues. The HJ wanted to instill these virtues in German boys.

    I take it you aren’t a native German speaker. You may think that “Zucht” ­– in its breeding/rearing meaning – is synonymous to Erziehung, Aufziehen, Großziehen. Not so. It has strong sexual connotations: Selection of parents, covering (!), childbirth. It would be completely inappropriate to say something like: “Die Zucht meiner Kinder ist eine schwierige Aufgabe”. A native speaker would not say that ever.

    (To address a possible demur, it’s right that the Nazis had biologistic pretensions, and there were plans to direct the genetic enhancement of the German people by encouraging desirable people to have children in a manner somewhat similar to animal breeding – to say nothing of the much more pronounced, widespread destruction of undesirable people. But neither of these would obviously have happened at HJ camps!)


  9. Folks: Discipline and breeding are both implied; discipline of the kind that produces “breeding” in the sense of the pure cultivation of personally moral and socially virtuous qualities. (This has, in turn, something to do, as the Nazis understood it, with the outer form of “breeding” in which they were also interested.)


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