November 14, 2017

1949. Occupation Powers Back German Youth Movements

Drumbeats Echo in Germany
The Freie Deutsche Jugend "House of Youth," located along Unter den Linden in Berlin, with a sign reading: "Erhöhte Kampfbereitschaft der Jugend zur Verteidigung des Friedens," December 13, 1951 (Photo by Martin Schmidt - source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 15, 1949

The disputed pattern of the future is shaping itself in Germany along two lines, two philosophies which now are struggling for the key to that future in this country—German youth.

You remember about ten years ago we watched the newsreels from the land of the Nazi; magnificent and frightening scenes of Hitlerjugend, the erect, handsome, blond kids—boys and girls—with their mystical torchlight parades, the drums, the bugles, and the banners.

A few months ago I saw a similar procession a quarter-million strong, marching down Unter den Linden complete with torches, drums, and banners.

It was East Berlin, and the kids were from East Germany. Freie Deutsche Jugend—Free German Youth—they are called. The management is different, but the symbols and the meaning are the same as in Hitler's day—and just as frightening.

In the year and a half I have been covering Western Germany, the closest thing to a youth procession I've seen was a line-up to get into a GYA Christmas party. And there will be plenty of that this week as the GYA clubs spread themselves throughout the American zone of Germany.

GYA, German Youth Assistance, is our answer to pipes and drums and banners and torches. Basically it is a series of young people's clubs sponsored by individual units in the various towns and cities where American troops live.

There is more emphasis on baseball than drum beating; more emphasis on comradeship than torch-bearing.

There are more than two million kids under the age of sixteen in American-occupied Germany. This year they will eat better, have better clothing, and be warmer than any time since the war. There still are 186,000 of them who are homeless.

But GYA is more than food, clothing, and shelter now. It probably represents the first attempt by a victorious army to achieve peace by persuasion. And the young citizens of Germany will have much to say about peace when they reach maturity. It may depend upon them.

GYA is a big job that must be done in a complex world. It's bigger than the army; as big as the United States itself.

If GYA is truly to provide the answer to the drumbeat that is beginning again to echo in Germany, then it needs and deserves all the help it can get.

The man responsible for the creation of GYA can affirm this—former American military governor of Germany, General Lucius D. Clay.