Palestinian Children: A Model of Hitler Youth
Adolf Hitler declared, “He alone who owns the youth gains the future.”1 Hitler knew the importance of early indoctrination. So do today’s Palestinian leaders. In fact, the recruitment allurements and military-style training of Palestinian youth directly reflect the ideology and practice of the infamous Hitler Youth movement of 1933–1944.
After World War I, Germany was in shambles. This state continued until Adolf Hitler rose to power. Hitler’s policies, including the formation of the Jungvolk—the Hitler Youth movement—for people ages 10 through 18, rejuvenated national pride.
Although membership in the Hitler Youth became compulsory in 1936, millions of Germany’s young people volunteered. Life in the outdoors, camping, physical exercise, and the excitement of flirting with danger appealed to many. Being a member of the Hitler Youth gave one a secure sense of belonging to a special group and fostered devotion to a cause greater than oneself. This cause was often idealized and romanticized through torchlight marches and propagandistic, emotive media.
Molding a child into a pliable Hitler devotee began with indoctrination. Hitler himself stated the goal of Hitler Youth education: “A violently active, dominating, brutal youth—that is what I’m after.”2 The children repeated oaths of allegiance, prayers, and slogans hundreds of times.
Hitler schools were instituted to teach the glories of the fatherland, the values of the Nazi party, and the evils of the Jews. Learning to perceive oneself as a victim of the “treacherous Jews” was crucial to stoking the fires of revenge and aggressiveness. Hitler Youth teenagers, wrote Michael H. Kater in his book Hitler Youth, “sang anti-Semitic songs with texts that sanctioned ‘Jewish blood dripping from the knife.’”3 And by emphasizing the inevitability of death, the Nazis persuaded their pupils not to fear it.
Along with indoctrination came militarization. This included daily roll calls, drills, and marches. The children played physically rough “war games,” learned to study maps and spot enemy locations, wore uniforms, and were trained in riflery and the use of explosives. Wrote Kater,
The hallmark of HJ [Hitler Youth] socialization was militarization, with a view to a war of territorial expansion and, as its predetermined goal, the neutralization of Europe’s Jews.4
From Hitler to Hamas
Today Palestinian youth receive similar training. Many Palestinian children live in economically depressed conditions. They feel powerless and defeated, humiliated by Israeli victories. Taking advantage of the situation, the Palestinian leader-ship offers them meaning and purpose. It promotes a sense of belonging to a larger family and a devotion to a greater cause.
Indoctrination begins in school. Palestinian children read in their textbooks that (1) they are descendants of “Arab Canaanites,” (2) the Jewish people have few historical ties to the land, (3) Zionism is a racist movement, and (4) The Protocols of the (Learned) Elders of Zion is a legitimate historical document. All are lies.
They read only negative portrayals of Israel, either through lies or gross exaggerations. Their textbooks recognize no Jewish holy sites or the sovereignty of the State of Israel. None of their maps even contain the word Israel, only Palestine.5
The children also learn violent slogans (“In spirit and in blood we will redeem you, oh Palestine”)6 and songs (“Kill Zionists wherever they are, in the name of God”).7 Palestinian tele-vision glorifies jihad, martyrdom, and a culture of death. Children’s music videos, cartoons, and interviews with proud mothers of suicide bombers exalt shahada (“dying for Allah”).
As with Hitler Youth, militarization plays a large role in the manipulation of Palestinian children. Every summer thousands of Palestinian youngsters attend camps sponsored by the Palestinian Authority (PA) or terrorist groups, such as Hamas. Some of these camps are named after suicide bombers. The children play games and swim in the sea. Then they don uniforms and learn Palestinian propaganda. In the afternoons they march in military drills, learn how to take cover, jump through rings of fire, and crawl under wire. Capping off their training, they learn how to handle Kalashnikov assault rifles, as well as how to slit Israeli throats. “Campers” range in age from 8 to 18.
Every year on April 5, Palestinians celebrate Palestinian Child Day. And PA leaders proclaim, “Children…are the future of Palestine.”8 One wonders what kind of future “Palestine” will have if its children continue to be trained like the notorious, ill-fated youth of Adolf Hitler.
- Jennifer Keeley, Life in the Hitler Youth (San Diego: Lucent Books, 2000), 10.
- Ibid., 63.
- Michael H. Kater, Hitler Youth (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), 64.
- Ibid., 28–29.
- Arnon Groiss, comp., trans., ed., Jews, Israel and Peace in the Palestinian Authority Textbooks: The New Textbooks for Grades 5 and 10 (Jerusalem: Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, 2005), 3–4; <www.edume.org>.
- Yehoshua and B. Chernitsky, Incitement in the Palestinian Authority After the Aqaba Summit, The Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Report No. 20, August 22, 2003 <http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR2003>.
- Matthew B. Stannard, “Hamas camp: Sun, fun…indoctrination: What Palestinians view as respite from poverty, Israelis call terror training for youth,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 31, 2005 <http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/07/31/MNGV EE0QJK1.DTL>.
- “Children Are the Future of Palestine,” Press Release by Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, April 5, 2005 <www.gcmhp.net>.