Hitlerjugend: An In-Depth History: 1939 - Jahr der "Gesundheit" - Year of health
by Arvo L. Vercamer

On March 25th, 1939, a law was enacted making it obligatory for all German youths to join the HJ or the BDM. Failure to comply could result in the German state taking the non-HJ children away from their natural parents and placing them in orphanages. This law also served to force Catholic youth organizations to merge with the HJ, despite any agreement Hitler made with the Vatican a few years earlier.

In December of 1939, Baldur von Schirach obtained Hitler's permission to join the "Wehrmacht" in combat. He thus vacated his post of "Reichsjugendf√ľhrer", which was then given to Artur Axmann. During the German invasion of France in 1940, von Schirach served with the "Grossdeutschland" division; 12th company, 1st infantry regiment. Von Schirach started out as a corporal and ended the war as a lieutenant; earning the iron cross, second class, in the process.

After the French campaign, von Schirach returned to Berlin. Given his age at the time (close to 40), he was now viewed by many to be a bit on the old side to be the head of a national "youth" organization. In August of 1940, von Schirach was appointed as the deputy to Adolf Hitler for the inspection of the Hitlerjugend. Later, von Schirach was made "Gauleiter" of Vienna as a reward for his past services.

In the 1939/1940 time frame, a new phenomenon began to grip German youths - American style dancing. Within a very short period of time, the "Swing Jugend" (the Swing Kids) movement came to the attention of the HJ leadership. Originally starting in Hamburg, and then slowly spreading to other nothern German towns and villages, the "Swing Jugend" youths first got together because of their strong like of English, but especially American, music. Over time, they evolved as a counter to the HJ movement in other parts of Germany as well, such as Dresden and Vienna. They were, for the most part, liberal in the political views and they were against the ongoing war effort. In Frankfurt am Main, the "Harlem Club" held intense dance marathons, which were primarily inspired by the latest U.S. dance and music hits. Heinrich Himmler had an especially strong dislike for the "Swing Kids". Interestingly, the "Swing Jugend" movement did not really wish to engage in any political actions, they just wanted to dance to "their" music. But "their" music was perceived to be a threat to the HJ movement by the political leaders of Germany.