Hitlerjugend: An In-Depth History: HJ-Flakhelfer
by Arvo L. Vercamer

Since the late 1930's, all HJ members actively participated in local air-raid drills, evacuating buildings and providing first aid treatment to the wounded, fighting fires as auxiliaries to the professional fire departments, supporting local FLAK units, etc. They did this as members of their respective "specialty" organization (Allgemeine, Marine, Motor, Reiter, etc.) and as a part of the HJ-Luftschutz. When war broke out in September of 1939, the HJ was quickly mobilized to provide auxiliary support in their local neighborhoods.

After August of 1940, the first RAF bombers appeared over Berlin and other German cities. The air war had now begun in earnest. But in nearly every German city, the HJ was already actively participating in the defense of the Reich.

In September of 1942, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring requested that Hitler issue a special decree (Führeranlass) allowing HJ members to help in the aerial defense of the Reich. Artur Axman protested the proposal and Josef Goebbles voiced serious concerns over the issue. A compromise was reached whereby the HJ youths would not be absorbed directly by the Luftwaffe, rather, they would serve as auxiliaries. This ruling also applied to the HJ-Marine youths who also were drawn into this equation (they were to serve primarily in coastal areas and use existing KM anti-aircraft systems to defend German skies).

On 26 January 1943, the German government passed laws and regulations mobilizing German youths to serve in the Luftwaffe as auxiliary combatants. The idea was to allow the Luftwaffe to release Luftwaffe FLAK men the Germans desperately needed for frontline combat duty, and replace them with HJ recruits. Shortly thereafter, the first group of 11.500 HJ youths were mobilized. By 1943, nearly every FLAK unit in Germany proper was manned by HJ Flakhelfers. Over 56.000 HJ-Flakheplers were on duty, earning 50 Reichspfennings a day by the middle of 1944. It is estimated that by May of 1945, over 200.000 Flakhelfer were active on all fronts (this figure includes German and non-German youths pressed into service).

In October of 1943, a great tragedy occurred. During an RAF bomber raid, a bomb scored a direct hit on a Flieger-HJ "Flakhelfer" searchlight battery. All of the 11 to 14 year old Flieger-HJ boys manning the searchlight were instantly killed. Shortly thereafter (and as a result from strong pressures exerted by many German parents onto German political leaders), an order was issued excluding younger boys from certain military support activities.

Depending on the location, some Flakhelfers were quartered in nearby barracks or private residences; others lived in tents or other temporary structures close to their assigned FLAK posts.

While in the service of the Luftwaffe, their schooling was supposed to continue as best as possible. When not manning the various Flak guns or Flak support equipment, the Flakhelfers were supposed to be "in class". In many cases, teachers were made available to educate the youths "on site". Realistically, this arrangement only served to further erode the education levels of most Flakhelfers as the time the youths spent on school and education efforts decreased daily.

In 1943, BDM girls and ladies were also directed to serve as Flakhelfers. They were primarily assigned to operate electronic plotting, RADAR tracking and targeting equipment as well as to act as communicators with Luftwaffe pilots in the air.

Not only in Germany, but also in the German occupied Baltic States and other areas of an Axis controlled Europe were local "youths" pressed into military service. Younger HJ members often did the less dangerous work, such as acting as messengers, working communication equipment, operating searchlights, etc., while the older HJ "boys" actually manned the various pieces of FLAK weaponry. Towards 1944 and in 1945, many HL-Flakhelfers and their guns were redirected to fight ground targets.

HJ-Flakhelfers normally wore HJ-Flieger or HJ-Marine uniforms, these were similar in color to the Luftwaffe blue service uniforms or their KM counterparts. The Luftwaffe Flakhelfers also wore a special "Luftwaffen Helfer - LH" triangle patch on their shoulder.

Hitlerjugend Flakhelfer uniform 1944
Illustration © Arvo L. Vercamer

HJ Flakhelpers
(Courtesy of Barry)

HJ Flakhelfer
(Courtesy of Peter Thompson)