Strength Through Joy
The Nazi Party established control even over leisure time. Physical fitness was at the core of Nazi philosophy. Compulsory deductions were made from workers’ wages to pay for the ‘Strength through joy’ programme. Two cruise liners were built to take workers on holidays. In addition the Nazi government financed sports facilities and provided theatre visits for its good, hardworking workers. These programmes appealed to many people.
Workers could pay five marks a month towards the ownership of a people’s car (Volkswagen), which they were told they would receive ‘at some point’ in the future. In fact no one ever received his or her people’s car.
In 1922, whilst still in its infancy, the Nazi Party established the Hitler Youth. By 1933, 30 per cent of young Germans were members. Once the Nazis came to power, great pressure was brought to bear on families to encourage young people to be members. By 1939 over 80 per cent of Germany’s young people had joined the Hitler Youth.
Boys in the Young German Folk (10-14 yrs) and Hitler Youth (14-18 yrs) participated in physical activities to develop both fitness and fearlessness. Following Nazi ideas, girls would join the Young Madel (10-14 yrs) or League of German Girls (14-18 yrs). They attended both home-building classes and exercises to develop their physical fitness.
Girls’ membership of the German Girls League included a year of farm work or domestic service, while boys in the Hitler Youth would take part in the National Labour Service. Both boys and girls were indoctrinated in Nazi ideology and swore an oath of love and loyalty to Hitler.