Gregor Ziemer (1899-1982) was an American teacher and author. Born in Michigan, Ziemer served in the military during World War I before completing an English degree at the University of Illinois. In 1928 he helped establish the American Colony School in Berlin, a facility funded by Washington to support the Weimar Republic. Zeimer remained in Berlin for the first six years of the Nazi regime, eventually fleeing Germany in 1939. He later worked as a war correspondent and gave evidence on Nazi education methods at the Nuremberg trials. In 1941 Zeimer released a book called Education for Death, which described how the Nazis manipulated children and utilised education to support their political objectives. In this extract, Ziemer recalls his first experiences of Pimpf, a Nazi-run group for boys aged six to ten:
“This is the story of the Pimpf, or ‘Little Fellow’. At six, the Party takes him from the National Socialist Welfare Organisation; at ten, he will be promoted to the Jungvolk. He wears a dignified uniform: heavy black shoes, short black stockings, black shorts, a brown shirt with a swastika armband and a trench cap. He receives a number and is given a Leistungsbuch [‘performance book’] in which, throughout the years, are registered his physical development and military prowess, his home, school and party activities. If the Pimpf fails to pass the rigid examination for promotion to the Jungvolk, he is made to feel that he would be better off dead.
Half an hour before sunrise one April day, I hurried up to the Marksburg… It was the day before Hitler’s birthday, dedicated by Nazi tradition to youth promotions all over Germany. I had been told that a typical Pimpf graduation would take place here. I watched the 200 ten-year-olds arrive at a nearby village the night before, weary and hungry after an all-day march, singing their songs in voices thin with fatigue. This march was their last test of endurance. Now, from a castle window, I looked down on them as they took in a large inner courtyard, shivering in the damp air.
At a sharp command, hundreds of youthful heels clicked to attention and the officer-in-charge introduced the guest of honour, a high official from the Hitler Youth. [The guest said] “You boys must be hard, hard as iron; the Führer has demanded it. But above all, you must be ready and willing to give up your lives for the Führer; he has demanded that too. All German boys are eager to become soldiers for Hitler. We will make Germany a force to be reckoned with.”
He ended as he began: with “Heil Hitler!” The only applause was a chorus: “Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil”; the occasion was too holy for cheers. A fanfare of trumpets from the tower of the castle; a silence, then somebody struck a note on a pitch-pipe and the boys burst into Deutschland uber Alles, followed by the Horse Wessel Song…
[The graduates then took an oath] “In the presence of this blood flag, which represents our Führer, I swear to devote all my energies, all my strength to the saviour of our country, Adolf Hitler. I am willing and ready to give up my life for him, so help me God. One people, one nation, one Fuhrer”…
At my request, a troop leader ordered one of the youngsters to show us his Leistungsbuch… The book was a complicated ledger dividing life into activities called ‘Prerequisites’, under such headings as ideological schooling, athletic achievements, military accomplishments (ability to erect a tent, draw maps, find directions, do spy work, shooting practice, etc.), party accomplishments, fervour for Nazi teachings, and foreign affairs, including names of territories lost by the Treaty of Versailles.
After the Pimpf’s school day ends, his party activities begin. He meets with other Pimpfs at the district headquarters, where he runs errands for the NSV or the party, does guard duty for the Storm Troopers and makes himself useful in a hundred ways – of course, without pay. Weekends are invariably devoted to military manoeuvres. The official Pimpf manual, a handsomely-bound volume of 313 pages, is devoted mostly to military instruction.”