National Geographic : 1948 Oct
Uncle Sam Bends a Twig in Germany BY FREDERICK SIMPICH With Illustrations by National Geographic Photographer J. Baylor Roberts " S the twig is bent, the tree's inclin'd." J_ So Uncle Sam hopes, as his Army in Germany tackles the tough task of training some three million youths for a better way of life. In Army patter this job is "GYA." That's short for German Youth Activities. Both Ground and Air Forces work at it. "Hitler might never have gained such power," General Omar N. Bradley, Army Chief of Staff, told me, "and World War II might never have been fought, if German boys had been brought up in our more free, demo cratic way, instead of being regimented and trained as a mass of embryo soldiers." In 1933 Hitler outlawed most then existing youth groups; even church work on behalf of youth was hampered. Then came the Reich's Youth Law of 1936. This wiped out all re maining groups and drafted every German boy and girl from 10 to 18 into "Hitler Youth." The Hitler Way of Training Youth Thus 12 to 14 million youngsters began compulsory service with premilitary training under 30,000 leaders. Both sexes took cultural and athletic courses, and flocked to summer camps. Voca tional work was closely tied in with the German Labor Front. Units of Hitler Youth were set up to study aviation, medical and signal corps work, while others trained for the Navy. Later, hordes of youngsters moved easily from civilian life into the ranks, and the fighting. Before Germany was whipped, Allied leaders saw that the problem of German youth was to be a big one. To get the ruined land back on its feet, so it could feed and clothe itself, was civili zation's immediate task. And it was the young, in particular, they being more easily reoriented than their Nazi-soaked elders, who were then and still are of first importance. It is the youth of today, up to 25, says Army, who may soon lead the German nation. If we can train them to lead it along safe paths and make it a sane member in a peace ful family of nations, we may not have to fight it again. This GYA work involves teaching trades to boys and girls, the better use of leisure time, the problems of waifs, tramps, and juvenile delinquency, new moral and political concepts-many things. To this task our Army brings its full facili ties, in support of our Military Government, or "MG" in Germany. Scope of USA Program To date, Army has aided more than 500,000 boys and girls. Working for GYA are thou sands of volunteer men and women, including Army officers, enlisted men, Army women, WAC, Red Cross staffs, American and Allied civilian employees of Military Government, Air Force, and our Department of the Army and a host of Germans (pages 540, 543). At first our soldiers made use of gum, candy, soft drinks, baseball gear, jeep rides-and just plain, good-natured American horseplay-and a few new-learned German phrases.* But they were only curtain raisers. We've settled down, now, to hard, earnest work to change German youth's thinking habits and set it new goals in life. MG controls radio stations in Bremen, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, and Berlin's RIAS; they give first-hand facts about world conditions. If our President or a British Prime Minister makes a speech about ways the Allies seek to restore Germany, that's discussed without political twists. MG makes its own broadcasts, to correct false rumors. Or such talks may range from Germany's need for exports and imports to school problems, public health, civil service, and food. At 28 different Information Centers MG runs libraries full of American newspapers, magazines, books and maps, shows industrial and educational films, gives lectures, and ar ranges for debates and discussions and "Town Meeting of the Air," attended also by thou sands of adult Germans. MG officials lead many of these round tables, whose themes may range from farm life in California to how a German boy trained in a GYA trade school can now find a job. More than a million youngsters have al ready seen such MG-sponsored films as Union Pacific, San Francisco, The Story of the Lin coln Tunnel, and The Adventures of Mark Twain (page 547). * See "What I Saw Across the Rhine," by J. Frank Dobie, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, January, 1947.