The Edelweiss Pirates
While the boys of the Hitler Youth were getting indoctrinated into becoming good Nazis – and prepared for becoming good soldiers – members of the League of German Girls were trained to become good Nazi wives and mothers. Leaders of the female branch were even directed to recruit girls of good genetic stock, as potential breeding partners for SS and Nazi officials in accordance with a selective breeding program known as Lebensborn. After they were recruited, matched with breeding partners, and impregnated, the Lebensborn program helped the girls during their pregnancy, affording them facilities in which to give birth and receive prenatal and postnatal care.
Because the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls were deemed Aryan organization, premarital sex between their members was often encouraged by Nazi officials, in the hopes of increasing the stock of Aryan babies. Mixed gender gatherings of the youth organizations, such as the Nuremberg Rallies, often produced bumper crops of teen pregnancies, and the most famous of those, the 1936 Nuremberg Rally, led to an estimated 900 pregnancies. It is unclear how many of those pregnancies were the result of consensual sex between Nazi teens, and how many the result of molestation by adult Nazis, but the number of pregnancies dismayed many. Traditional conservative elements still held some sway in the Nazi party at the time, and the Lebensborn crowd had not yet gained an ascendancy, so a temporary stir and kerfuffle ensued. In the end, many of the pregnancies were terminated by abortions, on orders from the Party.
However, some German youngsters refused to go along with the Nazi program. While resisting the pressure to join the Hitler Youth was difficult and often hazardous, some brave youth refused to simply go along. Best known among those were the so-called Edelweiss Pirates, a loose association of youth movements in western Germany that developed in opposition to the regimentation of the Hitler Youth. They took their name from the edelweiss – a hardy white mountain flower, that grows in high altitudes.
Like many youth cultures across the ages, the Edelweiss Pirates set themselves apart with a distinctive style of dress that became common among their members. They did not all use the title Edelweiss Pirates – the branch in Cologne, for example, went by “Navajos” – but they shared some common traits. Foremost among them was encouraging free thought, and eschewing the strict gender segregation of the Hitler Youth and League of German Girls, in favor of co-ed activities.
Edelweiss Pirates also organized camping and hiking trips, during which they often had the freedom, while temporarily away from snoops and snitches, to engage in prohibited activities, such as singing or listening to music deemed “degenerate” by the Nazis, like jazz and the blues. They were also able to freely express themselves, and openly discuss topics and voice opinions that would have gotten them in trouble with the authorities had they been overheard by informants back in the cities.