The “German Youth Loyal to the Homeland” (Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend, HDJ), was a German neo-Nazi youth organization with an estimated 400 members banned in 2009.1 The HDJ had absorbed many members of the neo-Nazi Viking Youth when it was banned in 1994, the unofficial successor organization to the Hitler Youth.^
The HDJ, registered as an association in 1990, emerged as a splinter group of the extreme right-wing Bund Heimattreuer Jugend (BHJ) - Der Freibund (“Union of the Youth Loyal to the Homeland - The Free Union”). The Freibund is an organization oriented towards the structure and traditions of the Bündische Jugend, a youth movement that emerged from the Wandervogel movement in its second phase after the First World War.
Brochure of the Bund Heimattreuer Jugend in the collection of the Dutch Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis.
After an internal dispute that lasted from 1975 to 1988, the Freibund largely turned away from militant right-wing extremism. As a result, the right-wing extremist wing around the former federal leader of the BHJ, Michael Will, and the former BHJ treasurer, Hans Soltner,2 left the Freibund in 1990, and founded Die Heimattreue Jugend e. V. (“The Youth Loyal to the Homeland”). The new organization had its focus on northern Germany and was headquartered in Kiel.3 At that time, the organization was largely meaningless and comprised only a small circle of activists.
With a new federal leadership assuming office in 1999, a renewal of the organization began. In 2000 the name was changed to Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend.4 The registered association was based in Plön, but operated mainly from Berlin, where the post box of the association and of its newspaper Der Funkenflug was located.5
In the summer of 2006, news reports about a camp of the HDJ near Fromhausen/Detmold, in which activists of the banned Viking Youth also played a leading role, drew public attention to the organization.6 In autumn 2006 the HDJ came further to the fore when HDJ activist and NPD politician Tino Müller was elected into the State Parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and the journalist Andrea Röpke as well as two colleagues were attacked on the sidelines of an HDJ event in Blankenfelde (Brandenburg).7
A camp of the Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend (HDJ). Credit: recherche-nord.com.
Banning of the organization
With growing public attention, the HDJ was increasingly observed by Germany's domestic security services. In October 2007, the Federal Ministry of the Interior prohibited the HDJ to wear uniforms. Several members of the organization had previously been charged with violating the uniform ban at public meetings, anchored in the German demonstration law.8 Yet, even after the uniform ban children and teenagers appeared in uniforms on photos in a 2008 HDJ publication. In addition, HDJ members were asked not to adhere to the uniform ban.9
In July 2008, the Bundestag factions of the FDP and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen requested the federal government to consider banning the HDJ;10 a parallel motion by the Left Party faction followed in September 2008.11
On October 9, 2008, at the instigation of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, nearly 100 members12 of the organisation were searched nationwide. According to the Ministry, the background to the searches was "actual indications that the HDJ is directed against the constitutional order."13
On March 31, 2009, the HDJ was banned by the then Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble with immediate effect14 on account of its "ideology related in essence to National Socialism" and an "actively combattive, aggressive attitude." The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig confirmed the ban in 2010 because the HDJ's objectives were clearly directed against the constitutional order of the Federal Republic of Germany (AZ.: BVerwG 6 A 4.09 - ruling of 1 September 2010).^
Emblem of the Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend
The association was headed by a federal leadership, which according to the statute consisted in the federal leader (last Sebastian Räbiger) and its deputy (last Thomas Eichler), the "Federal Girls Leader" (Bundesmädelführerin) (last Holle Boehm), the federal treasurer, as well as further leading members: the federal managing director (Bundesgeschäftsführer), the federal tour leader (Bundesfahrtenführer), control center leaders (Leitstellenführer), the press spokesman, the press speakers of the circles of family and friends (Familien- und Freundeskreise), and the speaker of the honorary council as representative of the honorary members.12 The federal leadership was elected every three years at the annual Federal Youth Day.
As of 2009, the HDJ's membership base was divided into seven regional chapters: Prussia, Mecklenburg and Pomerania (the designation of the federal state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was deliberately avoided in order to make a claim to Hinterpommern, which until 1945 belonged to Germany and since then has belonged to Poland), Franconia, Swabia, Hesse, Saxony, Hermannsland (after the incorrectly Germanized name for the Cheruscan Arminius, which essentially comprised the federal state North Rhine-Westphalia and was particularly active in East Westphalia) and Schleswig-Holstein. Since May 2004, four so-called control centers have existed as a superordinate structure: North, West, Central and South.12 The latter was also responsible for members in Austria and South Tyrol. Members in whose vicinity no chapter existed were assigned to the nearest chapters or to the responsible control centers.
Affiliated to the association were so-called "circles of friends and family" (Familien- und Freundeskreise, FFK), which supported the association materially and organizationally. Thus also the families of the children and young people were integrated into the HDJ's activities, whereby the circle of sympathizers extended clearly beyond the approximately 400 seven to 29 year-old members. FFK members took an oath of allegiance to the organization that was basically for life, and the HDJ integrated members after they have surpassed the age limit on other levels.15
Until a uniform ban imposed by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in 2007, HDJ members wore a compulsory uniform at community events, which underlined the paramilitary outlook of the organization. The male children and youths wore a grey shirt (Grauhemd) or the so-called Jungenschaftsjacke, reminiscing of the clothing of the Bündische Jugend movement of the early 20th century. The girls and young women wore a "girl's blouse" (Mädelbluse) and a long blue skirt. The clothing sported military style badges and emblems.^
The HDJ described itself as an "active youth movement loyal to the people and the homeland for all German girls and boys aged 7 to 29."1617 The organization's most important goal was "an independent Germany in a Europe of free peoples."18 In addition, it was rallying "against our mother tongue being anglicized."
Flag ceremonies, field games, marching in rank and file with flag bearers and fanfare processions, and the wearing of a uniform-like compulsory garb gave the HDJ a paramilitary character. Especially the Landsknechttrommel ("lansquenet drum") with a flame emblem (also a symbol of the Hitler Youth) was used by the HDJ. Membership in its drum groups was reserved for male members only, adhering to the historical model.
According to the assessment of the Berlin Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the association was a neo-Nazi organization. It "systematically conveys a right-wing extremist world view based on the ideal of the 'Volksgemeinschaft' ["People's Community," a völkisch concept]. The Lebensbund ["Companionship for Life"] concept is also intended to prevent older members from leaving the right-wing extremist scene after starting a family." The HDJ's view of history was seen as revisionist, particularly the organization's adherence to territorial revisionism. The Berlin authorities saw a proximity to the forbidden Viking youth in regard to its ideology and structure.19 The North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of the Interior described the HDJ as purporting a "nationalistic ideology," whose world view also included a "declared belief in neo-paganism."6^
The target group of the organization included children and young people aged between seven and 29. To the outside world the HDJ represented the image of a largely apolitical youth organization. According to the association's statutes, its main goal was to "educate young people to be helpful companions, loyal to their homeland and fatherland, and open to the idea of international understanding." The members of the HDJ, however, abhorred a pacifist attitude to life. Tolerant behavior towards weaknesses and otherness were deemed as a lower trait by the HDJ.
The association organized camps for children and teenagers who received military and ideological training there.1 To "shape body and character," military exercises and long marches, such as the "Edelweiss March" (Edelweißmarch), knife tests, and a 150 km march were held regularly. The biggest and most important meeting was the annual Whitsun camp with several hundred participants. In addition, smaller regional or age-related summer and winter camps, and camps with a focus on particular activities such as fanfare camps and parachute camps took place throughout the year. In the framework of such gatherings völkisch cultural activities such as perfroming folk songs and dances were a central element.
Footage of such a camp can be seen in an ARD Panorama report from 2008 that also shows the HDJ was recruiting actively amongst children in several German cities at the time.20
Also political training courses were held at irregular intervals. These included lectures by members or invited speakers on topics such as the flight and expulsion of Germans between 1944 and 1948 or the air raids on Dresden. In addition, together with other supporters of the right-wing extremist scene, midsummer celebrations were held around solstice, as well as memorial celebrations of "heroes" around Memorial Day.
Since 2001, the HDJ, in cooperation with the neo-Nazi groups Gemeinschaft Deutscher Frauen ("Community of German Women") and the Berliner Kulturgemeinschaft Preußen ("Berlin Cultural Community Prussia"), has organized the "Märkischer Kulturtag" ("Märkisch Cultural Day"), a conspiratorially organized event in Brandenburg with up to 250 visitors. Speakers included well-known persons from the entire right-wing extremist spectrum, such as the historical revisionists and Holocaust deniers Udo Walendy and Jürgen Rieger, the ideological pioneer of the Viking Youth Herbert Schweiger and the former Viking Youth federal leader Wolfram Nahrath, as well as NPD officials such as Ralph Tegethoff and Udo Pastörs.
Between 2006 and 2009, the HDJ ran a website, where the "quotes of the day" section featured sayings of i.a. Nazi functionary Theodor Oberländer.21^
Newspaper "Der Funkenflug"
The newspaper Der Funkenflug - jung stürmisch volkstreu ("The Flying Sparl - young, stormy, loyal to the people") was published over a period of eight years as the association's main organ. An average of four issues were published each year. One issue consisted of 24 pages. In addition to reports on the work of the association and natural history studies, the newspaper glorified members of the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS as well as celebrities of the Nazi regime such as the Nazi aviation icon Hanna Reitsch or the "war hero" Hans-Ulrich Rudel, and former members of the Waffen-SS conjured up the bravery of German soldiers.
Logo of HDJ's newspaper Funkenflug
Frequently the newspaper contained memories glorifying the 1930s, and direct references to the Hitler Youth were rampant. The federal leader Sebastian Räbiger chose the following words as guiding principle for the year 2006: "When your people are everything to you and you are ready to stand up for what you love, to dare everything, and to fight, then your place is with us!" A battle cry strongly reminiscent of Nazi slogans such as "You are nothing, your people are everything" and "Well, people, get up and storm breaks loose" (originally a quotation from Theodor Körner at the beginning of the liberation wars, used in 1943 by Joseph Goebbels his sports palace speech).
With pithy words like "It's only worth living for something that's worth dying for" and "You, the one loyal to the homeland (Heimattreuer), must place the WE of the community higher than the I of the individual" the young readers were introduced to the world view of the HDJ (Funkenflug 2/2008). In the first Funkenflug issue of the year 2008 there was only one book tip for the 1st quarter 2008: "The Myth of the Waffen-SS. Glory and honor to our German soldiers" by Herbert Schweiger.^
There existed a clear personal continuity with the “Viking Youth" (Wiking-Jugend), the successor organization to the Hitler Youth, which was banned in 1994.
The last HDJ federal leader Sebastian Räbiger was the last Viking Youth (VY) leader in Saxony. The neo-Nazi celebrity lawyer Wolfram Narath, who had been leading the VY from 1991 until its ban, became subsequently a member of the organization, and a frequent speaker at HDJ events. (He would eventually in 2009 become the lawyer of SSPX Resistance figurehead Richard Williamson.) Other former leaders of the VJ also active in the HDJ were Manfred Börm, who was responsible for the "Gau" Lower Saxony, or Dirk Nahrath, the leader of the VJ in Franconia.
The HDJ avoided direct programmatic references to the Viking Youth in order to avoid a ban as its successor organisation. The affinity to the VY as well as to its role model, the Hitler Youth (HJ), was, however, obvious. Among the official reasons for the prohibition of the VJ were the similarity between the official ranks "HJ-Reichsführer" and "WJ-Bundesführer," and the designation "Gaue" for the administrative divisions of Nazi Germany. Both the designations "Bundesführer" and "Bundesmädelführerin" as well as the designation "Gaue" were also used by the HDJ in internal invitations. The reference to Nazism became even clearer when in August 2006 the inscriptions "Führerbunker" and "Germania" were displayed on tents during an HDJ camp near Frommhausen/Detmold.
The HDJ tried to get legal permission to use the Odal rune again and justified this with portraying the HDJ as successor of the Bund Heimattreuer Jugend. The Odal rune was used not only by the BHJ but also by the Viking Youth, and its use was forbidden after their ban. The HDJ's leisure shirt, which bore the same imprint of an eagle as the VJ's leisure shirt, showed also optical similarities between the two groups, to a degree that it appeared only the name of the organization was changed.^
Connections to the NPD
HDJ members could often be found among the far-right NPD party, or its youth cadre, the Junge Nationaldeomkraten ("Junge National Democrats"). The best known member of the HDJ chapter Mecklenburg and Pomerania was the NPD state parliament member Tino Müller. In July 2006, a joint meeting of the HDJ with the Nordic Relief Agency, one of the most important neo-Nazi organizations in Scandinavia, took place in Sweden. The NPD state parliament candidate and leading member of the "Mecklenburg Action Front" David Petereit took part, alongside a leading figure of the "Free Fellowship" (Freie Kameradschaft) scene, Lutz Giesen. In the summer of 2006, HDJ members campaigned for the NPD in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state elections.22
In the Prussia chapter, the oldest regional network of the HDJ which had already been founded at the time of the DHJ, the NPD federal board members Jörg Hähnel and Stella Palau were active. Manfred Börm was another member of the NPD Federal Executive Committee in the ranks of the HDJ. Besides them, other NPD leaders and members regularly took part in meetings and events of the HDJ, among them soccer tournaments named after the Hitler Youth member Herbert Norkus or the German Freikorps member Albert Leo Schlageter that previously had been organized by the Viking Youth. The HDJ in turn regularly joined NPD events: the annual "Funeral March" on the occasion of the bombing of Dresden, often providing security services; the "Press Festival of the German Voice" (Pressefest der Deutschen Stimme), where the fanfare corps and a dance group of the HDJ performed in Dresden in 2006, or events of the NPD and its youth organization "Young National Democrats," where the HDJ was represented with information booths.^
Contact to other far-right groups
The HDJ had for many years collaborated with the Deutsche Kulturgemeinschaft ("German Cultural Community") and the closely associated organizations Freundeskreis Ulrich von Hutten e.V. ("Circle of Friends Ulrich von Hutten e.V.") and Notgemeinschaft für Volkstum und Kultur ("Relief Group for Folklore and Culture"), which all had overlapping personnel.23 There were also reported contacts with the right-wing extremist party Deutsche Partei - Die Freiheitlichen ("German Party - The Liberalists").23
Also beyond Germany the HDJ maintained contacts to right-wing extremist organizations in Europe. For example, representatives of the organization took part in a meeting with the Nordic Relief Agency and the Nordiska Förbundet in Sweden, with the right-wing extremist Vlaams Nationaal Jeugdverbond (VNJ) in Belgium, or the "Day of the People's Youth" organized by the Bund freier Jugend in Austria. In the event of a liquidation, the association's assets should, according to the statutes, fall either to the Stille Hilfe für Südtirol ("Silent Relief for South Tyrol") or to the Deutsche Freundeskreise in Ostdeutschland ("German Circles of Friends in Eastern Germay"), two associations of the German minority in Italy and Poland.
There are personal ties to the Interessengemeinschaft Fahrt und Lager ("Interest Group Journey and Camp") of the Young National Democrats, which is partly regarded as the successor organization of the HDJ.24^
Connections to the AfD
There have been reports about several HDJ members working with AfD politicians. In 2019 a document of the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz entitled "Expert opinion on actual indications for efforts against the liberal democratic basic order in the "Alternative for Germany" (AfD) and its sub-organisations" leaked.25 It also contains a section on connections between the defunct HDJ and current AfD politicians:
"The membership of AfD employees in the banned neo-Nazi 'Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend' (HDJ), which had a strong affinity with the Hitler Youth, should be emphasized here. First of all, Felix Willer should be mentioned. Until January 2018, Willer was an employee of party spokesman Alexander Gauland and HDJ functionary. He was head of the 'Abteilung HALT (Heimattreue Ausrüstung und Lagertechnik)' Laurens Nothdurft, already mentioned because of his connections to the NPD, temporarily headed the HDJ association. Finally, Patrick Harr, the personal advisor to André Poggenburg, a member of the Landtag (who has since resigned from the AfD), has a past as a HDJ functionary. Although Poggenburg is aware of his past, he has no problem with it. He is 'not in favour of stigmatizing someone for life.' Patrick Harr would be a 'diligent man who gets fully involved in the factual work.'"
Andreas Kalbitz (under the gate with a white shirt) at the 2007 “Whitsun Camp” of the Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend, HDJ.
In April, 2019, the AfD fired Laurens Nothdurft, a former leader of the HDJ close to the NPD.28
[This article is in parts a translation of the rather well-researched German Wikipedia article on the Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend, including updated footnotes.]
- 1. a. b. "German Government Bans Neo-Nazi Youth Group," Der Spiegel, March 31, 2009, https://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/far-right-summer-camps-german-government-bans-neo-nazi-youth-group-a-616499.html.
- 2. "Bund Heimattreuer Jugend (BHJ) - Der Freibund," in Jens Mecklenburg (ed.), Handbuch Deutscher Rechtsextremismus (Berlin: Elefanten Press, 1996), 227-229.
- 3. "Profil: Die Heimattreue Jugend e.V.," Antifaschistisches Pressearchiv und Bildungszentrum Berlin e.V., https://www.apabiz.de/archiv/material/Profile/Heimattreue%20Jugend.htm.
- 4. The full name being “Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend (HDJ) - Bund zum Schutz für Umwelt, Mitwelt und Heimat e. V.” (“German Youth Faithful to the Homeland - Union for the Protection of the Environment, Fellow Humans and the Homeland e.V.”).
- 5. Björn Falter, “Volksgemeinschaft im Kleinen,” Antifaschistisches Pressearchiv und Bildungszentrum Berlin e.V., March 2003, https://www.apabiz.de/archiv/material/Profile/HDJ.htm.
- 6. a. b. "Antwort der Landesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage 890 des Abgeordneten Dr. Michael Vesper, Drucksache 14/2436, Bewertung der 'Heimattreuen Deutschen Jugend,'" Landtag Nordrhein-Westfalen, Drucksache 14/2640, September 27, 2006, www.landtag.nrw.de/portal/WWW/dokumentenarchiv/Dokument/MMD14-2640.pdf.
- 7. "Brandenburg: Neonazis schlagen Journalistin nieder," Publikative.org, November 5, 2006, https://web.archive.org/web/20160204055628/http://publikative.org/2006/11/05/brandenburg-npd-anhanger-schlagt-journalistin/.
- 8. "Uniform-Verbot für Nazinachwuchs," taz, October 12, 2007, https://taz.de/!5193522/.
- 9. "Polizei löst Zeltlager der HDJ auf," Der Spiegel, August 9, 2008, https://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/schlag-gegen-rechtsextreme-polizei-loest-zeltlager-der-hdj-auf-a-571050.html.
- 10. "Verbot der "Heimattreuen Deutschen Jugend" prüfen," Deutscher Bundestag, July 4, 2008, https://web.archive.org/web/20090406044458/http://www.bundestag.de/aktuell/hib/2008/2008_204/06.html.
- 11. "Verbot der "Heimattreuen Deutschen Jugend prüfen," Deutscher Bundestag, September 17, 2008, https://web.archive.org/web/20090406044503/http://www.bundestag.de/aktuell/hib/2008/2008_251/02.html.
- 12. a. b. c. "Fragen und Antworten zu der Durchführung vereinsrechtlicher Maßnahmen gegen die HDJ ," Bundesministerium des Inneren, https://web.archive.org/web/20090403093048/http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Standardartikel/DE/Themen/Sicherheit/ohneMarginalspalte/verbot_hdj.html.
- 13. "Bundesweite Durchsuchungsmaßnahmen gegen rechtsextremistische Jugendorganisation," Bundesministerium des Inneren, October 9, 2008, https://web.archive.org/web/20160304090244/http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2008/mitMarginalspalte/10/durchsuchungsma%C3%9Fnahmen.html.
- 14. "BMI verbietet rechtsextremistische HDJ," Bundesministerium des Inneren, March 31, 2009, https://web.archive.org/web/20090403092524/http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2009/mitMarginalspalte/03/verbot_hdj.html.
- 15. "Verfassungsschutzbericht Brandenburg," Land Brandenburg, Ministerium des Inneren, February 13, 2009, https://web.archive.org/web/20090521095210/http://www.verfassungsschutz-brandenburg.de/sixcms/media.php/4055/VS_Bericht%202008_web_24_03_09.pdf.
- 16. "Das sind wir!," Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend, April 23, 2003, https://web.archive.org/web/20070928063517/http://www.heimattreue-jugend.de/index.php?sek=hdj&mod=artikel&pfad_id=1&id=10101.
- 17. Alexander Schierholz, "Extremismus: Ruf nach Verbot von rechtem Jugendverein," Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, August 11, 2008, https://www.mz-web.de/politik/extremismus-ruf-nach-verbot-von-rechtem-jugendverein-7874498.
- 18. "Das wollen wir!," Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend, April 23, 2003, https://web.archive.org/web/20070928063508/http://www.heimattreue-jugend.de/index.php?sek=hdj&mod=artikel&pfad_id=1&id=10102.
- 19. "Verfassungsschutzbericht 2006," Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Inneres und Sport Abteilung Verfassungsschutz, March 2007, https://web.archive.org/web/20140517184741/http://www.berlin.de/imperia/md/content/seninn/verfassungsschutz/vsb_2006.pdf.
- 20. “HDJ Nazi-Schulungen für Kinder [der] ‘Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend,’” ARD Panorama, March 27, 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGjs99BHdIo.
- 21. Archived website of the HDJ, https://web.archive.org/web/20070704190117/http://www.heimattreue-jugend.de/index.php.
- 22. Andreas Grünwald, "Neonazis ante portas," Junge Welt, September 8, 2008, https://www.foiaresearch.net/node/311/edit.
- 23. a. b. "Antwort des Staatsministeriums des Innern," Bayerischer Landtag, October 26, 2007, www.bayern.landtag.de/www/ElanTextAblage_WP15/Drucksachen/Schriftliche%20Anfragen/15_0009165.pdf,
- 24. " Razzia gegen Rechts in vier Bundesländern Polizei geht gegen NPD-Jugendorganisation vor," NDR, December 21, 2010, https://www.ndr.de/der_ndr/presse/mitteilungen/pressemeldungndr7393.html.
- 25. "Gutachten zu tatsächlichen Anhaltspunkten für Bestrebungen gegen die freiheitliche demokratische Grundordnung in der „Alternative für Deutschland“ (AfD) und ihren Teilorganisationen," Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, January 15, 2019, https://netzpolitik.org/2019/wir-veroeffentlichen-das-verfassungsschutz-gutachten-zur-afd/#2019-01-15_BfV-AfD-Gutachten_Quelle-960.
- 26. “Andreas Kalbitz: Brandenburgs AfD-Chef hatte Verbindung zur rechtsextremen HDJ,” Zeit Online, March 6, 2018, https://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2018-03/andreas-kalbitz-afd-heimattreue-deutsche-jugend-rechtsextremismus.
- 27. “Brandenburger AfD-Chef gibt Teilnahme an rechtsextremem Lager zu,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, March 6, 2018, https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/rechtsextremismus-brandenburger-afd-chef-gibt-teilnahme-an-rechtsextremem-lager-zu-1.3895363.
- 28. "Landtag: AfD trennt sich von weiterem NPD-nahen Mitarbeiter," BR24, April 5, 2019, https://www.br.de/nachrichten/bayern/landtag-afd-trennt-sich-von-npd-nahem-mitarbeiter,RMhAXJy.