In pre-WWII Germany, the Nazi suppression of society gave rise to large teenage street gangs that beat up Nazi youths and tagged anti-Nazi slogans throughout the country. Most of these teenagers were snappy dressing jazz lovers. This might not sound like the types of teens to be part of a gang, and hadn’t it been for the extreme circumstances they probably wouldn’t have been.
In 1936, membership in the Hitler Youth became mandatory. Thousands of youth were against the lifestyle the regime wanted to establish. Particularly kids from the Cologne area and more working class families, who were interested in hanging out on the streets, flirting and listening to jazz and swing. The gender segregated paramilitary organization of the youth put in place by the Nazi regime did not fit in to these teens’ lifestyle. Especially since jazz music was completely unacceptable by the standards of Nazi ideology, which deemed jazz music for ‘degenerates’, as it was often performed by Jewish and black musicians.
The biggest of these groups were the Edelwiess Pirates, Farhtenstenze (translates to ‘The Traveling Dudes’), the Navajos and the Swing Kids. It started off with chants and fights. Then anti-Nazi graffiti and vandalism, and with a growth in numbers, one group even planned to blow up the Gestapo HQ in Cologne. Initially, it was just the Hitler Youth that went after these ‘resistance’ groups. However, persecution of these groups of kids became progressively more violent when the Gestapo got involved. For four months, leader of the Navajos Jean Julich (15 years old) was held and tortured by the Gestapo. Another 16 year-old ringleader was executed in public, with no trial of course.
These youths had their work cut out for them during the Nazi regime. However, it did not stop with the end of the war. These youths, now older and toughened by conflict, moved their fight against the Soviet troops moving in.
*we hold no rights to these images.