If you have seen the Academy Award Best Picture nominee “Jo Jo Rabbit” or read the novel Caging Skies, you will either come away with a comic/satiric sensibility or a seriously heartbreaking understanding of how tyrants and tyrannies so easily control children’s minds and deeds—sometimes forever.
In Nazi Germany, joining the HJ (Hitler Jugend) and its various affiliated organizations for boys and girls was compulsory. That is how the Nazi state maintained control of its youth. One of the lesser-known aspects of HJ was the naval group. Teenage boys did not just play navy, they were taught to become sailors. While ship-shape Nazi children seem less threatening than future SS soldiers, SD police, the members of the Marine-Hitler-Jugend were no less indoctrinated into the mythology, tenets and prejudices of the Third Reich.
The model of “get them when they’re young” and they’ll be yours forever is a truism that has continued throughout history—a dangerous concept at best conflated with a belief system that is wrapped up in a complex and seductive brand story.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →