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Hitler Youth 1938 trip to Japan now largely forgotten

27 Comments

As is well known, Japan was one of the three major signatories of the Tripartite Pact that formed the basis of the Axis alliance during World War II. The pact between Japan, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy was signed with much fanfare in Berlin on September 27, 1940.

Four years earlier, on November 25, 1936, Germany and Japan became the first signatories of the Anti-Comintern Pact, an agreement directed against the Communist International (Comintern). A secret additional protocol in the pact called for a joint German-Japanese stance specifically aimed against the Soviet Union.

Following the holding of the 11th Olympiad in Berlin in August 1936, Germany supported Tokyo's bid to host the next Summer Olympics in 1940. This set the stage for more people-to-people exchanges, one of which was a 90-day goodwill visit to Japan by 30 members of the Hitler Youth.

Although a major news story at the time, the story has largely been forgotten today; but the May issue of Jitsuwa Knuckles serves up a reminder, with text accompanied by 10 black-and-white photographs.

The Hitlerjungend, by the end of the 1930s, was the sole youth movement to which Germans between the ages of 10 to 18 years were permitted to belong. It eventually boasted a membership of 7.7  million.

By special invitation, an all-male contingent of 30 members of the flower of Aryan youth arrived at Yokohama Port on August 16, 1938, for an official three-month sojourn. The group was headed by Fuehrer der Fahrt (chief guide) Reinhold Schulze and Stellvertretender Fahrtfuerer (deputy leader) Rolf Redeker.

The group's first official act, on August 17,  was to pay respects at Yasukuni Shrine, where members appeared decked out in military-style uniforms that included navy blue rider's pants, black riding boots and white leather Sam Browne belts. The same day they paid courtesy calls to the Minister of Education, Army Minister and the German Embassy, which at the time was located at the present site of the National Diet Library in Chiyoda Ward.

The group spent the evening of the 20th camping in the foothills of Mt Fuji, where they sang songs around the campfire. The next day they climbed Japan's highest mountain to its summit.

During their stay, the group was welcomed by members of the imperial family, leading government figures, high-ranking members of the Japanese military, priests at temples and shrines, sumo wrestlers, sword makers, students and others.

Among the photos in Jitsuwa Knuckles is a scene of two smiling Hitler Youth marching down the street in Karuizawa, as they exchanged stiff-armed Hitlergrussen (Nazi salutes) with local inhabitants lining the roadside.

Perhaps the most bizarre photo of all, also taken at Karuizawa, shows a grinning Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoue joining hands with two uniformed Hitlerjungend in a ring-a-ring-o-rosies circle dance.

After visiting Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, the group spent about a week in Hokkaido, and on the return leg visited Aomori, Iwate, Sendai City and Akita. Back in Tokyo, they made a courtesy call to an Army hospital, saw demonstrations of traditional martial arts and visited the Dewanoumi sumo stable, where they posed for a photo with grand champion Musashiyama and two attendants. In honor of the visit, noted composer Hakushu Kitahara wrote a rousing musical piece titled "Banzai Hitlerjugend," which was recorded and put on sale under the Japan Victor label.

On November 12, a sendoff party was held at Kobe's Oriental Hotel, at which the young Germans and their Japanese hosts posed in a group photo,  flanked by huge national flags bearing the Hinomaru (sun) and Hackenkreuz (swastika). The next day they boarded a vessel for their return voyage.

Less than 10 months after the group's departure, Germany invaded Poland. It is uncertain how many of them survived the next six years of war.

Today, that 1938 visit by the Hitler Youth has largely faded from Japan's collective memory. Was it because it had been a reminder of the ways in which nationalistic bureaucrats in the Japanese and German governments devoted much of their time and effort to an ultimately meaningless  endeavor? Even if so, Jitsuwa Knuckles concludes, it was something that needs to be remembered.

© Japan Today

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27 Comments
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JT... photos?

14 ( +14 / -0 )

albaleo@ The article in the Mirror says they visited as tourists, and were taken around by a British Nazi sympathizer. That's a bit different from, say, meeting the King and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and receiving VIP treatment as part of an official visit organized by two governments. So there's no comparison.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

It's an ugly moment of history that needs to be remembered so fascism won't reappear in either nation. The fascist regimes of Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain are gone but future generations must be taught so that it doesn't happen to their nations again.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

Not sure this is in fact well known

Agree, definitely not in Japan since many in Japan think they were the unprovoked victim, not the failed aggressor.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

I find it somewhat disturbing that some posters claim not to know that Japan was one of the charter members of the Axis Alliance in WWII. Even if it happened 80 years ago, most of us today are living in a world that was carved out of the consequences of that war.

Japanese certainly are taught about their country's alliance with Nazi Germany in school, and you can even find materials about it posted on Japanese government web sites, such as at the link below (in Japanese only, unfortunately), on the site operated by the National Institute of Defense Studies.

http://www.nids.mod.go.jp/event/proceedings/forum/pdf/2016/03.pdf

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Teach and learn the history so it won't be repeated. And my family won't have to die fighting it.

7 ( +13 / -6 )

Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy will always be remembered in History for the failed attempt to mold the world into their version of what it should be, with themselves ruling enlarged empires and all others subservient.

The regime in China is following in their failed footsteps and the world again hopes for peace will be tested before a war with new atrocities is launched by China in the name of Empire. While not currently allied to anyone but North Korea, the similarities of Nazi Germany "reuniting" lost territories is staggering and a forewarning. Apeasment did not stop Nazi Germany, it emboldened it. Only firm action will cut off the possibility of war. Only a united coalition in opposition will prevent another catastrophe from killing millions and displacing many millions more.

Let us learn from mistakes made in history to ensure humanity knows only peace and prosperity as it grows to explore the universe and discover its marvels and secrets and ensure the survival of our species long into the future.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

I'm not sure this is so historically significant. There were also visits of the Hitler Youth to the UK around the same time.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/chilling-photos-show-members-hitler-13485472

5 ( +10 / -5 )

The Hitler youth were led by a Fuehrer der Fahrt and a Fartfuerer.

Couldn't have come up with better titles for them if I tried.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Kobe White Bar OwnerApr. 18 06:12 pm JST

JT... photos?

Click the link!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The group was headed by Fuehrer der Fahrt (chief guide)

Would that be pronounced as Fuehrer der Fart?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Today, that 1938 visit by the Hitler Youth has largely faded from Japan's collective memory. Was it because it had been a reminder ......."

Yes well, Japan does seem to have a pattern of selective memory fadeouts when it comes to WW2 .

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As is well known, Japan was one of the three major signatories of the Tripartite Pact that formed the basis of the Axis alliance during World War II.

Not sure this is in fact well known.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

The article in the Mirror says they visited as tourists, and were taken around by a British Nazi sympathizer. That's a bit different from, say, meeting the King and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and receiving VIP treatment as part of an official visit organized by two governments. 

@NCIS Reruns, fair enough. I accept there was a difference. Although I'm not sure they can be called tourists. Your average tourist doesn't get shown around by an admiral.

But I'm still not sure of the historical significance. I think the political relations of the time are the important points. The Hitler Youth visit was a just a consequence of those.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The Axis Pact, has NOT been forgotten.... GERMANY + ITALY + JAPAN

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Fuehrer der Fahrt or Fahrtfuehrer? Doesn't matter. I wouldn't walk behind (pun intended) either of them.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The group was headed by Fuehrer der Fahrt

I would feel like I was in a Monty Python movie if I had to seriously stand in front of Fuehrer Der Fart and look like a serious soldier.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I would tend to agree with you, hopefully, that can be adverted, but the right in many of these countries are slowly making a comeback and the reason overwhelmingly is when the government leadership puts refugees and foreigners ahead over its citizens, it's just a matter of time before people raising their hands up and saying, I give up and that's it. No one wants to be treated as a second class citizen in their own country, these leaders are asking for it

"If refugees are allowed in I have no choice but to become a Nazi" isn't the cool argument you think it is.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Colbert asked viewers for ideas on what Trump should be called. Hard to come up with a better title than Fuehrer der Fahrts, although Giuliani might have first dibs.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

For crying out loud, seriously? Do we really need to be publishing wistful nostalgic reminiscences of the HITLER YOUTH?????? This article is an outrageous disgrace.

Today, that 1938 visit by the Hitler Youth has largely faded from Japan's collective memory. Was it because it had been a reminder of the ways in which nationalistic bureaucrats in the Japanese and German governments devoted much of their time and effort to an ultimately meaningless endeavor? Even if so, Jitsuwa Knuckles concludes, it was something that needs to be remembered.

Yeah, gee, why would we not be happily remembering such a wonderful event. Oh yeah, maybe it was because of the BLOODY HOLOCAUST that those same sweet innocent Hitler Youth perpetrated shortly after their happy little cultural exchange visit to Japan.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I bet one of the exchanges was:

"Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuhrer!"

"Hai, so desu ne. Tokorode, hashi tsukaemasuka?"

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Fuehrer der Fahrt is widely featured in those Hitler Rant comedies on YouTube.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I had a middle-aged student in Osaka in 1978. He remembered the visit quite well and was very favorably impressed at the time.

Mission accomplished.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

All hail! Here comes Der Fahrten Fuehrer!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The British Royals were big fans of Hitler. Edward VIII in particular. Photos of Elizabeth doing the Nazi salute were leaked a few years ago. Prince Philip is the only one of his siblings not to join the Nazi party. Papers related to the Royals and Nazi Germany are still kept secret to this day to avoid embarrassment.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Fuehrer der Fahrt or Fahrtfuehrer? Doesn't matter. I wouldn't walk behind (pun intended) either of them.

...or Joe for that matter as well.

It's an ugly moment of history that needs to be remembered so fascism won't reappear in either nation. The fascist regimes of Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain are gone but future generations must be taught so that it doesn't happen to their nations again.

I would tend to agree with you, hopefully, that can be adverted, but the right in many of these countries are slowly making a comeback and the reason overwhelmingly is when the government leadership puts refugees and foreigners ahead over its citizens, it's just a matter of time before people raising their hands up and saying, I give up and that's it. No one wants to be treated as a second class citizen in their own country, these leaders are asking for it

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

albaleo...

I'm not sure this is so historically significant. There were also visits of the Hitler Youth to the UK around the same time.

The British Royal family at the time would have loved greeting them.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

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