The Hitler Youth (Hitler-Jugend, HJ) was established by the Nazi party in 1926 to create a new youth-training system for young Germans to gain militarized training and develop their understanding and obedience to Nazi ideology.
The HJ grew out of the Jugendbund der NSDAP (JdN), which was founded in March 1922 and first met in May of that year, it was for males only aged from 14 to 18. Males from 14 to 16 were grouped together as the Jungmannschaften and the older as the Jungsturm Adolf Hitler. The organization was overseen by the SA and was initially led by Adolf Lenk.
The JdN collapsed after the failed putsch of 1923, during Hitler's imprisonment. A number of local youth groups were founded to fill the gap, such as the Grossdeutsche Jugendbewegung of Lenk and Kurt Gruber or the Schilljugend, organized in both Austria and Germany. In 1926 Gruber's Grossdeutsche Jugendbewegung was renamed the Hitler Jugend, Bund Deutscher Arbeiterjugend with Gruber as the new leader, but he was soon replaced with Franz von Pfeffer.
In 1928 the HJ gained a section for males 10-14, initially the Deutsch Knabenschaft in 1931 it was renamed the Deutsche Jungvolk in der Hitler-Jugend. A section for females, 14-18, was added in 1929 called Schwesternschaft der Hitler-Jugend, it was renamed Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) in 1930 and a section for younger females, the Jungmädelgruppe, was added in 1931.
In 1931 a new post was created, Reichsjugendführer, and Baldur von Schirach took control of the HJ, the National-Sozialistische Schülerbund (NSS) and the National-Sozialistische Deutsche Studentenbund (NSDSt.B), subordinate to him Adrian von Renteln was named leader of the HJ itself. Von Renteln was active in purging the HJ leadership of 'unsuitable' persons, however in 1932 when the NSS merged with the HJ von Renteln's post was absorbed by von Schirach. The HJ was made independent of the SA in May 1932 but both groups were banned by the Weimar government in June.
Following the Nazi seizure of power other right-wing youth groups were merged into the HJ. From December 1, 1936 under the Jugenddienstpflicht all other youth groups were banned and their membership was merged into the Hitler Youth. HJ membership was made compulsory for youths over 17 in 1939 and for all over the age of ten in 1941. Von Schirach was replaced as leader by Arthur Axmann in 1940.
As the war progressed the group took on the work of men drafted into the armed forces, manned anti-aircraft defences and also produced many soldiers, especially for the Waffen SS, notably the 12th SS Panzer division under Kurt Meyer. As Germany was invaded members of the HJ were taken into the army at ever younger ages, during the Battle of Berlin in 1945 they were a major part of the German defences. The Hitler youth fought with great courage during the battle. One group of Hitler youth even managed to hold off a Soviet tank division for three days. Many soldiers said that no one scared them more then the Hitler youth. After the war the Hitler Jugend was dissolved and banned forever.