FDJ emblem

Emblem of the FDJ

The Free German Youth (German: Freie Deutsche Jugend, abbriev. FDJ) is the youth organisation of the Socialist Republic of Germany. It was first established in 1936 as an underground movement and then reformed in 1941 in order to compete with the Hitler Youth organisation in South Germany.


The FDJ was established in January 1936 as a merger of the Young Communist League of Germany, Socialist Youth League of Germany and the Socialist Workers Youth as an underground movement to oppose Hitler and the Nazi Party's rule. However, the Gestapo of the Third Reich effectively prevented pro-communist groups such as the FDJ from operating within the country and the group was subsequently pushed out of Nazi Germany. During the same year, the organization moved its headquarters to Paris, to Prague in 1938 and later to London. After the Berlin Revolution of 1939, the FDJ returned to North Germany, where it began to rebuild itself as the North German youth organisation.

FDJ foundation

Foundation ceremony of the FDJ in 1941

The FDJ's reformation was complete in March 1941, and a foundation ceremony was organised on 14th March. The FDJ was now a branch of the North German Armed Forces, designed as a cadet organisation to prepare youths aged 9 to 17 for national service once they turned 17.

Battle of Gera and the Müller Incident

On 7 July 1946, the Nazis launched an offensive against the North German-held city of Gera. In 1946, Gera only had a small garrison of soldiers. The soldiers were of no match to the Wehrmacht forces. The Gera Gruppe of the FDJ began a counterattack to assist the Rotfrontkämpfer, spearheaded by Gruppenleiter Johann Luitpold. Luitpold was injured in the battle, and 12-year-old Cadet Richard Müller of the 5th Kinderkader assumed command of the Gruppe's forces.

According to the official report of the incident, Müller expertly commanded the North German forces, eventually beating back the South. However, Richard Müller disappeared shortly before the battle ended. The North German government, in cooperation with the military and the FDJ, embarked on a nation-wide search for the child. After one month, Müller still could not be found. the North German government accused the Nazis of capturing Müller. Müller was named a national hero, and in absentia made the Geran Gruppenleiter, with the rank of Leutnant (Lieutenant). He was also appointed to the Scharnhorst Order, one of the highest awards given to North German soldiers, in recognition of his bravery.

In September 1947, the Volkspolizei sent spies into South Germany to investigate the fate of the cadet. Ultimately, it was found in 1948 that Müller was imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp and executed on July 5th, 1947. The Vopo made public news of Müller's death. The North German government demanded the repatriation of Müller's body. There was general criticism, including from Nazi Germany's allies, of the Wehrmacht's actions, and of the Nazi government to allow the torture of children. There were riots even in South Germany itself. Under such pressure, the Nazis relented and returned Lieutenant Müller's body to Gera.

There was a state funeral for Lieutenant Müller, attended by over ten thousand Germans and internationals. President Ernst Thälmann gave a speech praising Müller, and announced that his family would receive a compensatory subsidy in recognition of Müller's actions. Supporters of the Nazi government were disillusioned with the Nazis due to Müller's death, and Nazi Germany became even more unstable than it already was, thanks to the Battle of Gera. It was a strategic victory for North Germany, as more people than ever were now defecting to the Communists.


The FDJ is composed of many chapters (Gruppen) which are present in most cities of the SRD. Each Gruppen is led by a Chapter Leader (Gruppenleiter), an elected member of the Gruppe. The Gruppenleiter is assisted in administrative duties by a Gruppenrat (Group Council) and a Gruppenmentor, an adult member of the military assigned to assist the Gruppe. The Gruppen themselves were split into several components. The three main parts of each Gruppe are the Army Squad (Armeekader), the Marine Squad (Marinekader) and the Air Squad (Luftkader). These subdivisions are for members aged 13 and above. The Army, Marine and Air Squads trained FRD members to serve in the military area of their choice - the Red Army, Navy or Air Corps respectively.

Other components of the Gruppe include the Kinderkader, which are for people aged 9 to 12. There is one Kinderkader for each age group. Each squad or Kader, while part of the Gruppe, is also part of a national federation of Kader. The Armeekader, for example, are all part of the Armeekader Bund.

A Kader is led by an Kaderleiter and a Kadermentor, much like in the Gruppe as a whole. The Kaderleiter is elected by the members of the Kader from their own ranks as their leader, while the Kadermentor is an adult from the armed forces appointed by the FDJ's Central Council.

When new members join Kinderkader, they remain in the same group as they age until they become 13, whereupon they choose the branch they wish to serve once they leave the FDJ and enter the armed forces. After they've made their choice, the child is transferred to a newly formed Kader, in which they remain until they leave the FDJ. The old Kinderkader is subsequently dissolved, and its number awaits reassignment to a new squad.

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