Hitlerjunge Quex (film)

Hitlerjunge Quex: Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend (Hitler Youth Quex) is a 1933 German film directed by Hans Steinhoff, based on the 1932 novel Hitler Youth Quex (Hitlerjunge Quex). The film was shown in the US under the title Our Flag Leads Us Forward.

Hitlerjunge Quex
Directed byHans Steinhoff
Produced byKarl Ritter
Written byBobby E. Lüthge
Screenplay byKarl Aloys Schenzinger
Baldur von Schirach
Based onDer Hitlerjunge Quex
by K.A. Schenzinger
StarringSee below
Music byHans-Otto Borgmann
CinematographyKonstantin Irmen-Tschet
Edited byMilo Harbich
Distributed byUFA
Release date
19 September 1933
Running time
95 minutes
87 minutes (USA)
CountryNazi Germany
Budget320,000 RM

Plot summary

Heini Völker is a teenage boy, living in poverty with his mother and father. Heini's father, a veteran of the Great War, is an out-of-work supporter of the Communist Party. The organizer for the local communist chapter, a man named Stoppel, befriends Heini and invites him to an outing in the country, promising him swimming, camping and games.

When the communists arrive at their own camp, there was only smoking, drinking, and dancing. Boys and girls play games like card games and wrestling games. Heini doesn't feel welcome, and wanders away. In another part of the park finds a group of Hitler Youth camping by a lake. Heini watches them from a distance, but is caught by them, and taken into the camp, but they recognised him as having travelled with the communists, and so they send him away as well. Heini sees them doing all the things that he had hoped to participate in, e.g. camping and swimming. He is enamored by their singing. In the morning, Heini watches the Hitler Youth's morning activities, but Stoppel comes looking for him. He hides from Stoppel and instead catches a ride into town from a stranger. When Heini returns to his home, he tells his mother about the Hitler Youth, and sang one of their songs to her, but his father overhears it and beats him for it.

Heini wants to join the Hitler Youth and visits one of the Hitler Youth members' home, promising to come to the opening of their new club house. However, he arrives late, just as the communists are attacking the Hitler Youth members. Even though he had nothing to do with the attack, he is among those arrested by the police. The police arrest some of the Hitler Youth, but no communists. When the police let him go, he is recognised by the Hitler Youth members, who accuse him of colluding with the communists during the attack.

Stoppel is impressed by the fact that Heini didn't tell the police that the communists were the ones who started the ruckus. He confides in him that the communists plan to attack the Hitler Youth later that day, but Heini is distraught and threatens to tell the Hitler Youth about the attack. He attempts to warn the Hitler Youth, but at first they do not believe him. He also informs the police, but they do not believe him either. In the end, they seem to have believed him, because they got away during the attack.

Since the attack happened as Heini had predicted, the police decide to arrest Stoppel, but Stoppel realises that Heini must have warned the Hitler Youth, and he goes to Heini's house and threatens his mother that he is going to kill him. However, later Stoppel has a change of heart and orders the communists not to retaliate against Heini. Heini's mother is so distraught that she decides to kill her son and herself by shutting the windows and leaving the gas on in their apartment at night. She is killed, but Heini survives.

Heini's father happens to meet Heini's Hitler Youth troop leader, Kass, when both men go to see Heini at the hospital. It is here that Heini's father reveals that he was injured in the war, and that that is the reason he could not work. Kass attempts to convince Heini's father to join the Nazis. Heini decides to move into a hostel run by the Hitler Youth, where he discovers to his dismay that not all members of Hitler Youth have such high moral values as he had thought. They call him Quex, originally as an insult.

The Hitler Youth leader takes care not to send Heini to the district where the communists live, but they find out where he is staying, and Stoppel seeks him out on the street, and tries to convince him to return to the communisits. Heini refuses, and Stoppel warns him not to return to the communist district. One day, one of the Hitler Youth is beaten up by the communists while throwing flyer, and Heini convinces the hostel father to allow him to visit the communist district to hand out flyers. His fellow Hitler Youth wants to visit a girl, however, and throws all the flyers in the river. Heini then offers the Hitler Youth to reprint all the flyers during the night and post the flyers before the morning. THe communists hear about this and chase him down and beat him up. The Hitler Youth find him lying face-down, but he's alive.


A recurring character in the film is the Communist street performer. His theme is that "for some people things work out well... but for George they never do." The message is that life in Germany may improve for everyone else, but for the working man, George, life won't be good unless he joins the Communist Party.

Heini Völker's antagonist is the communist youth leader Wilde, "a Nazi version of the incarnation of the 'Jewish-Bolshevik' will to destruction".[1]

The film allows some sympathy for communists. Heini's father, though violent and drunk, has become a communist because of his, and the workers', desperate condition.[2] In one scene, his argument for his son being with him revolves around his sufferings in the war and his unemployment.[3] The communist who invited Heini to a Communist Youth outing, while saying that he has to be eliminated, takes no part in the killing, Quex having made a strong impression on him.[4]

Differences from novel



Production and release

The film was produced in the Universum Film AG (Ufa) studios.[5] The plot was written by Bobby E. Lüthge and Karl Aloys Schenzinger, the author of the novel.[5] Produced by Karl Ritter,[5] it was supported by the Nazi leadership and produced for 320,000 reichsmarks[6] (equivalent to €1,257,146 in 2009) under the aegis of Baldur von Schirach.[7] The latter also wrote the lyrics for the Hitler Youth marching song "Vorwärts! Vorwärts! schmettern die hellen Fanfaren", better known by its refrain, Unsere Fahne flattert uns voran,[8] using an existing melody by Hans-Otto Borgmann, who was also responsible for the music.[5] The director was Hans Steinhoff.[5] For the film, the subtitle Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend ("A film about the sacrificial spirit of German youth") was added to the novel's title.[5] The film has a length of 95 minutes (2,605 metres) and was premiered on 11 September 1933 at the Ufa-Phoebus Palace in Munich, and on 19 September at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin.[5] It was one of three films about Nazi martyrs in 1933, the other two being SA-Mann Brand and Hans Westmar.[6]

The film's Producer, Karl Ritter, recalled in his private diaries the famous scene where Vater Völker slaps his son violently after he overhears him singing the HJ song Unsere Fahne flattert uns voran. The diary entry: Unforgettable was the George–Jürgen Ohlsen ear–slapping scene. George first paid for Jürgen’s ice cream and took him into the canteen like a godfather would. Jürgen saw nothing to fear in him. So then, when the dreadful ear–slap scene came, the tears shot from his eyes.  [9]

The film premiered in the United States at the Yorkville Theatre on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on 6 July 1934 as Our Flag Leads Us Forward[10][11] and in March 1942 in Paris as Le jeune hitlérien.[12]


Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, Joseph Goebbels and other high Nazi functionaries attended the first premiere in Munich.[13] Goebbels reflected on the film as follows: "If Hitler Youth Quex represents the first large-scale attempt to depict the ideas and world of National Socialism with the art of cinema, then one must say that this attempt, given the possibilities of modern technology, is a full-fledged success."[14] By January 1934 it had been viewed by a million people.[6]

Hitlerjunge Quex is now classified in Germany as a Vorbehaltsfilm (conditional film), meaning it is illegal to show it outside of closed educational events guided by an expert.

The study of Culture at a Distance

The film was used by Gregory Bateson in 1943 in a classical example of culture study at distance. A portion of this study was published as "An Analysis of the Nazi Film Hitlerjunge Quex" on pages 331 to 348 of The Study of Culture at a Distance, edited by Margaret Mead and Rhoda Metraux, University of Chicago Press, 1953.

See also



  1. Jay W. Baird, To Die for Germany: Heroes in the Nazi Pantheon, Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press-Midland Books, 1990, repr. 1992, ISBN 9780253311252, p. 121.
  2. Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema, tr. Gertrud Mander and David Wilson, New York: Macmillan, 1974, ISBN 9780020124009, p. 35.
  3. Leiser (1974), p. 37.
  4. Leiser (1974), pp. 35-36.
  5. Rentschler, p. 319.
  6. Rentschler, p. 56.
  7. Rentschler, p. 54.
  8. Rentschler, p. 320.
  9. Gillespie, William (2014). Karl Ritter – His Life and ‘Zeit Films’ under National Socialism. German Films Dot Net. pp. 17ff. ISBN 9780980861228.
  10. Rentschler, p. 321, note 14.
  11. Harry Waldman, Nazi Films in America, 19331942, Jefferson, North Carolina/London: McFarland, 2008, ISBN 9780786438617, pp. 4950.
  12. Waldmann, p. 51.
  13. Rentschler, p. 55.
  14. Rentschler, pp. 55-56
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