On France 2, Hitler’s “Baby Division”, adolescent criminals in a moral war

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The 12th SS Armored Division, known as the “Baby Division”, was made up mostly of 20,000 very young soldiers. ZED / France2


Built on unpublished colorized film archives and testimonies of survivors, the fascinating documentary by Julien Johan emphasizes the brief and bloody history of the 12e SS armored division, mainly made up of 20,000 very young soldiers, only 15% of its workforce having exceeded twenty.

The idea of ​​turning kids into killers came from Himmler, chief of the SS who, in February 1943, decided to dig into the tank of the Hitler Youth. Approved by Hitler, the idea becomes reality, all the more quickly than the IIIe Reich allows minors to enroll without parental consent.

Five months later, 20,000 young people were trained the hard way to become elite soldiers in the 12e SS armored division. But in November 1943, a secret report indicated that this “Baby Division”, as the British, Canadians and Americans would call it a few months later, was not operational.

Descent into hell

Anger of the Führer and rapid reorganization, with the arrival of high-end equipment and especially the appointment of Kurt Meyer, military hero. Smart, Meyer releases pressure on exhausted recruits, orders officers to reproduce “A relationship close to the family environment with young people”. The kids do not know that their idol is also a war criminal who murdered 872 inhabitants of a village on the Eastern front …

Sent to France to counter the future landing, the young SS committed a first massacre in early April 1944, in the village of Ascq. Following an act of sabotage by the Resistance, 86 men were killed by the kids. It is only the beginning of a descent into hell where morality has no place. “The teenagers were the worst! They were shooting us in the back “, remembers a British veteran who fought against them in the Normandy countryside.

Fanatic combatants, the young SS, half of whom will perish in combat, have committed several war crimes: the execution of Canadian prisoners of war in June 1944 and then of French and Belgian civilians, women and children included, in August and September. “I don’t hold them anymore!” “, will write an officer. After the war, Kurt Meyer will be tried and sentenced to death before having his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. He was released in 1954, ten years after his arrest.

Baby Division, Hitler’s teenage soldiers, documentary by Julien Johan (Fr., 2019, 52 min).


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