Hilary St George Saunders, The Left Handshake, 1948

Chapter VIII


Scouting in the Defeated Countries

"THE TIME IS undoubtedly nearer when we must prepare ourselves to carry out the most important duty that lies ahead, that of restoring goodwill and fellowship throughout a world divided by enmity and hate. There are Scouts on both sides in the present conflict. Those of us who are on the side of the United Nations preponderate in number. We believe in the justice of our cause. We believe in the freedom of peoples and more particularly in the freedom of the individual…. Those who fight for their countries on the Axis side are not to be condemned. Many are forced to do so. Many believe in the justice of their cause. By reason of this they have not forfeited the right to our consideration and to our future friendship.

"When war ceases our first feeling will be one of infinite thankfulness. Our work will not be finished. In truth the work we can do as Scouts will only recommence. The first question, ‘ What can we do to help our allies who have suffered more than we ourselves have done ? ‘ is already engaging our attention. . . . When we set ourselves to solve it, we shall find ourselves confronted by another question, ‘ What can we do to help those against whom we have been ranged, in order that peace and goodwill amongst men can be the better insured? "’

So runs part of an editorial published in the issue for November, 1942, of Jamboree, the journal of World Scouting This opinion is in strict accord with the practice and preaching of Baden-Powell himself, who died only a year before it was written. It is but right and proper that this history of Scouts and Scouting in war should be concerned mainly with the exploits, hardships, triumphs and loyalties of British and Dominion Scouts and of their staunch comrades in Allied countries. Yet to portray them and them alone in their long, arduous and successful struggle to uphold the principles laid down by the founder is to paint an incomplete picture. There were Scouts in the Axis countries too, and all in them who sought to follow the Scout Law have always been recognised and encouraged by their brethren in more fortunate lands. For Scouting, being international, can take no account of race or creed, colour or boundary, right or left. Those who profess and practice it know no unclimbable barrier shutting off the victors from the vanquished, the sheep from the goats. Rubber truncheons are not part of a Scout’s equipment and iron curtains have no place in his camp. Even before the war, to discover and keep in touch with a Boy Scout Movement in Germany was not easy. Scouting as preached and practiced by its founder does not seem to appeal to the Teutonic temperament, perhaps because it has always laid great stress on personal freedom and individual initiative. Nevertheless, continuous efforts were made between 1920 and 1933 to establish in Germany a Scout Movement which could be regarded as a national organisation with aims, principles and methods of a standard which would permit its registration as a member of the Boy Scouts’ International Conference, under which all the activities of international Scouting are carried out. Representative members of the various German Pfadfinder groups were invited as guests to the Second World Jamboree held in Denmark in 1924, but they were still too divided to become recognised as a German Boy Scout Movement. These divisions and sub-divisions continued, despite the efforts of many individual Germans, the participation of several German Pfadfinder leaders in courses of Scout instruction at the international training centre at Gilwell Park, and the presence of representatives from two of the strongest Pfadfinder groups at the Coming-of-Age Jamboree at Arrowe Park in 1929.

In 1933, with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, all German youth movements were compulsorily closed down or absorbed by the Hitler Jugend. It is known, however, that many of the more Scout-minded Pfadfinder groups continued to meet in secret and that some of their members suffered persecution and imprisonment. Despite the Gestapo, a secret Scout leaven continued to exist.

When the Allied armies occupied Germany in 1945, one of the immediate problems facing them was the control of the bands of boys who were roaming the country, a menace to the maintenance of good order and discipline. One counter-measure suggested was that groups of Boy Scouts should be formed, and Scouting become an integral part of the policy pursued by the occupation authorities. This solution was firmly rejected by Scout authority, who considered it fatal to the ultimate development of an indigenous and spontaneous Scout Movement in Germany under German leadership. Such a movement might become of service to Germany and the world in from five to seven years.

The difficulties, however, of promoting and encouraging it proved very great. Not only did the pre-Nazi past, with its record of division and uncertainty, stand in the way, but conquered Germany had been divided into four zones under four different masters who soon, under the stress of peace, lost the unity they had acquired in war. In the Eastern Zone under the dominion of Soviet Russia no Scouting, as understood by the followers of Baden-Powell, was possible. The organisation called the Free German Youth was political in aspect from the beginning and has remained so. In the French Zone permission was given to form Scout Groups on a local basis but the boys do not —this is being written in 1948—as yet wear uniform and "only at a later stage may a federal organisation be started." In the British Zone the authorities decided that, for the time being, Scouting should be excluded from the educational and rehabilitation programme, the main reason being the fear that Germans may use Scouting as a cover for the perpetuation of the Hitler Jugend.

Only in the American Zone was Scouting encouraged from the start, but it has to be carried on under American supervision. Here, as in the whole of Germany before 1933, divisions began at once to show themselves and still continue. Altogether the prospects of Scouting in Germany among German youth, as opposed to displaced, are not at present very bright. Nevertheless in the summer of 1947 the decision was taken to allow the training of German Scout Leaders in the British Zone. The National Scout Associations of the Occupying Forces and Control Commissions in the three Western Zones began to give what assistance lay in their power to the German Scouts who, despite internal dissension and external discussion, continue to grow in number. The help consists in the provision of facilities for training, by advice to the Control Education and Youth Activities Branches, and by the supply of literature and a limited amount of equipment. After an interregnum of fourteen years there is naturally a great shortage of Scout equipment such as tents, cooking gear, etc.

Much remains to be done to bring about the resurrection and rehabilitation of Scouting in Germany. In the past it certainly opened a way of friendship to German youth, and it was not the fault of Scouts in other countries that that way was barred; World Scouting looks forward to the time when it may be possible to secure some recognised and registered Association of German Scouts. It is too early yet to descry the form such an Association may take, federal or some other. But it is the intention to create it. That is the aim, the plan.

The two parallel Scout Associations in Italy of Corpo Nazionale Giovani Esploratori Italiani and Associazione Scoutistica Cattolica Italiana were Foundation Members of the Boy Scouts’ International Conference in I920. Italian Scouting continued to thrive and to be an important factor in the development of the individual characters of Italian boys until I928, when Benito Mussolini founded the "Ballila" and abolished all other organisations save this State Youth Movement. A certain number of the Scout methods of training were adopted or adapted for the Ballila programme, but all opportunities for individual expression were suppressed. Scouting, however, continued sub rosa. There is even evidence to shew that Scout meetings took place in the room above the famous balcony overlooking the Piazza Venetia. A strong Rover Scout Crew was maintained in Milan; old Scouts continued to meet as simple gatherings of friends; Italian priests going out as missionaries to Africa went through courses of training at Gilwell Park. As was natural and possible, Scouts continued to meet in the Vatican City, and many a Scout conference, forbidden elsewhere in the Axis countries, took place there.

Thus the spirit of Scouting never died in Italy. It was handed from friend to friend, from father to son, from elder brother to younger brother. Italian Scouts were present, again sub rosa, in twos and threes at the successive World Jamborees at Arrowe Park in 1929, at Godollo in Hungary in 1933 and at Vogelensang in Holland in 1937. The Chief Scout of the World, Baden-Powell, was introduced to one at Vogelensang, who afterwards was the leader of the "Aquila Randaggia" in Milan, a group that played a large part in the Italian partisan fighting in the North of Italy and was the means of helping many Allied soldiers and airmen to escape into Switzerland. This group of men was composed almost entirely of Old Scouts who, at the risk and some. times with the loss of their lives, maintained the spirit of Scouting and freedom.

In Sicily Scouting sprang up again as soon as the Allies had freed the island. From the dark recesses of church crypts where they had lain for fifteen years, Scout flags were brought once more into the streets, and Scout badges, some worn by their owners, some by their late owners’ sons, flashed in the strong sunlight. Such scenes were repeated everywhere on the Italian mainland as field by field and town by town Freedom stumbled slowly northward. When Rome was taken and Scout Councils could be held once more, application was made to the Boy Scouts’ International Bureau for the re-registration of the two Associations, who had in the meantime agreed to form one united federation. In 1944 Italian Scouts were readmitted into the World Brotherhood under the Federazione Esploratori Italiani, and in 1947 their numbers had risen to 65,ooo. In May of that year the Director of the Boy Scouts’ International Bureau paid a ten-days’ visit to Italy in the course of which he met with considerable numbers of Scouts in Vicenza, Venice, Milan, Brunate, Como, Bologna, Florence, Naples, Pompei, Castellamare, Bari and Rome.

He found, as he expected, that the standards of Scouting differed between place and place, and to a lesser degree between the members of the two Associations. It was in Rome and its neighbourhood that its development had been most complete, with Milan a very close second and Bari and Venice only a short distance behind. Its popularity in Bari owed a great deal to the activities and encouragement given by a British Services Rover Crew, still remembered with gratitude, whose handiwork was apparent in the headquarters of various Troops. The Pope expressed to the Director of the International Bureau his great appreciation of Scouting and its influence on the character and moral fibre of the young. It was of the greatest importance, particularly at the present moment, when every force making for good had to be upheld and strengthened. He permitted his message of appreciation to be given to all Scouts throughout the world, irrespective of their religious beliefs, and gave his blessing to World Scouting. Scouting could not ask for higher praise or encouragement.

There is always the danger that a compulsory system of youth education may be attracted by the Scout method. Mussolini used it in the Ballila, and it is an obvious weapon in the armoury of a dictator. Against this danger Baden-Powell continually sounded a warning note: "Scouting is caught, not taught," he said. "Scouting comes from within—it is not imposed from without." Scouting has grown and spread with a natural spontaniety not foreseen by its founder. No efforts were ever made to force its growth; no propaganda campaign was launched. Nowhere more than in Italy has the truth of this phenomenon been more strikingly illustrated. Everywhere in that country, as soon as Fascism was destroyed, Scouting raised its head and proved that it could rise again of its own free will and that there was no need to force the growth.

Austria, like Italy, had been a Founder Member of the Boy Scouts International Conference. Austrian Scouts of the two recognised Associations — Oesterreichischer Pfadfinder and Oesterreichisches Pfadfinderkorps St. George — had taken part in all international gatherings and conferences. Then in 1938 came the Anschluss to make the end of Scouting in Austria. A determined attack was made on the members and property of both Associations; headquarters were wrecked, Scouters were imprisoned and sent to confinement camps where many of them died. Some, however, escaped and carried on their Scouting in other countries, of which more than one owe the present standard and standing of their Scouting to Austrian Scout refugees. As the result of this persecution there was only a handful of former Scout leaders to be found in Austria when she was freed in 1945, but they immediately began to plan for the revival of Austrian Scouting. First they decided that it was contrary to the spirit of Scouting to have two separate national associations, and therefore formed a single united Boy Scouts organisation. Despite the encouragement afforded by public opinion, which wholeheartedly supported the revival of a national Scout organisation. it was a year before any steps could be taken to secure readmission to the International Scout Organisation, for the division of the country into four separate occupied zones hampered development. The educational organisations of the three Western Control Commissions were encouraging and helpful, but meetings and conferences proved difficult to arrange. A National Conference was, however, held in Vienna in the first week-end of November, 1946, and received the good news that the Boy Scouts of Austria had again been admitted to full membership of the Boy Scouts’ International Conference. By the spring of 1947 there were about 5,000 Boy Scouts in the three Western Zones of Austria, and great care was and is being taken to ensure that their leadership is sound. Baden-Powell’s advice—"Softlee softlee catchee monkey"—is the watchword of the Scout authorities.

In Austria, as in Italy, the value of Old Scouts has been proved, and these have provided a sound foundation on which the building of Scouting can be raised again. Many of the present Austrian Scouters were prisoners-of-war in Allied countries. A small but good Austrian contingent attended the Jamboree of Peace in France in August, 1947, and the Austrian Chief Scout has been elected as a member of the new Boy Scouts’ International Committee. Austria and Italy have both been helped by the knowledge that they have precisely the same standing in World Scouting as any other country. In that world there are no big powers, no small powers. Each "Scout" country, whatever its size, has the same number of representatives with the same powers as any other Scout country, and in Scout circles Liechtenstein and the United States of America are on an equal footing.

Hungary joined the International Scout Brotherhood before the Second World Jamboree of 1924. On that occasion the Hungarian Troop took fourth place in the International Competition, which was a unique feature of that Jamboree. Hungarian Scouting had had a successful start and remained flourishing until the outbreak of the Second World War. Count Paul Teleki, the Honorary Chief Scout and Jamboree Camp Chief at Godollo in 1933, for many years a member of the International Committee, was its greatest figure. The difficulties with which he had to contend have been mentioned in Chapter III, and he dealt with them in the manner of a man bred in a tradition hardly intelligible to a generation taught by two wars to hate their enemies and to use any and every means to overcome them.

In 1940 the Scouts of Hungary were much exercised by the provisions of the Fourth Scout Law—" A Scout is a friend to all, and a brother to every other Scout, no matter to what country, class or creed the other may belong." " How," said many of the Hungarian Scouts, " could they regard the enemies of their country as their brothers?" Count Teleki told them. "In 19I4," he said, "I entered Macsva with the Kraus Army. I was by the first military bridge thrown over the Sava. Behind me were some old Hussars, men of the Frontier Guard. I heard one say to his comrades, his pipe between his teeth, ‘ These Serbs are really brave enemies. It is a pleasure to fight against them.’ So it is that when I face a man who is fighting for his country honestly and conscientiously, I feel there is some kind of a spiritual bond between us. I look on him in a curious kind of way as my comrade and my brother. In the same way the Old Hussar spoke from the depths of his Hungarian soul of the enemy worthy of him. When we say that every other Scout is our brother we presuppose that those who are our present enemies are faithfully serving their own country, in all honour, as their Scout duty. He who does not so serve is not a Scout and not our brother. I esteem as myself him who is honestly serving the needs of his country. I subscribe wholeheartedly to this Scout Law." Whatever view may be taken of these sentiments they were those of an honest and honourable man.

After Paul Teleki’s death the Hungarian Scout Organisation continued to exist, but its leadership was changed and it acquired a certain taint of fascism. The Association was, however, still upon the register of the International Bureau although information about it was hard to come by. In the summer of 1946 the Association was dissolved by decree of the Hungarian Government but after a very short interval was allowed to start afresh. This break made it necessary for the International Committee to conduct a number of difficult investigations, but it finally resolved, in May, 1947, to regard the present Scout organisation in Hungary—Magyar Cserkeszfiuk Szovetsege—as the heir to the former recognised Association, and invited the Hungarian Scouts to attend the Jamboree of Peace and the Boy Scouts’ Eleventh International Conference held in the following August. A Hungarian contingent and delegation were accordingly present at Moisson, and the Conference unanimously confirmed the Committee’s decision. The present muster of Scouts in Hungary is given as 30,000 as against some 60,000 in 1939.

The number of Scouts in Bulgaria in 1939 was slightly over 6,000. They also had been in existence before 1920, but the Movement came to an end during the war, has not been revived since, and no information has been received from any of the former leaders. But by the end of 1947 two separate contacts had been made with former Scouts.

The Roumanian Boy Scouts were one of the first to be registered with the International Bureau. They were fostered by ex-King Carol, and ex-King Michael, his heir, was a member and, while being educated in England, took part in several Scout gatherings. In October, 1937, however, King Carol founded the Straja Tarii (Guardian of the Country) as a united Roumanian Youth Movement, based on the same ideas and system as those followed by the Boy Scout Movement. The Straja Tarii coordinated all the youth organisations in the country, including the Boy Scouts; but, while acknowledging their debt of gratitude to the Chief Scout and to Scouting, presently felt unable to remain as a registered Association of the Boy Scouts’ International Bureau. An agreement of reciprocity was, however, signed in 1938 and a representative delegate of the Straja Tarii was present at the Tenth Biennial International Conference at Edinburgh in July, 1939. Roumania was subsequently induced to enter the Axis camp, and communications were cut. Since the end of hostilities one or two messages from former Roumanian Scouts expressing a determination to revive Scouting have been received, but, with Bulgaria, the country remains aloof and cut off behind the iron curtain.

A Scout Movement was recognised in Japan under the name of Dai Nippon Syonendan Renmei. Comparatively little was known of its true character, but very Scout-like contingents from Japan attended the successive World Jamborees. One of their leaders was for some years a member of the Boy Scouts’ International Committee. In 1937 the number of Japanese Scouts was given as 36,000, but by 1939 they had evidently suffered a sharp fall for only some 3,000 Scouts were reported to be still active. By then, as in every country which embraced totalitarian ideas, a State Youth Movement had been formed and Scouts gradually or forcibly incorporated into it. It is known that a few individual Scout leaders survived the ban, and recent news shews that they are intent on reviving Scouting again. Scouting in Korea has shown signs of revival, but it is too early yet to determine whether that revival is along real Scout lines. In Japan itself a few groups have been formed and it is hoped that permission to form more may be given in due course. Japanese Scouts, boys and men, proved themselves very adept at the methods and practice of Scouting activities, and in the old days gave proof that many of them had grasped its spirit.

The revival of that spirit is as necessary to the future welfare of Japan as it is to that of other defeated countries in which the virus of Fascism has wrought such harm. Scouting, with its emphasis on the freedom of the individual, on training boys to see, think and act for themselves, is incompatible with the idea that the individual is the servant of the State and that the State is all. It was logical, therefore, that a State governed on totalitarian lines had inevitably to forbid the fulfilment of Scouting’s aim and the practice of its principles and methods. Now that the disease of Fascism has been scotched, Scouting would seem to be an obvious prophylactic against its recurrence.

  Hilary St George Saunders, The Left Handshake, 1948
Chapter V: Endurance. Scouting in Captivity
Chapter VI: Partnership. Scouting in the Empire and in the U.S.A.
Chapter VII: Assurance. Scouting in Refugee and Displaced Persons’ Camps
Chapter VIII: Reformation. Scouting in the Defeated Countries
Chapter IX. Enthusiasm. The Boy Scout Movement and its Meaning
Return to the Foreward and Table of Contents

Return to the Pine Tree Web Home Page

Your feedback, comments and suggestions are appreciated.
Please write to:
Lewis P. Orans
Ralf Bell (Ralf.Bell@uni.duesseldorf.de)

Copyright © Lewis P. Orans & Ralf Bell, 1997
Last Modified: 12:17 PM on August 3, 1997