Primary Source

The Rules of the Thälmann Pioneers [Organization Document]


As a state-socialist society, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) did not have the multitude of independent organizations or voluntary associations that characterize civil society in democratic countries. Rather, even children's associations in the GDR were organized under the auspices of the state and, therefore, the Communist Party.

The Ernst Thälmann Pioneers (named for the communist leader who was murdered by the Nazis at Buchenwald) was a youth association that enrolled students in grades 4 through 7. Students in the Ernst Thälmann pioneers participated in community service, public ceremonies, sports, and recreation. However, their costumes, ceremonies, songs, slogans, and literature also directly and indirectly taught socialist ideology.

This document was taken from a book published in the 1980s. It conveys many of the values with which GDR youth were inculcated. These include love for the socialist fatherland, pride, Soviet friendship, hatred of fascism, order, discipline, and health. While not all children embraced the values conveyed by these lines, many did. This fact provides some insight into the profound ambivalence experienced by many East Germans after the collapse of the GDR in 1989 and 1990.


Mitgliedsbuch der Thälmannpioniere or The Rules of the Thälmann Pioneers, German Propaganda Archive, Calvin College, (accessed February 14, 2008). Translated by Randall Bytwerk.

Primary Source Text

The Pledge of the Thälmann Pioneers:

"Ernst Thälmann is my model. I promise to learn to work and to fight as Ernst Thälmann teaches. I will follow the rules of the Thälmann Pioneers. True to our greeting, I am always ready to support peace and socialism."

We Thälmann Pioneers love our socialist fatherland, the German Democratic Republic.

In word and deed, we will always defend our workers' and farmers' state, which is a firm part of the socialist community of nations.

We Thälmann Pioneers carry with pride a red scarf and wear it with honor.

Our red scarf is a part of the flag of the working class. It is a great honor for us Thälmann Pioneers to wear the red scarf as an outward symbol of our devotion to the cause of the working class and its party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.

We Thälmann Pioneers love and respect our parents.

We know that we have much to thank our parents for.

We follow their advice and help them. We want to become conscious builders of the socialist society.

We Thälmann Pioneers are friends of the Soviet Union, and protect peace while hating the warmongers.

By working hard to learn and through good deeds, we help socialism and the forces of peace throughout the world. We always and everywhere oppose the incitement and lies of the imperialists.

We Thälmann Pioneers are friends of the Soviet Union and all socialist brother nations, and want friendship with all the children of the world.

Friendship with the Soviet Union is a matter of the heart for us. The Lenin Pioneers are our best friends. We work closely with the pioneers of the socialist nations and with all progressive children's organizations in the world. We express active solidarity with all peoples struggling for their freedom and national independence.

We Thälmann Pioneers study diligently, are orderly and disciplined.

We gain basic knowledge and abilities, and work everywhere for order, discipline and cleanliness.

We work to help everyone to earn honestly, to use his knowledge, and to make word and deed be the same.

We thus prepare for life and work in socialist society.

We Thälmann Pioneers love work, and respect every form of work and all working people.

We learn from the workers, farmers and other working people and join in wherever we can be helpful. We respect the people's property.

We Thälmann Pioneers love truth and are reliable and friendly to each other.

We always seek to know the truth and work for socialism. We fulfill the tasks we take on and stand by our word as pioneers. We strive to make our group a strong community and give friendly assistance to other pupils.

We Thälmann Pioneers learn technology, learn the laws of nature and become familiar with the treasures of culture.

We are interested in the latest in science and technology. We participate in scientific activities, join in artistic activities, develop our talents and demonstrate our abilities.

We Thälmann Pioneers keep our bodies clean and healthy, participate in sports, and are cheerful.

We strengthen our bodies by sports, games and tourism. We are interested in the beauties of our homeland and hike with pleasure. We do not smoke or drink alcohol.

We Thälmann Pioneers prepare ourselves to be good members of the Free German Youth.

We are interested in the history of the socialist youth group and in the deeds of Free German Youth members. Their splendid achievements are our model and spur. We work together with them.

How to Cite This Source

Thälmann Pioneers, "The Rules of the Thälmann Pioneers [Organization Document]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #20, (accessed August 10, 2021). Annotated by Elizabeth A. Ten Dyke