The youth hostels

The youth hostels

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Title: United Youth Hostel Movement

Author : LASSALLE (-)

Creation date : March 1945

Dimensions: Height 56 ​​cm - Width 38 cm

Storage location: National Archives (Pierrefitte-sur-Seine) website

Contact copyright: © National Archives

Picture reference: Maurice Tadier archives, 20140183/24

United Youth Hostel Movement

© National Archives

Publication date: May 2019

Historical context

Youth hostels

This poster, created in March 1945 by Mr. Lassalle for the United Movement of Youth Hostels (MUAJ), is kept at the National Archives as part of the PAJEP (Conservation Center for the Archives of Youth Associations and Popular Education).

The domination of two characters of disproportionate size, the simplified graphics, the stylized features make one think of the aesthetic of socialist realism then promoted by the Communist Party. This is not surprising since the party was, in 1945, the first party in France and attracted many members and youth movements, including the MUAJ.

The first organization of youth hostels in France, the French League of Youth Hostels (LFAJ), was created in 1929 under the aegis of the Christian Democrat Marc Sangnier. In the southern zone, the hostels often serve as a refuge for STO refractories, while in the northern zone, the CLAJ becomes a very active collaborative body.

At the end of the war, the youth hostels seemed to fulfill the long-standing dream of joint action in the service of youth and popular education. The dream of unity is already shattered and will never be definitively acquired, due to endless controversies.

Image Analysis

Towards gender equality

Two young hostels, the color of earth, wearing backpacks, shorts and boots, hold hands, hair blowing in the wind, under an azure sky. They move away from the factory, drawn in gray, a symbol of the gloomy nature of their daily life, to go with a decided step “in front of life”, “through the mountains and through the plains”, a flower at their feet, symbol of beneficial nature. The hostels, whether they are intellectuals, peasants or workers like here, all share the same ideal. Young people, reluctant to adopt a hostel uniform, here wear the typical backpacker costume. True to the hostel spirit, nothing distinguishes the young hostel from her "comrade". She put aside her coquetry, the dress and the heels, as the young man gave up his suit, his tie, his suitcase.

We are far from the narrow morality that dedicated the young girl to her destiny as wife and mother. These young people discover leisure activities, nature, sporting activity, frank camaraderie, diversity. In their vigorous march, they shake up mentalities, but note that the young girl, happy to emancipate herself, must disguise herself as a boy in order to achieve equality between the sexes.


Youth hostels and innovative thinking

Youth hostels have played a major role in shaping leisure policy and the birth of popular education. They encouraged innovative thinking to establish outdoor activities, the practice of sport, the discovery of nature, the sea, the mountains and skiing, but also diversity, equality between girls and boys, access to culture for all, internationalism, secularism, fraternity beyond national, confessional or political ideologies.

The dream of a unity of action for youth hostels will have been impossible to realize, although it has animated their managers since 1929. However, the youth hostel will have helped to shape the landscape of France today: its activists are behind a plethora of organizations such as People and Culture, Youth and Culture Houses, Tourism and Work, TNP, Youth and Mountain and even Club Med and FNAC…

  • youth movement
  • nature
  • Hobbies
  • education
  • Popular Front
  • collaboration
  • youth
  • youth hostel


Joffre Dumazedier. Towards a civilization of leisure. Editions du Seuil. 1962

Georges Lefranc. June 36. July 1966

Jean-Pierre Chabrol. The better. Plon. 1968

Lucette Heller-Goldenberg. State thesis.History of Youth Hostels in France from its origins to the Liberation (1929-1945). University of Nice. 1985

To cite this article

Lucette Heller-Goldenberg, "Youth hostels"

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