Children in the Holocaust: Education and Schools

Figure 1.--We at first thought that this was a Jewish school in NAZI Germany. The dealer attempting to sell the photograph suggested as much, but this seems to be beause Holocaust images command high prices. We think despite the blazer badges this was not a German image. The NAZIs did not require Jews to wear the Star of David badges until 1942 and the badges do not look like the ones German Jews were forced to wear. And it is inconceivable that a Jewish school would have adopted such a badge during the NAZI era. Actually the blazer uniforms look more like a British school. On the back of the photograph is a stamped Star of David and the date 1937. Click on the image to see the back. We think it is unlikely that there were still Jewish-owned phptographic studios left in Germany by 1937 and even more unlikely that a Jewish owner would have drawn attention to it. And the glasses the girl is wearing do not look like the 1930s. Theblazers ans ties look much more modern. And notice the modern looking pen the girl on the left is holding. The desks do look like old, perhaps from the 1950s, but we have noted old-fashion school furniture at British private schools into the 1980s. we supose that Palistine is a possibility, but blazers do not seem appropriate for the warm climate.

The first Jews to be targeted by the NAZIs were adult men who were fired from their civil service jobs. But this was just the beginning as more a more occupations were targetefd as well as extra-legal actions. The children were of course from the outset not unaffected. When men lose their jobs, they can no longer support their families. Jewish children were also affected by the way teachers treated them as well as rising violence at the hands of other students, Given the improtance that Jews placed on education, it was ineviavle that Jewsish education and students would be targeted by the NAZIs. Many Jewish children were already driven from the public schools by the time the NAZI Nuremberg Laws were decreed (September 1935). This gave NAZI authorities the authority to expel Jewish children from the public schools. The Jewish community began organizing schools for the children. This proved difficult because NAZI authorities were also seizing Jewish property. This any substantial facilities were seized. The Jewish community did the best they could with the resoyrces they were available to them. Considerable emphasis was placed on English as most parents were attempting to emograte, especiallyh to America or England. After Hitler launched the war, the NAZIs began to set up ghettoes for Polish Jews. And German authorities began deporting German families milies began to be deported to the ghettoes. Ghettoes regulations varied, but ultimtely any form of scholl or education was prohibited. The school situauin varies in the different occupied countriesm but the general process was expulsion and concentation in preparation gor transport to the death camps.


When the NAZIs seized power in 1933, most German Jews attended state schools. Only a small number of students attended Jewish religious schools. Through a variety of methods including the introduction of anti-semetic curriculum materials, verbal amd phyical abuse from teachers and other students, Jewish children began withdrawing from the schools. Conditiojs varied, but in some schools it was dangerous for Jewish children to continue attending classes. The Nuremburg Laws in 1935 took away German citizenship from Jews, resulting in the expulsion of Jewish children from the state schools. These children enrolled in schools set up for them and staffed by Jewish teachers who had been fired by the NAZIs.


We have not been able to find much information on what happened in French schools during the occupation. We have some limited information. France was very important for the Germans after their stunning victory (June 1940). The exploitation of the French economy was a major benefit to the German war economy, especially because the benefits expected from the East never materialized after the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). As a result, the Germans attempted to maintain stability by not interfearing in many areas. The French school system was left largely untouched. The schools opeated similarly in both th occupied and unoccupied zone. It continued largely unaffected in both the occupied and unoccupied zone. There were some limited few exceptions. Jewish teachers and professors were dismissed (October 1940). Mot of the curricula changes were in history. Some references to the Germans were edited. More attention was given to the mdieval era. Textbooks written by Jews were withdrawn. And work was added on morals. Vichy believed that France;s defeafet was due to the weakening of national character as a result of Socialist and pacifist education. [Nettelbeckp, pp. 161-62.] And there was more attention to physical education. The Government also promoted summer holiday camps for both public and catholic school children. What we are not sure is what happned to the school children. And here there is the complication that there were large numbers of foreign Jews in France who had sought refuge before the War. Some lived in camps set up by the French. We are not sure if they attended French public schools before the War. Other refuges lived outside the camps. we are also unsure if they attnded public schools. We know that Jews were still in French schools at the time that Vichy and German authorities required that Jews where the Star of David badges (June 1942). One child at the time rembers being taunted by the other boys.[Joffo] His biography has been made into a film--'Un sac de billes'. We also know that some Jewish children were expelled from the schools in Vichy-controlled Algeria. We do not know to what extent the French Police or Gestapo used the schools to find Jews. Requiring Jews where the Star of David badges and the dpotatiins occurred at about thv same time. Once the roundups and deportations began, parents presumably began removing the children from the schools. There were instances where Jewish children were separated from their parents for security and sheltered in schools. The Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE) helped to support Jewish children, hiding many in homes and schools. [Curtis, pp. 203-04.] A factor here is the regulations requiring Jews to wear the yellow star of David badges which would make the Jewish childrden stand out.


Dutch Jewish children mostly attended the excellent Dutch public schools. There was relatively little anti-semitism in the Netherlands and incidents of Jewish children being asaulted were virtually unknown before the NAZI invasion. Jewish children continued to attend the Dutch public schools even after the May 1940 NAZI invasion and occuption. NAZI anti-Jewish measures involved the dismissal of Jewish civil servants. This included school teachers, although I am not sure how many Jewish school teachers there were. Jewish children were, however, allowed to continue attending Dutch public schools during the 1940-41 school year. NAZI measures until August 1941 were directed at adults. Jewish children had largely been spared from the various NAZIs measures, although they were of course affected by these measures taken against their parents. This changed in August. NAZI authorities announced that beginning with the coming school year on September 1, Jewish children would no longer be allowed to attend school with other Dutch children. [HJW #22] Jewish children would have to attend their own separate schools where they would be taught by Jewish teachers. [Anderson] The Germans had taken the same step in Germany in 1935, but many German Jews had already left the German state schools because of the abuse they were receiving. The same was not true in Dutch schools where attacks on Jewish children were virtually unknown before the NAZI occupation.


pbr> After family, there is little in the long history of the Jews that is more precious than educating their children. This has not always been entirely beneficial. In the meieval era, Jews tended to be better educated than Christians and often more succesful despite a wide variety of limitations on economic activity. This added to the ever-present religious bigotry and was a factor in the countless attacks and pogroms against Jews that occurred throughout the medievl era. The NAZI began the assault on Jewish education from an early period in Germany. Jewish chldren were taunted in the schools, sometimes by the teachers. They were attacked by other children on the way and from school. Hitler Youth members might be involved. The Nuremberg Laws stripped Jews of their citizenship and thus the right to attend state schools. Some Jewis children continued to attend schools, but most were expelled from the state schools. Jewish parents and teachers attempted to organize their own schools, but local authorities gradully moved ahainst these schools as well, often conficating the facilities. This was part of the process of seizing Jewish property as well as restricting Jewish life. After launching the war by invading Poland, Jewish education was targetted in that country as well. Older children were conscripted for forced labor. We are not yet sure about the younger children. We believe Jewish chools were immeditely closed. The Germans also moved against Polish schools. We are not yet sure what measures wre taken to exclude Jews from state primary schools that continued to operate. This is a topic that we are still researching. As the Jews were forced into ghettoes, they atempted to organize life as normally as posible. A high priority was to organize school as soon a possible. Here German policy varied from ghetto to ghetto. We are unsure to what extent the local authorities received instructions from the SS or Governor General Frank. Generally speaking, the Jews in the first ghettoes and the larger ghettoes were allowed to set up schools, at least primary schools for the youngr children. The schools were a rare refuge where they could come together in safety, study, and play. Sometimes the schools could even destribute a little food. Older children either had to work or worked out of necessity to qualify for food rations. At many ghettoes schols were not permitted from the beginning. Any eduction had to be done in secret. Gradually the Germans began closing the schools and forcing children as young as 10 years to work. One historian writes, "... the educational system in almost all ghettos became victims of similar decrees [like the ones in Germany]. With one swipe of the pen, schools were outlawed and Jewish learning, specifically that of children, was forbidden under threat of death." [Eisen, p. 21.] A rare exception was Therisenstadt which was used as a show ghetto. At some ghettoes the Germans began seizing the youngr non-working children for early tranport to the death camps. Children thus had to study in secret. Eventually the Therisendstadt children were all transported to Auschwitz-Birkenu where they were murdered upon arrival.


Curtis, Michael. Verdict on Vichy: Power and Prejudice in the Vichy France Regime (Arcade, 2003), 419p.

Joffo, Joseph. Un sac de billes. His autobiography is written like a novel, but based on his realm life experiences. His book has been made into the film with the same title.

Nettelbeck, Colin. "A forgotten zone of memory? French primary school children and the history of the occupation," French History and Civilization, pp. 157-66.

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Created: 2:07 AM 9/26/2015
Last updated: 2:07 AM 9/26/2015