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.
One of the major historical questions about Judaism is how this small group of people survived with their religion not only in the Levant facing poweful terifying enemies like Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia for a millenium, but then in often highly hostile Christian Europe for two millenia. Many factors are involved, but high up the list has to be education and the value Jews placed on education. Judaism was different not only because it was the first great monohesistic rligion, but becaue every Jew no matter how humble had a personal relationship with God. And the convenent was not between God and rulers or priests, but btween God and every Jew. The Jewish law was the core of Judaism, and Jews like later day Protestants believe that every Jew mot only hould, but had an obligaion to understand the convenent with God. And this meant reading and sudying the Torah. 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 because of unternational contacts, many Jews were bilengual or spoke more than two languages. The disparity in literacy did not begin to significantly change until the Protestant Reformation (16th century). And often as a result, Jews were often more succesful economically 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 against these schools as well, often confiscating the facilities. This was all part of the process of seizing Jewish property as well as restricting Jewish life. Ghettoes were, however, never established in the Reich. German Jews were deported to ghettoes in the East, but never forced into ghettoes in Germany itself. This was probably because Hitler and the NAZIs were unsure about public opoinion regarding such an action.
Even before the NAZIs seized power, German Jewish children might be targets for attack by other childen. Parents learned to avoid certain schools. The NAZIs began driving Jewish children from the schools soonafter seizing power. Jewish children might be illtreated by NAZI-oriented teachers or abused by the other children (1933). After the issuance of the Nuremburg Laws they began to be expelled by legal measures (1935). The NAZIs did not prevent Jews from establishing their own schools, although Jews who were rapidly losing their ability to make a living had to do so with their own funds. Once Hitler and Stalin launched the War and gained comtrol over Jewish populations in other countries this changed (1939). The largest population of Jews was in Poland and in the ghettoes estblished there (1940-41), Jews tried but were not allowed to set up schools. Education was so important to Jews, that they often attempted to teach children secretly. This was very dangerous. Any adults involved with such efforts were arrested and usually executed. Ghettoes in other countries like the Baltics and Romania were much more short lived. They were basically just collection points for mass murder. Of the killing began before ghettoes were even established. The situation in the West was somewhat different. We note ghetto schools in the Netherlands (1941). This appears to have been a decision taken to allay fears and to reduce the negative publicity. And as deportations to the death camps began soon after ghettoization (1942), it did not seem a mater of great importance to the German authotities.
While Jews wre allowed to orgnize schools in some ghettoes, this was not permitted in most and eventually the chools were closed down in the ghttoes where they were permitted. We note reports that in some ghettoes schools were secretly organized. In som cases they were described as play groups. Often authors grasping for a positive aspect on the universally dark abyss in which the Jewish children had fallen, do not address the numbers involved. When the German authories banned or closed school, this ended the education of most Jewish children. While secret schools could be organized for small groups. There was no way that any major effort for younger children could be hidden. Not only could large-sale shooling not be hidden, but yoinger children could not be taught t skillfully participate in any subterfuge. So while it s importnt to point out the various ways in which Jews, to the limited extent posible, resisted the Germans--it is also imporant to understand that the German regulations effectively ended education for the great bulk of Jewish children once confined in the ghettoes. In addtion, the stark realities of ghtto life meant that older children had to work if at all possible to help the family survive.
Eisen, George. Children at Play in the Holocaust: Games Among the Shadows (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988).
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