Racial education became an important part of the curiculum. It was presented formlly as well as worked into many other curricula materials. Pseudo-scientific works were taught as scientific fact. Racial science was not only introduced as part of biology courses, but was presented to children in one form or another at virtually every grade level. Children learned in school that not only were Aryans superior, but they along produced civilizations of any cultural importance. Other races were seen as inferior. Jews were depicted as an actual threat to Aryans because they carried genetic diseases. In 1933 and 1934 there were large numbers of Jewish children in the schools and vicious racial thought was present to the class with them in it. Some teachers even required the Jewish children to serve as class models of "inferior" "Jewish" racial types. Some times in other subjects Jewish or part Jewish children would have their grades reduced on principle. Faced with this trearment and sometimes physical harassment from their classmates, which would always go unpunished, Jewish patents withdrew their children from the state schools. At the same time the Nuremburg and other racial laws were making it increasingly difficult for their parents to work. Hatred of the Jews and other so-called subhumans was the main theme in all courses, even math. Problem solving included word problems with questionsabout ammunition or the cost of maintaining an insane asylum.
Anti-semmitism was not new to German schools when the NAZIs seized power. One historian reports that with the NAZI take-over there was "little surface disturbance of the routine of education". Many German teachers already had strongly nationalistic views, although only a relatively small minority were avid NAZIs. [Grunberger] German Natioanists generally also harbored string nativist and anti-semmetic views. Also the academic standards of German schools prevented pseudo-scientific distorions from being introduced in the classroom in any organized way. Jewish children even before the NAZIs avoided some schools. Jewish papers in 1931, for example published lists of schools where anti-Semitism was minimal and it was relatively safe for Jewish children. [Grunberger]
Racial education became an important part of the curiculum during the Third Reich. Hitler himself personally decreed that "no boy or girl should leave school without complete knowledge of the necessity and meaning of blood purity." For Hitler and many NAZIs, racial education was a critical part of the curriculum. Racial education was not a formal suject that appeared on a child's report card, but it was worked into virtually every subject in the curriculum. It was presented formlly as well as worked into many other curricula materials. Hitler wrote, "The whole organization of education, and training which the People's State is to build up must take as its crowning task the work of instilling into the hearts and brains of the youth entrusted to it the racial instinct and understanding of the racial idea. No boy or girl must leave school without having attained a clear insight into the meaning of racial purity and the importance of maintaining the racial blood unadulterated. Thus the first indispensable condition for the preservation of our race will have been established and thus the future cultural progress of our people will be assured." [Hitler]
Children learned in school that not only were Aryans superior, but they along produced civilizations of any cultural importance. Other races were seen as inferior. These races were presented as inferrior even sub-human. Sometimes this required considerable imagination. The Japanese for example were portrayed as a kind of honorary Artans. It was of course the Jews that the most vicious racial slander was directed. They were depicted as not only inferior, but an actual threat to Aryans because they carried genetic diseases that could be transmitted to Aryans. Hitler made no secret of his beliefs from the very beginning. In Mein Kampf he wrote, "The Jewish youth lies in wait for hours on end ... spying on the unsuspecting German girl he plans to seduce .... He wants to contaminate
her blood and remove her from the bosom of her own people. The Jew hates the white race and wants to lower its cultural level so that the Jews might dominate."
Pseudo-scientific works were taught as scientific fact. Racial science was not only introduced as part of biology courses, but was presented to children in one form or another at virtually every grade level. Hatred of the Jews and other so-called subhumans was the main theme in all courses, even math. Problem solving included word problems with questionsabout ammunition or the cost of maintaining an insane asylum. (The mentally ill were considered a burden on society.) These approaches and some of the books and teaching materials seem exceedingly crude to us today. There apparently was considerable diffrences from classroom to classroom, depending on the teacher and community. One HBC reader who was a young child in school at the time reports, "I was not conscious that I have been indoctrinated by the NAZIs. May be I was too young and lived in a smaller town (Hameln, in those days 40 000 inhabitants). .... I donīt remember racial instructions, only after the war when we were informed about them. I remember little about what was said to us in school concerning racial concepts. They did not touch me. " [Wellershaus]
Jewish children were still in German state schools during the first 3 years of NAZI rule (1933-35). The Jewish children were not officilly expelled from the public schools until after the October 1935 Nurremberg Party Congress when the Nuremburg racial laws were announced. Thus vicious racial thought in the first few years of the Third Reich was presented to classes with Jewish children still present. Some teachers even required the Jewish children to serve as class models of "inferior" "Jewish" racial types. One Jewish boy in the Realschule remembrs a particularly vicious biology teacher who would require him to come to the front of the class where he would be pulled up by his side burns. The teacher would then tell the class, "Here is a Jew, notice the nose, cheek, and hair." He would then explain how to recognize a Jew. Exams were given on this and other aspects of NAZI idelogy and Jewish children would fail if they did not provide the required answers on their own inferiority. Some times in other subjects Jewish or part Jewish children would have their grades reduced on principle. Faced with this trearment and sometimes physical harassmentfrom their classmates, which would always go unpunished, Jewish patents withdrew their children from the state schools. At the same time the Nuremberg and other racial laws were also making it increasingly difficult for their parents to work.
The effectivness of this educational program is difficult to assess. Given what we now know about the conduct of Germany in the occupied countries during World War II, it would seem that the racial education in German schools must have been effective in making genocidal policies possible. In this regard, the racial education did not cause genocidal policies, but it probably reduced the reluctance that many German soldiers may otherwise have felt in carrying out those policies. The racial education probably incouraged many isolated individual acts by German soldiers. Here it mist be remembered that the racial education was not just directed at the Jews, but many other groups of people, including Gypsies, Blacks, Slavs, and others. Poland which not only had a large Jewish minority, but was a Slavic country suffered greviously, especially as it was occupied for a longer period than most of the other countries. It is estimated that a quarter of the population perished during the NAZI occupation. Of course there were substantial individual differences on how students were affected. One student at the time reports, "Concerning what HBC has written under 'Approach' in the NAZI education section, at least I was not very much NAZI-indoctrinated by the teachings. After the war it took not very long to drop what I had heard before." [Wellershaus]
Any understanding of the experience of German children during the NAZI era can not escape a basic understanding of the regimes racial policies. As the boys in the images posted in HBC can not speak to us, such background is needed to understand what was hoing through their heads and the experiences they had. The NAZI attitude toward the Jews is best
known, but other groups were also affected. Then there was the complication of children who were of mixed ancestry--"Mischlings". Racial background affected one legal status and standing in the society. For boys a primary consideration was membership in the Hitler Youth and the right to wear the uniform--a uniform that even many children from anti-NAZI or non-Aryan families often desired to wear.
Aryaman Stefan Wellershaus, e-Mail, personal experiences, July 30, 2002.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf (1925).
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