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 varaiety 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.
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 varaiety 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.
Some changes in the curriculum caused minor incidenys. Teachers varied on how they handled such situations. Ome Jewish boy remembers, "... I don't know if it was part of the curriculum, [in fourth grade] Bock taught us Nazi ideology ... Bock asked our class: 'Who loves the Fuehrer?' All had raised their hands, except me. Bock then asked: 'Maier, you don't raise your hand, don't you love the Fuehrer? Why don't you love the Fuehrer?' I responded to the challenge with: 'Because he doesn't love me.'" [Maier]
Geman Führer Adolf Hitler at the Nuremberg Party Congress on September 15, 1935 announced three new laws that were to be cornerstones of German racist policies and the supression of Jews and other non-Aryans. These laws were designed to provide the legal basis to percecute the Jews and breed a new generation of Nordic Germans. There were three basic new laws which became known simply as the Nuremberg Laws. The first 1935 law established the swastika as the official emblem of the German state. The second law, the Reich Citizenship Law, stripped Jews of their German citzenship. This effectively denied them a range of civil rights, including the right to vote. They were legally prevented from marrying non-Jews. They eventually had to use separate seats in buses and parks which were painted yellow. Eventually they were excluded from public parks altogether. The Nuremburhg Laws also served as the legal basis for expelling the remaining Jewsish children from the public schools. The laws were also the basis for a steady string of regulations which made it more and more difficult for Jews to live in Germany. Eventually beginning in early 1939 Jews were tottaly prohibited from from owning businesses and both children and adults required to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing so they could be easily identified. The third Nurremburg law, titled "The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor," prohibited marrige between German citizens and Jews. Marriages violating this law were voided and extra-marital relations prohibited. Jews were prohibuted from hiring female Germans under 45 years of age. Jews were also prohibuted from flying the national flag. Dtails were developed for defining Jews. Many additiinal restrictive laws flowed from the original Nurremburg Laws.
The children withdrawing from the public schools or expelled after the 1935 Nuremburh Laws enrolled in schools set up for them and staffed by Jewish teachers who had been fired by the NAZIs.
We are archiving accounts we have found of spedcific Jewish children with references to their school experiences.
Ruth had on;y begun Kindergarten in Leipzig when the NAZIs deported her family to Polzand (1938). As the War had not yet began, the family managed to reach Belgium. There they hid from the NAZIs after the German occupstion. Ruth was sheltered as an orphan in a convent.
A German Jewish boy writes of his school experiences duringb the NAZI era, "Naturally, the progressively growing anti-Jewish sentiment influenced and depressed me and the other Jewish children, particularly because we had to be constantly on the alert to avoid contact with any of the Hitler Youth and other hoods who might beat us up. In the spring of 1932 I was admitted to the Citywide Realgymnasium on Adolf Hitler Strasse in Gelsenkirchen. I started in the grade called Sexta, and Latin was our basic language next to German, The following years I entered Quinta, and then Quarta, at which time French was added to our curriculum. After Quarta came Untertertia, and in the spring of 1936 I entered Obertertia with English as a third foreign language. However, in September of that year, I was dismissed along with all other Jewish students (there were not too many any more) because of new edicts issued by the governing Nazi party. I did receive passing grades in all subjects except in Religion (which we received at our Rabbi's house), and in mathematics I was graded "good," which meant above average.
The four and one-half years I spent in the Realgymnasium were very depressing, to say the least, and in retrospect I do not know how I got through them. My gymnastic teacher, Herr Hohenroth, usually appeared in a Stormtrooper uniform and started and ended our lessons with the greeting "Heil Hitler." (He was the same fellow who served in the first world war with my father and wrote defamatory articles against him in the regional Nazi party newspaper. He also is the one who led a horde of schoolchildren on November 10, 1938, after Kristallnacht, into my father's store to destroy any remaining merchandise.) Our music teacher, who wore a Swastika button in his lapel to indicate his membership in the Nazi party, led our class in the presence of Jewish students, me included, in the singing of Nazi songs, one of which had the refrain, 'When the Jewish blood runs from our knives.' Naturally, none of our non-Jewish fellow students objected." [Gompertz]
A jewish boy recalls his Jewish school, "In the fall of 1936 I entered the Judeische Volksschule in Karlsruhe. Most of us, students and faculty, had been expelled from the German school system. There were students who came from elementary schools while others, like myself, had previously studied at a realschule or gymnasium which were college preparatory schools. Like the students, the teachers had also been expelled from elementary and high school systems. Since the school served all students, rather than a select
group bound for advanced degrees, the staff had to adjust to a wide range of intellectual capacity and interest. A redeeming aspect of the new arrangement was that it could emphasize the special education needs of students bound for foreign lands and a better undertanding of our Jewish history and culture ... we computed dollars and British pounds and learned about the history of the countries to which we might emigrate. We even performed plays of special significance to Jews. One of these was: "The Jews" by the great German playwright Gotthold E. Lessing. Another play was by Richard Ber Hoffman whose writings we liked. ... The census of the student body varied. Additional students expelled from German schools would join, while others were leaving for foreign lands. This transitory state became a hallmark of the school and we spent a lot of time discussing legal and illegal means of emigration to many lands. ... Despite the turmoil, the school seemed a safe haven providing reassurance, learning and comradeship. This was important because our sense of self-worth was
under continuous attack. The newspapers maligned and caricatured the Jews. Our people were excluded more and more from the cultural life of Germany and newspapers and radio called us parasites, perverts, weaklings and traitors. The teachers had to be careful not to attack the party line; there was no such thing as academic freedom even in this separate school. But here I experienced a renewed sense of security and pride." [Maier]
One Jewish student describes some informatiion about his schooling, "My first six school years were spent at the Philantropin, at the time the largest Jewish institute of higher learning in Europe. This school was founded in 1804 by one of our ancestors, Siegmund Geisenheimer. When I was 12 years old, I was transferred to the Musterschule, which was a very demanding high school with extremely high standards and an unusually difficult schedule. ... I was determined to finish my schooling at the Musterschule and pass the "Abitur" examinations and graduation equivalent to high school and four years of college in the U.S.--in order to be able to go to medical school thereafter. Few Jews were left in the school, and by the middle of 1934, I was the only Jew among about l,000 students. I did not want anything to deter me from finishing my schooling as planned, but this was not easy. All my classmates had to join the various NAZI youth organizations, and any social contact with, or even talking to, Jews was strictly prohibited. Only two of my classmates were avid NAZIs, and both of them perished on the Russian front. At the time of my graduation in 1935, and this was already the time when the campaign against the Jews was going into high gear, a delegation of my classmates came to my house to apologize for their behavior during the past year, inviting me to the graduation party as well."
An American reader writes, "The image here is horrifying. Can you imagine how those poor boys must have felt when this photograph was taken or after the class how their classmates must have treated them. Even worse can you man imagine what it must have been like for younger children. These boys were of an age that their parents could have tried to explain what was happening. It would have been much more difficult for younger children."
A French reader comments, "This must be the worse example of a school lesson ever. Children all over the earth should be protected.
Civilized people protect children."
Gompertz, Albert. "Experiences of Albert Gompertz," Gelsenzentrum (1998).
Maier, Louis. In Lieu Of Flowers: In Memory of the Jews of Malsch, A Village in Southern Germany.
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