The NAZIs gave particularly attention to education and control of the German educational system. They were well awarethat it would be difficult to convert many adults and only aminority of Germand had ever voted for the NAZIs in democratic elections. The childrn were a different matter. They were thus determined to mold the new generation to accept NAZI pinciples. As the leader of the NAZI Teacher's League, Hans Schemm, put it: "Those who have the youth on their side control the future." As a result, after the NAZIs seized power in 1933, they quickly began applying totalitarian principles to all aspects of the German education system. Private schools were taken over or closed. Great emphasis was attached on racial "science", often termed "racial hygine", in NAZI education and this was quickly introduced into the curiculum. NAZI idelogy and physical-military training became other important aspects of the school program. Many teachers embraced the new Germany, but others were fired or left teaching. It is difficult to assess the relative importance of the two groups. It is known that many teachers were fired or replaced with political hacks during 1933-35, but HBC has no details on the numbers. Some of the best educators fled abroad. The quality of German education, once the leading system in Europe, declined. Again, however, it is difficult to assess this in quantative terms.
The NAZI worldview served as central focus of education during the Third Reich. It serves to justify actions of the regime which would have been rejected by most Germans before the NAZIs seized power. The central concept was concept was racial superiority which was mixed with xenephobic nationalism. The NAZI concept of a ‘national community’ included a fusion of race and country. The other key principle was leadership by a strong leader and the rejectioin of democracy and civil liberties. The NAZI world view was expressed in the slogan: "Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Führer". Hitler wrote at length on education in Mein Kampf. For Hitler the "highest task" of education was to preservae, care and develop the best racial elements. Education was to be used as a form of social selection. The best racial elements would be advanced and serve to form the leadership for a the new generation of Germans. It was thus of critical importance to make Aryan children aware of racial differences. The NAZIs sought to show children that some groups were part of the ‘national community’ and others were not. Hitler wrote, "“No boy and no girl must leave school without having
been led to an ultimate realization of the necessity and essence of
blood purity.” [Hitler]
The NAZI's inherited one of the finest education systemns in Europe with a strong tradition of personal development through educational achievenehnt. The NAZIs fundamentally changed this concept. The purpose of education was no longer personal development, but to prepare the individual for service to the state. Although Hitler did not tell this to the German people, he was well aware that the achievement of his goals would mean war. Thus the NAZI education system was designed to prepare a generation of German youth that was equipped for military service and ideologically prepared to make the needed sacrifices.
After the NAZIs seized power in 1933, Hitler appointed Bernhard Rust as Minister of Science, Art, and Education for Prussia and in 1934 Reichsminister für Wissenschaft, Erziehung und Volksbildung (Reich Minister for Science, Education and Popular Culture). Rust was a former schoolteacher who had been fired for molesting a pupil. Rust upon his appointment immediately set about building a NAZI education system. Teachers who had criticized the NAZIs as well as Jewish teachers were summarily dismissed. All remaining teachers were subjected to a month of intensive training in National Socialist principles. NAZI officials reviewed textbooks for suitability and commissioned the publication of new materials. Independent student councils were disolved. Teachers were incouraged to join the National Socialist Teachers League and the NAZI Party itself. New hires were restricted largely to Party members. Rust oversaw the introducton of a NAZI National Curriculum, centralizing German education as never before. Great emphasis was placed on physical training and courses like history altered to redlect the NAZI view. New courses were intriduced on the NAZI Party and racial hygene. Religious instruction was deemphasized and prayers written by Hitler Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach praising Hitler were introduced. Rust helped establish the élite NAZI Party secondary boarding schools, the Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten (NPEA or NAPOLA). Upon graduation at age 18, students joined the German Labour Service where they worked for the government for 6 months. Many boys then joined the military or found jobs until drafted. Others entered university. Rust unsuccessfully tried to favor working-class applicants at universities, but did succeed in reducing the number of women accepted. He innagurated the "Bernhard Rust University for Teacher Formation" in 1937. Rust tried, but was unable to reform the spelling of German in 1944 because of war priorities. Rust continued as Minister of Education throughout the 12 years of NAZI rule and committed suicide in May 1945 when the Germans surrendered.
The NAZIs upon seizing power approached the teaching profession with some suspicion and for good reason. They knew that while some teachers were Party members, many teachers were uncommitted to the NAZI Party or even hostile. They could not fire all the existing teachers immediately. They did, however, begin culling out those teachers obviously hostile to the Party. Teachers soon realized that any kind of open opposition was dangerous. Teachers who were apolitical were retained and gradually indoctinated. It could cost their jobs are even worst arrest by the Gestapo and internment in the new concentration camps being opened in the country. And new teachers being hired were often selected more for Party loyalty than academic skills and achievenent. The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service forced school teachers and university professors to join the National Socialist Teachers League. In order to join this league, they had to provide proof that they were Aryan. Individuals were not allowed to teach unless they joined this league. Hitler had the curriculum rewritten to provide a NAZI approved curriculum. Teachers had much less leeway in the design of their lessons. The NAZI Party in effect instructed teachers as to what they could and could not teach. In only a few years, Minister Rust and his staff managed to created a throughly indoctrinated teaching profession.
NAZI authorities led by Minister of Education Rust invisioned a definitive approach to education. For the NAZIs, the student was an object. Education was no longer to be a matter of personal intelectual development, but rather to prepare children to loyally serve the new National Socialist state. Educaion was not to inspire intelectual thought or cause children to question and seek answers to complicated issues. Rather the schools were designed mold children and have them unquestionably accept NAZI Part doctrine. The children no longer were no longer allowed options about life style, racism, political or economic thought, internationalism, religion, and other issues. The goal under the NAZIs was to consciously shape pupils on National Socialist principles. [Noakes and Pridham, p. 432.] Social, moral, religious, political, and economic though contrary to NAZI though was ignored or presented in a distorted negative context. A new NAZI curriculum was introduced to promote a new German consciouness. Only teaching materials that had an 'affinity with the spirit of the new Germany' were permitted. Material that 'contradict German feelings or paralyze energies necessary for self-assertion' was rejected. [Noakes and Pridham, p. 437.] Teachers were encouraged to in effect forget facts. They were to teach 'right' attitudes or 'character' through feel-good experiences: NAZI education gave great importance to was the cult of 'experience' as being of greater importance than academic study. Unlike knowledge which involved intellectual thought, experience involved 'feeling' which the NAZIs cultivated. The emotional acceptance of th racist, xeophobic nationalist outlook looked on as essential to character-building. [Noakes and Pridham, p. 441.] A new curriculum was developed to make it clear what shold and should not be taught in schools. The previously highly academic German aproach was shifted to a more affective (feeling-centered) program rather than cognitive learning which required a serious effort on the oart of the students. Students were not slow to learn what was important to earn the graduation certificates. Many concluded that they could simply drift through their school years and obtain their school-leaving certificate with only a minimal intellectual efforts which wsas not the case before the NAZIs seized power. One Geman teacher noted, "... those pupils who are in positions of leadership ... often display unmannerly behavior and laziness at school. in general, it must be said that school discipline has declined to an alarming extent..." [Noakes and Pridham, p. 429.]
NAZI schools were organized traditionally, as they continued the basic structure of primary and secondary education. We do not yet, however, have much information on the organization of these schools, ages, and policies such as academic selection. The NAZIs maintained the basic structure of German eduacation, but grafted on to it Party schools to train the future generation of leaders. There were special NAZI Party secondary schools for chosen children. There were also post-secondary Party schools. The German educational system from top to bottom was geared to the political requirements of the NAZI regime focusing on inoculating German children and youth with totalitarian, xenophobic, and anti-semetic concepts.
Regimes sometimes for political reasons desguise their trur progrms and policies. Often they are much more honest and stightt forward in their school textbooks. Especially in school textbooks, the basic ethos of the regime is often clearly spelled out in simple, but easy to understand terms. The NAZI Party sought to create a religious cult with the various pledges and prayers that they developed for children. Songs and pledges were developed to reinforce the idea of commitment to and sacrifice, even death for the German nation and its Fuhrer--Adolf Hitler. School children were expected to say certain prayers to Hitler before meals. [National Archives 3.] Songs were written to the tune of church hymns with words praising Hitler and the German nation.
The modern German state was created in 1871 after the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). The German Empire was not a centalized state, but combined a large number independent principalities that retained substantial autonomy in law enforcemrent, education, and many other areas. Although the ruling fmilies were swept asside in 1918, the Federal (Weimar) Republic which followed the Empire recognized the continued authority of many German states. The NAZIs sought to end the autonmy of the German states by reorganizing and centralizing the educational system.
The NAZIs made major changes in the curriculum at German schools after seizing power. The NAZI curriculum plans for the average teacher, elementary, high school, or otherwise, was a step into the abduction of the German youth's minds. The plans were to include the NAZI's very ideas into the teaching of the youth so that children were excepted the basic precepts of National Socialism. Throughout every vein of education there would be an undertone of the racial ideology of
the Nazis, as well as the need for Lebensraum. The primary change besides the introduction of racial education as primary curricular element was the upgrading of physical education and conditioning. The NAZIs sought to instill the need for physical activity to strengthen and harden the children for the military.
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. 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. 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 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. (The mentally ill were considered a burden on society.)
The Sütterlin writing, that was invented by Ludwig Sütterlin (1865-1917) a teacher at the art museum of Berlin, is a calliographic handwriting (that means, a writing that is beautiful to look at, writing as an art). People had to write it from 1915 to 1941 in German as well as in Latin alphabet. We had thought that it was particularly popular with the NAZIs who promoted folk culture and ways of expressing a destinctive German identity. Apparently the Gothic script was popular with Hitler nd the NAZIs. One report indicates that when the Nazis came to power, the Humanist typefaces where inexplicably declared
"un-Aryan" and only Gothic and Fraktur typefaces were deemed suitable for use by publishers in the Third Reich. In the middle of World War II, Hitler apparently found time to assess typefaces. He decided forsome reason that Fraktur was too "Jewish" and banned its use. The Humanist Antiqua type was then made the standard in Germany. This apparenly was a vey practical decission. Germany by 1941 had conquered most of Western Europe. Occupation authoritie found that people in occupied countries could not read their decrees when published in Gothic script. [Burke] The decission of course affected German schools. NAZI education authorities ordered that schools stop teaching the Gothic script. The NAZIs suddenly discovered Gothic script was a "Jewish abomination". [Burke] As a result, only a few people can write or even read it. These people are either interested in it and taught it to themselves, or they had to learn it at school. Some additional details are available from Album1900.
An interesting question is what was on the mind of German students. We would like to know what they thought of their schools and the issues like nationalism, race relations, war and other issues addressed in German schools. The following poster was reportedly prepared by German students, but more likely by adult NAZIs. The party was effective in inculcating such thought among the bulk of German students:
Hitler in 1935 told the German people, "In the Germanic nations there has never been anything else than equality of rights for
women. Both sexes have their rights, their tasks, and these tasks were in the case of each equal in dignity and value, and therefore man and woman were on an equality." This of course meant that there were very different expectations and demands for boys and girls in the Third Reich.
Germany as was the case in much of Europe was a class-concious society. The fall of the monarchy in 1918 had some impact, but class differences were still very important when the NAZIs seized power in 1933. The academically oriented schools which to professional jobs were attended by mostly city boys from prosperous, educated families. Boys from working class and rural families had much less less oportunity to get into or succeed in these schools. The NAZIs sought to create a new class-less society. This was an attraction to many who joined the Party and had only limited prospects. The NAZIs sought to use both the Hitler Youth and the schools as one part of an effort to supress class differences. In this regard the Hitler Youth proved very effective. I am less sure about the success of the NAZIs and opening the better secondary schools to boys from a broader social spectrum. Here falling academic standards may have been a factor. If after the Hitler Youth and NAZI schools, youth were not committed National Socialists, the Party did not let go of them. Therewas the Labor Service to make sure there were no remnants of class consciousness or pride in status. Then of course they would go into the Wehrmacht which again acted as a great leveler. [Noakes and Pridham, p. 417.]
School children in NAZI Germany did not wear school uniforms. This is interesting, because just about everone else in the country had a uniform. We are not sure why the NAZIs did not adopt school uniforms, perhaps they did not want to give parents, who remembered World War I, the idea that they were militarizing the schools. The children did have their Hitler Jugend (HJ) uniforms which they sometimes wore to school. One reader tells us that this was uncommon, although he remembers older boys wearing their HJ uniforms to school on occasions when there was some special event. Some boys did wear their black DJ/HJ short pants to school as they were a utilitarian garment with many pockets. [Wellershaus] Of course all the insignias and badges were on the brown shirt. There does not seem to have been a day when periodically children wire their uniforms to school as was the case for Scouts in America.
The NAZIs did their best to purge German schools of teachers who were were not fully committed to National Socialism. Even so Hitler and the party stalwarts never completely trusted the education system. This was in part not all the teachers were NAZI enthusiasts. It was also because the children went home after school and were thus not totally under school control. It was the Hitler Youth program that played a key role in coverting German youth to National Socialism. Often Hitler Youth activities on overnight hikes or especially summer camp exercised absolute control over the boys.
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.
The NAZIs, upon seizing power, began strictly censorsing what was published in Germany. Books were one of the first casulties of the NAZI regime which organized mass burnings of books written by Jews or expressing "degebnerate, "un-Germkan views. The NAZIs organized Wagnerian spectacles, marching in longlines by torchlight, singing Party songs, and chanting the twelve "theses,"--their manifesto for the "purification" of German literature and thought. The NAZIs proceeded to rewrite German textbooks and unabashedly use schoolbooks for propaganda purposes. They also introduced their major themes into children's books.
KLV means Kinder Land Verschickung which operated during World War II (1939-1945). The children had to go to rural areas on "holiday" but really they should be out of the cities and towns that had difficulties feeding them and were being bombed by the Allies. I believe that both schools anf the Hitler Jugend were involved in organizing thd KLV. One reafer repotys that the HJ was especially important in the KLV organiation beginning in 1940. About 2.5 million children were send to 9,000 camps until end of World War II. I believe in many cases their teachers accompanied them.
While not part of the school systen, readers may want to read what radio was like in the Third Reich. Like NAZI education, it was designed to promote NAZI idelology and precent the public incliding children from being exposed to ideas that and information that did not support NAZI programs. We do not yet, however, have much information on actual NAZI programming, including children's programing if any or entertainment programs of interest to children.
We will archive here personal expderiences in NAZI schools that we find or that readers forward to us.
Stefan: A younger boy in NAZI schools
Burke, Christopher. Paul Renner: The Art of Typography (London: Hyphen Press, 1999), 223p. ISBN 1568981589
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf.
(The) National Archives Learning Curve. "Education". 19 April 2002.
Noakes, J. and G. Pridham, ed. Nazism: A History in Documents and
Eyewitness Accounts, 1919-1945, (Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Exeter, 1983).
Stackelberg, Roderick and Sally A. Winkle, eds. The NAZI Germany Sourcebook.
Wellershaus, Aryaman Stefan. e-Mail, July 30, 2002.
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