NAZI Education: Teachers

Figure 1.--We are not sure who the adults are. The most likely guess is the boy' teachers. At least one of the men has NAZI lapel pin. Notice that there are no uniformed adult HJ leaders.

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.

German Teachers

The NAZIs approached the teaching profession with some suspecion. They could not fire all the existing teachers, but saw many as uncommitted to the NAZI Party or even hostile. The NAZI approach was to conform or resign. Teachers openly hostil faced arrest and concentration camps. Many must have reigned because it must have been very frustrating, if not dangerous, for those hostile to the NAZIs to teach. Most academics were, however, either apolitical or approved of some aspects of the NAZI program. Teachers who did not were either forced to resigned or forced into silent acquiesesnce. [Noakes and Pridham, p. 445.] NAZI officials realized that they hands were tied with the teachers who outwardly conformed. Thus the Party concentrated on dominating the teaching profession by controlling who entered the profession and who got promoted. [Noakes and Pridham, p. 444.] Thus over time the NAZIS steadily increase their hold on German schools and by the 1940s had an increasingly compliant cadre of teachers.

National Socialist Teachers' League

The National Socialist Teacher's League (NSTL) was a professional organization for teachers established to coordinate the political and NAZI ideological training of teachers to ensure that teachers conformed with National Socialist doctrine. [Shirer, p. 249.] It was virtually impossible to teach without being a member of the NSTL. Prospective mnembers had to submit an ancestry table in triplicate with official documents to prove Aryan ancestry. One of the main functions of the National Socialist Teachers' League was reporting on the teacher loyalty to the NAZI Party in order to ensure proper placements and promotions. [Kjos, p. 4.] The NSTL operated through both propaganda and intimidation. It prepared reports on the political reliability of teachers. These reports were for appointments to new positions and promotions. The NSTL was also responsible for the ideological indoctrination of its members. [Noakes and Pridham, p. 431.]

Party Membership

Teachers were alsop encouraged to join the NAZI Partuy itself. Many did so soon after the NAZI takeover. Many had Party sympathies. Others saw it as a smart career move. One report indicates that by 1936, 32 per cent of all teachers were NAZI Party members. This was reportedly twice as high as reported in most other professions.

Civil Service Act of 1937

The Civil Service Act of 1937 made it mandatory for teachers to carry out the will of the National Socialist state and to be ready to defend Germany at any cost. [Shirer, p. 249.]


The NAZIs realized how influential teachers are at molding a student's thoughts and perspectives. The approach that a teacher would take to present information to a student affects the way they would perceive and interpret it. The NAZIs used this to their advantage by not only weeding out the "wrong" teachers, or ones that wouldn't teach NAZI values, but by making sure that all teachers were using a NAZI approved curriculum, and teaching NAZI ideology.


Many historians believe that the NAZIs were very effective in establishing a corps of reliable teachers that actively promoted the Party program. Many consider that after a few years, the teaching profession was considered to be one of the most reliable forces working for the NAZI party. Hans Massaquoi remembers, "The teachers who objected to the new regime were quickly replaced by younger, pro-Nazi teachers." One of his parents were black. He recalls, "Some of them, including the principal, were plainly hostile to me and did their very best to insult me and to make contemptuous remarks about my race. One time -- I must have been about 10 -- one of the teachers took me aside and said, "When we've settled the score with the Jews you will be next.' " [Apsel] Alsace appears to have been an exception. One Alsatian boy reports that in Alsace after the Germans occyupied France in 1940 expelled the French and sent Alsatian teachers to Germany for reeducation. He thought they took the NAZI "rigamarole with "a grain if not a block of salt". [Ungerer, p. 92.]

Role in Race Education

Teachers played an active role in the NAZI racial program. Classroom teachers applied the "principles" of racial science. They measured students' physical characteristics, including skull size and nose length, and recorded the color of hair and eyes to determine whether they belonged to the true "Aryan race." Jewish and Miscling (mixed Jewish-Aryan children) as well as Romani (Gypsy) students were often humiliated in the process.

Selection Process

All teachershad to be approved by local NAZI officials. Teachers were classed as civil servants, so therefore the racial laws applied to them. All Jewish teachers or teachers that were believed to be disloyal to the NAZI party were fired. Teachers were expected to take classes on using NAZI curriculum and were urged to join the National Socialist Teachers' League. Soon as many as 97 percent of all teachers were members of the Nazi Teachers' Association. Teachers had to take an oath swearing their loyalty to Hitler and the NAZI party. Eventually teachers weren't allowed to teach unless they had prior experience in the S.A., the Hitler Youth, or served in the Labor Service [Lee and Swarbrick.]

Academic Qualifications

We are not sure yet what academic credetials were required to teach in German schools and if the NAZIs changed those requirments. We assume that they made changes so that Party loyalists with limited academic training could obtain teaching positions. We assume that this occurred, but we do not yet have information to confirm this.

NAZI Directives

Teachers had to constantly be questioning their standards for right and wrong. "Munich Professors were warned: From now on it is not up to you to decide whether or not something is true, but whether it is in the interest of the national Socialist Revolution". [Kjos, p. 2.]

Student Relations with Teachers

A school teacher in December of 1938,described how the students had considrable authority over the teachers. [National Archives Learning Curve.] NAZI party officials taught children to spy and report back any discrepancies between what their teachers taught and Party doctrine. "Teachers, in particular, were also concerned at the contempt for intellect cultivated by the Hitler Youth and at the arrogance displayed to them by pupils who were leaders in the Hitler Youth" [Kjos, p. 5.] Teachers who commented negatively in class on essays taken from NAZI-controlled press could be arrested. [Lee and Swarbuck] Teachers were concerned about both decline in academic and disipline standards. One teacher wrote, "Many pupils believe they can simply drift through for eight years and secure their school-leaving certificate even with minimal intellectual performance... [T]hose 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.]


Although, the teachers in the Third Reich felt pressured by many principles to conform to the NAZI Party, not all teachers complied. There were heros that despite the danger took a stand. Givn the fact that their students were increasily won over by NAZI ideology as the regime increased its grip, even the slighest sign of opposition could hardly escape notice.

Dr. Schuster, a geography teacher in 1938, writes: "I am trying through the teaching of geography to do everything in my power to give the boys knowledge and I hope later on, judgment, so that when, as they grow older, the NAZI fever dies down and it again becomes possible to offer some opposition they may be prepared..... If we [the non-Nazi teachers] leave, NAZIs will come in and there will be no honest teaching in the whole school. [National Archives.]

Some teachers sacrificed the ultimate in order to save the minds of the children. An example of this is Kurt Huber, a philosophy teacher, who was executed for his negative comments on the NAZI party. On February 20th, 1943, he had his final words: "What I intended to accomplish was to rouse the student body, not by means of an organization, but solely by my simple words; to urge them, not to violence, but to moral insight into the existing serious deficiencies of our political system. To urge the return to clear moral principles, to the constitutional state, to mutual trust between men. [National Archives.]

Occupied Areas

Begining with the Austrian Anschluss in 1937, substantial territory was annexed to the Reich. This was especially true after the outbreak of World War I in 1939. By 1941, the Germans had annexed territories of Czecheslovakia, Poland, Belgium, France, and Yugolavia to the Reich. The policies toward teachers varied widely in these different regions.


As part of an exchange agreement Kodi and Crystal have provided us access to their research.

Apsel, Joyce. "Living with the terror that you'll be next," St. Petersburg Times, February 23, 2000.

Kjos, Berit. The Nazi Model For Outcome-Based Education. 19 April 2002.

Lee, David and Anne Swarbrick. Education in NAZI Germany.

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).

Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Simon and Schuster: New York, 1960.

Ungerer, Tomi. Tomi: A Childdhood Under the NAZIs. (Boulder: Robert Reinhart Publishing Group, 1998).

Christopher Wagner

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Created: May 14, 2002
Last updated: 8:51 AM 9/29/2013