Germany during the Weimar Republic: School Scene

Figure 1.--These German school children are off together on their first day of school sometime in the 1920s. Notice their gift cones. I would guess the early 1920s. There are quite a few interesting aspects of this photograph.

These German school children are off together on their first day of school sometime in the 1920s. Notice their gift cones. I would guess the early 1920s. There are quite a few interesting aspects of this photograph. A HBC reader writes, "Notice that at least two of the children (the two on left) seem to be wearing shiny long stockings. Were they silk for the first day of school? The boy on the left is wearing a Norfolk suit. It has a self belt. The two boys are wearing knee length short trousers the boy on the right seems to be wearing shorter version (maybe they are hand me downs or he is outgrowing them?). They both are wearing high top shoes." Our reader raises some intersting points, although we do not entirely agree with all his observations. The poor quality of the image makes it difficult to fully assess the photograoh and what the children are wearing.


This image is undated, but I would guess was taken sometime in the early 1920s. The kneepants or very long shorts are an indicator, but even more important in dating the image is that all four children are wearing black long stockings. By the the mid-20s brown and beige long stockings became increasingly common.


We know that this snapshot was taken in Germany, but we are unsure just wear. We have since learned taht is was Berlin. in Germany.

The Children

The children are unidentified. All we know is that as they are beginning school they would all be about 6 years old.


These German school children are off to school together on their first day of school. Or perhaps returning. Given their smiles, perhaps going to school. But we think the afternoon is most likely. Notice that three of the gift cones appear to be empty. The shadows behind them shows that the photograph was taken in the maorming before school or afternoon after school. Notice their gift cones, a definite give away that it was their first day of school. A HBC reader tells us, "It seems those pictures were taken for a photographic report entitled What Berlin is Doing for Future Youth. This image was titled, 'First day of class. Further, it will be less funny'. It is around that time that active pedadogy began to make a significant move ahead. The children seems happy and eager to learn. Not so far from Dewey's discovery learning. It is a credit to the German education system Nobel Prizes were so numerous in Germany. There was discipline, but also motivation. Had it not been for the 1929 crash and the war debt, the historyb of Germany would have been quite different."


The children are wearing quite a range of different garments.


Only one of the children wears headwear. We at first thought the gorl at the right was wearing a sticking cap, but on closer examimation it looks to be some kind of stiffer material rather than a knitted cap.


Only the girls wear coats. Notice the girl at the left. Her coat seems to have some kind of furry hood.


The girls both wear dresses. Girls always wore dresses to school and this did not cahange until after World War II.


Only one of the boys wears a suit. This was the case throughout the 1920s when school photographs showing some boys wearing suits and others wearing more casual sweaters. Suits become less common in the 1930s. I would not say the boy here was wearing a Norfolk suit, there are not enough belts and pleats. I'm also not sure tgat the suit has a self-belt at the waist, the image is alittle blurred to be sure. There is, however, a definte Norfolk influence with all those pockets. The material looks to be corduroy, probably a dark brown.


Many boys in the 1920s wore sweaters to school rather than the suits as did the boy here. Notice the collar of his sweater. It is quite large and had a back flap like a sailor middy blouse. A reader writes, "The kind of wool knitted shirt on the boy is really nice and modern."


Both boys wear kneepants or shorts. It is difficult to tell. At the beginning of the 1920s many boys were still wearing kneepants, but by the end of the decade most boys wore short pamts. Note the boy on the right. His panys are above the knee, a clear indication that pants were being cut shorter.


All three children wear black long stockings. Notice the girl at the left. Her long stockings fit better than those of the other three children and there is no sagging at the knee. Note that she seems more fashionably dressed than the other three and her hair is stylishly done. I doubt if she is wearing silk stockings, but they do look to be a better grade of stocking. Pergaps she wore an effective stocking dupporter or perhaps the other children were wearing long underwear.


Hightop shoes were still widely worn in the 1920s. They were esopecially popular for younger children.

Book Bags

One curiosity is that only two of the children are wearing their book bags. The book bag on the boy at the left is difficult to spot, but it is there.) We thought that virtually all children this age went to school with back packs for their books. We suspect that the photograph was take near home and that the children had not yet put their book bags on or had taken them off for the photograph. Note that two of the children have the smaller lunch satchels.


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Created: September 24, 2003
Last updated: September 24, 2003