Education in Nazi Germany

Aims

Schools and universities were to:

  • indoctrinate young people into the racial ideas of Nazism and make children loyal to Hitler - this was in effect a form of brainwashing;
  • train girls to be good Aryan wives and mothers, and prepare boys to be effective soldiers;
  • make young people “swift as a greyhound, as tough as leather, and as hard as Krupp steel”.

Teachers

All teachers had to join the Nazi Teachers’ Association, which vetted them for political and racial suitability. By 1939, 97 per cent of teachers belonged to it.

Jewish teachers were sacked.

Teachers had to go to summer school so they could teach Nazi ideas effectively. Pupils were encouraged to inform the authorities if teachers did not teach and support Nazi ideas.

Textbooks

Textbooks were rewritten, especially in history and biology, to promote Germany’s 'greatness', Aryan 'supremacy' and anti-Semitism.

Curriculum

The curriculum in schools was altered to reflect Nazi ideology and priorities.

  • Academic subjects were downgraded.
  • The importance put on subjects like chemistry and mathematics was reduced. By the end of the 1930s, religious education was banned.
  • Fitness was vital so children had at least five one-hour sessions of physical education (PE) every week, often for two hours per day.
  • Eugenics was added to the curriculum.
  • Boys mostly studied history, eugenics and PE. Boxing was compulsory. Girls primarily studied home economics, eugenics and PE.

Jewish children were humiliated at school and then, in 1938, banned from education.

Boys with potential to be future leaders were sent to special Adolf Hitler Schools (Adolf-Hitler-Schulen or AHS in German). These were free boarding schools, run on military lines, for boys aged 12 to 18 years.

In 1933, many university lecturers were dismissed. However, there were fewer changes in universities than in schools.

Students were supposed to attend twice-weekly fitness and indoctrination classes, but not all complied. Only 11 per cent of university places went to girls.

Castles of Order (or Order Castles, Ordensburgen in German) were set up for young men of talent, usually in their mid-twenties. There they completed their military and leadership training.

Live ammunition was used and the frequent endurance tasks were brutal.