Education in Nazi Germany – Change and Continuity Assessment When Hitler became Chancellor of Nazi Germany, in 1935, he proposed many changes in education and throughout the country. He believed that these changes would influence people and indigenise them of his beliefs and reforms that should happen in the country – to praise his glory and make Germany the most powerful country and its rule to continue forever. One of these integral changes was education.
Hitler strongly believed that, younger minds were easier to infiltrate and indoctrinate, as they were developing and imposed this sudden change amongst schoolchildren to provoke stronger Nazism in the future generation of Germans. Older generations, could oppose and have opinions to disapprove Hitler’s ideas. So, the Nazis changed education drastically to mould these children for the future of Germany. However, some parts of education were vital for basic human needs and could not be changed.
In contrast, they were continued but they were portrayed in such a way, which would influence the way a German child thought, in that time. They introduced a lot of changes to education, from the days of teaching to the subjects that had to be taught or taken out of the curriculum; which also had a lot of Nazi indoctrination in them. All of the changes that were introduced had a major impact on children, as Dr Bernhard Rust pointed out that, "The whole function of education is to create Nazis" which highlighted that indoctrination was a key fundamentality in education to induce Nazism.
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One major change was starting school at 8:00 am sharply and a higher emphasis on sport and keeping fit. This is because, Hitler wanted to create a future generations of tough and strong soldiers, that would fight for his country – so unfortunately for most boys, this would be the discipline in the army and Hitler exactly wanted then to be ‘trained for the army’. Hitler had always said that,’ boys had to be as swift as a greyhound’ which highlights the idea of leadership, strength and power amongst boys. Moreover, boys had to play football, rugby, and boxing to toughen them up.
PE was also heavily enforced upon girls, as they were the future mothers and wives of the future generation of soldiers. Also, they needed to be fertile and to be able to have the strength to give birth to healthy children. Furthermore, PE took up 15% of the education and boys who failed to pass fitness tests were to be expelled from schools and could be discriminated by the older students as a laughing stock. This attitude, inspired children to be tough and strong to serve their ‘Fatherland’ (Germany) and in a way frightened them. Also, it can be interpreted that this also invoked discrimination against the Jews.
Further evidence to support the idea of keeping fit, is a line from a German newspaper which suggests that the ultimate aim of sport was to have enough men fit for the army. This deploys the idea of that Hitler purely wanted the future generation to fight for him. We can trust the provenance of the source, as it’s from a German teacher’s newspaper and we know that, Hitler arranged teachers into the League of Teachers so this is a valid piece of evidence. Exceedingly, a picture from a children’s textbook in the 1930s from Nazi Germany denotes a sketch of children in army uniform with weapons.
This is clearly a heavily signified indoctrination, as it connects with the sports and inspires children to become like that. It can be interpreted that, Hitler and the Nazi party knew that children could be infiltrated through play and education and visual learning; so included subliminal messages in their learning to become Nazi. In addition, another change that the Nazis introduced was a change to the lessons itself and the days of education to supply enough deployment of brainwashing that would mould their character. New lessons were introduced and lessons that were thought of unnecessary were removed.
Eugenics, Race Studies, Ideology and P. E were some of the new lessons introduced. These lessons had a lot of Nazism in them, such as Eugenics and Race Studies which taught children that German (pseudo Aryan race) were superior than others, and how others were inferior – Jews, Gypsies, Black, Czech, Slavs etc. Moreover, R. E was removed and replaced by Ideology as Dr Rust and Hitler had pointed out that the main thing was to focus of patriotism and the ideas of Hitler, to be reinforced amongst students. Evidence to support this is, is a German speaking about her life story and said it was really boring to learn about Hitler’s ideals.
This source is useful, as it supplies information of experiences; however it can be said that they may have difficulties remembering and often the German people don’t want to take the blame for Hitler’s tyranny, so this is a source worth considering. Also, to reiterate, religion amongst German children was changed as in a girls’ timetable singing is a lesson that is taught a lot. In singing, Dr Rust enforced prayers and songs of praise that highlighted Hitler’s glory. Also, the amount of time on religion was reduced and attendance at school prayers was optional.
This suggests that, the sole purpose was to only strive for Hitler. These songs, such as a German man remembered, were praises to Hitler and gave a goal to the children to ultimately fight for Hitler. To point out, women were also considered inferior to men, as they couldn’t continue their further education to obtain jobs. Also, the girls’ timetable shows the attributes of a housewife – such as domestic science, hygiene, sex education, childcare – eugenics and biology were heavily taught for the purpose of selective breeding amongst all races – the perfect ‘Aryan’ match.
Similarly, Dr Rust was called unstable as he used to immediately change school-days and curriculum to pressurise propaganda and Nazi attributes on children. For example, he made Saturday as a Youth Day, where children from the Hitler Youth went for school tests, army camping, and ‘fun activities’ where the main idea was to completely brainwash children to become robot-soldiers for Hitler. Moreover, some evidence suggests that children used to turn in their own parents if they said anything against Hitler.
According to interpretations, this would more likely to be true as they were mostly propagandised by their education and became like soldiers – to fight for ‘justice. ’ Moreover, many teachers that opposed were sacked and others were in the League of Teachers. Some opposing teachers stood there in the silence; however, they couldn’t do anything. Dr Schuster, a geography teacher (1938) highlighted that he wanted to teach real geography and create non-Nazis with other similar teachers – however Nazi soldiers were in the way.
He also said that they cannot have a newspaper or a conference. This denotes the tight security of the Nazis in the school as they didn’t want anything to get in their way. In my opinion, children would be heavily indoctrinated that they might not have the willingness to oppose or might be in the fear of persecution by the Nazis. Notwithstanding, not all lessons could not be changed but the way they were delivered had a lot of impact. Such as, the clip on indoctrination of Nazi Germany shows that Maths was taught by measuring the angles of shooting and had a lot of military twist.
Similarly, chemistry and physics were taught constructing the efficiency of warfare weaponry and devising new guerrilla, military aviation science and chemicals. Also, geography and history talked more about Germany’s glorious past and it needed a lot of living space (Lebensraum) by conquering nearby countries as they were a superior race. This would be conditioned in a child’s mind and they would think it is right to invade other countries for Germany; as they’re highest of all. This is source is more useful, as it is itself a recording from an actual lesson with photographs of textbooks.
So, there was continuity in the lessons however, with a great impact of the way Hitler wanted it. Also, some lessons were taught more of – to reiterate the greatness of Nazism. In my opinion the questions to ask the pupils are- why were you against your parents and turned on them? Why didn’t you oppose and protest – you were the future generation, so your generation with the help of other voices could’ve protested. However, this was not possible, as children wanted to join the Hitler Youth as there were activities and enough influence was done, to mould them.
Moreover, anti-Semitism, hatred towards Germany’s ‘infidels’ was forever show in textbooks. Further evidence suggests that, textbooks such as maths textbooks contained the right theory, but had a twist. For example, a question would be written to discriminate Jews and mentally ill people as a burden in society. In addition, textbooks would show these ‘infidels’ as sinners i. e. a German textbook of1935 showed Jews being laughed at and bullying the Aryans. This would gradually strengthen in a child’s mind to show hatred towards them and increase their dedication on Hitler and the Aryans.
Moreover, a modern textbook on Nazi Germany explains that children having different opinions on Jews from home put a family in trouble. A quote – ‘My daddy says not all Jews are vile. His daddy was put into prison. ’ This was practiced to reinforce anti-Semitism in all and so that people notice this and are possibly in fear to support Hitler. This can be trusted, as we know that the Nazis were mentally dehumanised and so persistently cruel, that they would do this. The Jews would’ve been significantly affected, as there was a lot of adverse discrimination on them, and with the growing indoctrination of children, the hatred would increase.
Finally, change and continuity of education in Nazi Germany aimed to literally create a sense of discrimination, an acceptance of Hitler’s ideas, and to create willing soldiers to fight for Hitler. From 1933-1945 Nazi Germany changed a lot, from increasing its empire and destroying Jews, to the loss of the war. This education had a big impact on how children thought, and how they would think. In my opinion, P. E. was not an issue that gave a major impact, as children are meant to be active and they have to play. However, the most significant change was the continuity with a lot of military impact and the way it was taught differently.
Logical subjects such as maths and science, would already impact people to think logically, so the addition of Nazism would have a greater impact on the children making them think more about this. More to the point, the introduction of the new subjects would also massively impact the children, as they have not thoroughly studied the older ones so they couldn’t differentiate between fact and opinion or truth and false. The most significant evidence is of the textbooks as they were actually written and directed by Dr Rust and his quotes support the idea of Nazism so that is reliable. Also, the filming is actual evidence of what happened.
Despite of the technology, we cannot always rely on the filming. The anti-Semitism indoctrinated people the most, and influenced them a lot having hatred and dehumanisation sense against the Jews to become blindly loyal towards Hitler and to fight for him. Germany's population at the beginning of WWII was approximately 70 million -, 12. 5 million served in the German Army. This just shows that, how many men were selected and joined the army after so much indoctrination. We can see the result of the teaching; which created Germans with new inventions such as the Blitzkrieg, new weapons etc. ??
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