Education played a very important part in Nazi Germany in trying to cultivate a loyal following for Hitler and the Nazis. The Nazis were aware that education would create loyal Nazis by the time they reached adulthood. The Hitler Youth had been created for post-school activities and schools were to play a critical part in developing a loyal following for Hitler - indoctrination and the use of propaganda were to be a common practice in Nazi schools and the education system.
Enforcing a Nazi curriculum on schools depended on the teachers delivering it. All teachers had to be vetted by local Nazi officials. Any teacher considered disloyal was sacked. Many attended classes during school holidays in which the Nazi curriculum was spelled out and 97% of all teachers joined the Nazi Teachers' Association. All teachers had to be careful about what they said as children were encouraged to inform the authorities if a teacher said something that did not fit in with the Nazi's curriculum for schools.
Subjects underwent a major change in schools. Some of the most affected were History and Biology.
History was based on the glory of Germany - a nationalistic approach was compulsory. The German defeat in 1918 was explained as the work of Jewish and Communist spies who had weakened the system from within; the Treaty of Versailles was the work of nations jealous of Germany's might and power; the hyperinflation of 1923 was the work of Jewish saboteurs; the national resurgence which started under the leadership of Hitler etc.
Biology became a study of the different races to 'prove' that the Nazi belief in racial superiority was a sound belief. "Racial Instruction" started as the age of 6. Hitler himself had decreed that "no boy or girl should leave school without complete knowledge of the necessity and meaning of blood purity." Pupils were taught about the problems of heredity. Older pupils were taught about the importance of selecting the right "mate" when marrying and producing children. The problems of inter-racial marriage were taught with an explanation that such marriages could only lead to a decline in racial purity.
Geography taught pupils about the land Germany had taken away from her in 1919 and the need for Germany to have living space - lebensraum.
Science had a military-slant to it. The curriculum required that the principles of shooting be studied; military aviation science; bridge building and the impact of poisonous gasses.
Girls had a different curriculum in some regards as they studied domestic science and eugenics - both of which were to prepare young girls to be the prefect mother and wife. In Eugenics, girls were taught about the characteristics to look out for in a perfect husband and father.
Indoctrination became rampant in all subjects. At every opportunity, teachers were expected to attack the life style of the Jews. Exam questions even contained blunt reference to the government's anti-Semitic stance:
"A bomber aircraft on take-off carries 12 dozen bombs, each weighing 10 kilos. The aircraft takes off for Warsaw the international centre for Jewry. It bombs the town. On take-off with all bombs on board and a fuel tank containing 100 kilos of fuel, the aircraft weighed about 8 tons. When it returns from the crusade, there are still 230 kilos left. What is the weight of the aircraft when empty ?"
Other questions would also include areas the government wanted taught by teachers in the nation's search for a master race:
"To keep a mentally ill person costs approximately 4 marks a day. There are 300,000 mentally ill people in care. How much do these people cost to keep in total? How many marriage loans of 1000 marks could be granted with this money?"
PE became a very important part of the curriculum. Hitler had stated that he wanted boys who could suffer pain.........."a young German must be as swift as a greyhound, as tough as leather, and as hard as Krupp's steel." PE took up 15% of a school's weekly timetable. Boxing became compulsory for boys. Those who failed fitness tests could be expelled from their schools - and face humiliation from those who had passed such tests.
In 1937, pupils were given the choice of studying Religious Instructions or not.
For boys considered special, different school were created. Those who were physically fitter and stronger than the rest went to Adolf Hitler Schools where they were taught to be the future leaders of Germany. Six years of tough physical training took place and when the pupils from these schools left aged 18, they went to the army or to university. The very best pupils went to Order Castles. These were schools which took pupils to the limits of physical endurance. War games used live ammunition and pupils were killed at these schools. Those who graduated from the Order Castles could expect to attain a high position in the army or the SS.
From 1935 on, after the Nuremburg Laws, Jewish school children were not allowed to attend schools. The Nazi government claimed that a German pupil sitting next to a Jew could become contaminated by the experience.
The sole purpose of this educational structure was to create a future generation that was blindly loyal to Hitler and the Nazis.
The Hitler Youth
The Hitler Youth was a logical extension of Hitler's belief that the future of Nazi Germany was its children. The Hitler Youth was seen as being as important to a child as school was. In the early years of the Nazi government, Hitler had made it clear as to what he expected German children to be like:
"The weak must be chiselled away. I want young men and women who can suffer pain. A young German must be as swift as a greyhound, as tough as leather, and as hard as Krupp's steel."
Nazi education schemes part fitted in with this but Hitler wanted to occupy the minds of the young in Nazi Germany even more. The Nazis also wanted to control the young in the evening, weekend and holiday time.
Movements for youngsters were part of German culture and the Hitler Youth had been created in the 1920's. By 1933 its membership stood at 100,000. After Hitler came to power, all other youth movements were abolished including the Church ones and as a result the Hitler Youth grew quickly. Initially it was popular as it offered the young opportunities they may not have had otherwise. In 1936, the figure stood at 4 million members and by 1939 it had 8 million members. In 1936, it became all but compulsory to join the Hitler Youth. Youths could avoid doing any active service if they paid their subscription but this became all but impossible after 1939.
The Hitler Youth catered for 10 to 18 year olds. There were separate organisations for boys and girls. The task of the boys section was to prepare the boys for military service. For girls, the organisation prepared them for motherhood. Actvities were based on competition, physical fitness and miltry training.
Boys at 10, joined the Deutsches Jungvolk (German Young People) until the age of 13 when they transferred to the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) until the age of 18. In 1936, the writer J R Tunus wrote about the activities of the Hitler Jugend. He stated that part of their "military athletics" (Wehrsport) included marching, bayonet drill, grenade throwing, trench digging, map reading, gas defence, use of dugouts, how to get under barbed wire and pistol shooting.
Girls, at the age of 10, joined the Jung Madel (League of Young Girls) and at the age of 14 transferred to the Bund Deutscher Madel (League of German Girls). Girls had to be able to run 60 metres in 14 seconds, throw a ball 12 metres, complete a 2 hour march, swim 100 metres and know how to make a bed.
Many parents were concerned about the negative effects of the Hitler Youth on family life. It was difficult to accept their child’s allegiance was owed to Hitler first. The Hitler Youth encouraged children to be independent and challenge their parent’s authority. It also encouraged them to spy on their parents who became afraid that their children may report them to the Gestapo. During WW2 the activities focussed on the war effort and military drill and so the popularity of the youth movements waned.