Education in the Third Reich

BERNHARD RUST
Reich and Prussian Minister of Science, Education and Popular Enlightenment

The nineteenth century witnessed so much educational progress in the domain of intellectual refinement that it may be justly described as the century of education. Germany took a leading part in this development, and her educational system was universally acknowledged to be particularly efficient. Many foreigners therefore availed themselves of the educational facilities Germany had to offer. If we now see that, despite these splendid achievements, the Third Reich has seen fit to make a radical change in the system of education, we may feel sure that it has been done for very good reasons.

There is, indeed, twofold evidence to show that something was wrong with education. In the first place, the high level of popular enlightenment had failed to protect the German people against the poisonous effects of Marxist teaching and other false doctrines. Large masses of people had fallen victims to them, whilst other sections – more especially those of higher education – had been unable to take up an effective stand against the spread of the poison. If they had, the events of 1918 and the succeeding period of national disintegration and deterioration would have been prevented.

In the second place, a careful study of the situation shows that the German people are sound to the core and are gifted with just as much national sentiment as any other. Hence, the temporary lowering of their previous high standards could not have been the result of any innate inferiority, but the reason must be sought in a faulty system of education, which – notwithstanding its high intellectual achievements – tended to impair the healthy spirit of the nation, men’s energies and their soundness of judgment, and to produce selfishness and a deficient sense of national solidarity. Besides, it was obvious that certain elements intending to secure private advantages for themselves by injuring the healthy forces of the nation had succeeded in achieving undue prominence in public life.

National Socialism was therefore compelled to ascertain and remove the causes that had brought about so unsatisfactory a condition, and to open up new resources capable of being used for a regeneration, the Führer, in his book” Mein Kampf,” having clearly indicated the road that had to be followed.

Two main causes had contributed towards the unsatisfactory results.

1. Although the intellectual capacities of young persons had been excellently trained and although they were thoroughly qualified for their vocations in after-life, the importance of knowledge for knowledge’s sake had been over-estimated, whilst physical education and the training of the character and the will had been neglected. Metaphorically speaking, youth had been offered crystal-clear water to drink, but the health-giving mineral constituents contained in it had first been carefully removed. This interference was bound to do much harm to popular health.

2. Excessive importance had been attached to the individual as such, whilst it was almost forgotten that each individual is at the same time a member of a racial community, that it is only in that capacity that he can perfect his powers to their fullest extent, and that it is his duty to work for the good of that community. Such natural forms of the racial community as the family, the clan, the tribe, and the nation (natural because they are based on the ties of blood) either failed to receive the attention to which they are entitled, or they were disintegrated by an exaggerated individualism or superseded by artificial and super-national sham communities. Such a mental attitude enabled Jews and others animated by selfish motives or by international and anti-racial ideas to obtain a prominent influence upon all spheres of national life and access to high offices of State and to poison the healthy feelings of the nation by means of their educational policy.

It is the purpose of all education to prepare the rising generation for its functions in after-life as the true representatives of the nation and the State, both in a political and a cultural sense. Their training, therefore, must proceed along the lines just indicated. In conformity with the teaching of history and the laws of biological and racial science, it is necessary to train the faculties of the body, the character and the will just as much as the intellectual ones. The lost equilibrium must be restored; or rather, the harmonious co-existence of all these faculties must be maintained and developed instead of being destroyed. To be and to remain strong and healthy, has become the fundamental law governing Germany’s youth, and it is the first and foremost duty of educationists to give effect to it. Such strength and health, however, is unthinkable without racial purity and the striving after a perfect racial type.

The attainment of high intellectual standards will certainly continue to be urged upon the young people; but they will be taught at the same time that their achievements must be of benefit to the national community to which they belong. As a consequence of the demand thus clearly formulated by the Nuremberg Laws, Jewish teachers and Jewish pupils have had to quit German schools, and schools of their own have been provided by and for them as far as possible. In this way, the natural race instincts of German boys and girls are preserved; and the young people are made aware of their duty to maintain their racial purity and to bequeath it to succeeding generations. As the mere teaching of these principles is not enough, it is constantly supplemented, in the National Socialist State, by opportunities for what may be called” community life.” By this term we mean school journeys, school camps, school” homes” in rural neighbourhoods, and similar applications of the corporate principle to the life of schools and scholars.

History insists that every biological race deterioration coincides with the growth of big towns, that these latter exercise a paralysing effect upon community life, and that a nation’s strength is rooted in its rural elements. Our National Socialist system of education pays due regard to these important considerations, and makes every effort to take the young people from the towns to the country, whilst impressing upon them the inseparable connection between racial strength and a healthy open-air life.

The systematic reform of Germany’s educational system was started immediately after the coming-into-power of National Socialism, and received a great stimulus when, on May 1st, 1934, a National Department of Education was established.

The steps that had to be taken comprised the internal reorganisation of school teaching in accordance with the above principles, new methods for the training of teachers, and a re-modelling of the existing types of schools.

If these far-reaching changes were to materialise, teachers had first to be made capable of introducing them. This task has since been taken in hand by the Department in conjunction with the National Socialist Association of Teachers (N.S. Deutscher Lehrerbund). Numerous courses, camps and working communities have been arranged to provide the necessary instruction, which includes the teaching of the philosophy of National Socialism in addition to the strictly educational subjects. The uniform carrying-out of this work has been entrusted by the Department to the Central Institute for Education and Instruction (Zentralinstitut für Erziehung und Unterricht). In the two training camps maintained by the Institute, prominent educationists – both men and women – are given such instruction for several weeks at a time; and on leaving the camps, they are commissioned to disseminate the newly-acquired knowledge among their colleagues through the medium of working communities. In addition, the various educational authorities frequently arrange for conferences for the same purpose, whilst special camps organised by the N.S. Lehrerbund provide instruction in the political aspects of National Socialism.

These arrangements are intended to enable the older generation of teachers to apply to their work the principles of National Socialism. The Government, of course, has also introduced fundamental alterations in the methods of training the younger teachers. Elementary teachers are required to attend one of the training colleges (Hochschulen für Lehrerbildung), where they receive instruction in scientific and educational subjects and where life is based on the principles of comradeship. Attendance at these colleges – most of which are established outside the big towns – is also compulsory for teachers in intermediate and higher schools as a preliminary to their studies at other institutions where they receive the kind of special training they need. This arrangement ensures that a certain uniformity governs the training of teachers of all kinds. It goes without saying that the courses of study and the regulations for the examination of teachers, more particularly those in the higher schools, have been revised on similar lines.

The internal reorganisation of the educational system was introduced by several decrees dealing with fundamentals. As early as 1933, it was announced that all education had to be founded on the principles of biological and racial science, with which – in compliance with the Führer’s wish – all schoolchildren were to be made familiar. Detailed regulations were issued for giving practical effect to this announcement.

Much information on the educational policy of National Socialism may be gathered from a perusal of the so-called selection Decree (Ausleseerlass), which was issued by the Department in close collaboration with the Racial Policy Board (Rassenpolitisches Amt) of the National Socialist party. The decree names the conditions that have to be satisfied by the pupils of the higher schools at the time of their admission and in connection with their achievements. A strict control is to be exercised to ensure that all those who, after completing their studies, are likely to rise to leading positions in life, are racially sound, valuable and efficient. Attention is paid to the physical, ethical, intellectual and racial aspects, and is not confined – as hitherto – to the intellectual aspect only. The demands now made on young persons are: increased intellectual achievements; good physical health; a capacity for endurance; high ethical standards; a sense of community, and descent from pure German stock. A nation desiring to see these ideals realised must have for its guides persons that can be held up as models in all these respects. It does not follow that young persons not possessing good physical health are to be left outside or to be prevented from rising in life. On the contrary, the National Socialist State looks well after their interests; and it must also be remembered that, whenever a question of physical unfitness arises, the medical practitioner has an important say in the matter.

Physical fitness is to be assured by the extended cultivation of gymnastic exercises and sports in accordance with the Regulations for Physical Culture in Boys’ Schools (Richtlinien für die Leibeserziehung in Jungenschulen). This matter has had the attention of the Government for several years past, a special section of the Department giving systematic instruction to teachers – especially head teachers – of all kinds of schools. The regular cultivation in the training camps already mentioned of early sports, bodily work, and marching exercise serves the same purpose.

A far-reaching change has also been introduced in the domain of intellectual education. In the past, there had been a tendency towards cramming into pupils’ heads every new addition to learning, but restrictions are now to be imposed upon that tendency. It is not necessary to teach everything that is interesting or otherwise worth knowing. The selection of subjects will be guided by the answer to the question : What must boys and girls be taught so that they may become useful members of the national community and of the vocation or profession they may take up? It stands to reason that they must be made familiar with the civilisation of their country and with its origins, or – in other words – they must be taught subjects that have a direct bearing upon the life and history of the German people and that are of real use to them when they have grown up. To these must be added a knowledge of the benefits German civilisation has received from contact with other nations, the extent of this teaching being dependent upon the needs of the schools concerned in each instance.

The courses of study drawn up for all categories of schools are therefore founded on the principle that the fullest possible recognition must be accorded to the national aspect of education and to the practical requirements of life. Thus, the decree governing the teaching work done in the Grundschule (i.e., the lowest four grades of the Elementary School or Volksschule) provides that such work must start from and centre on a knowledge of the children’s home district, that the pupils must acquire a solid knowledge of the rudiments of correct speaking, writing and arithmetic, and that due attention must be paid to the teaching of physical exercises, music, and manual training. Similar rules have been laid down for other schools, each according to its own type. The rural vocational schools, for instance, must concentrate upon the life and labour of the rural population, and the urban ones upon local handicrafts and industries, whilst the higher schools must group all their teaching around the so-called deutschkundliche Fächer (i.e., German, history, geography, the fine arts, and music). As regards elementary schools, the application of the above-mentioned principle has resulted in the compiling of a National Reader (Reichslesebuch) consisting of a nucleus compulsory for the whole country, which is supplemented by sections representative of the local literature of the different districts.

The introduction of National Socialist ideas into all schools has greatly stimulated their activities; and the uniform National Socialist outlook of the teachers sees to it that the German schools will not for a second time become the victims of that spirit of disunion which prevailed during a period when party strife and a lack of creative principles had their counterparts in education. The concentrated determination of the teaching profession and the systematic selection of the subjects taught ensure that German intellectual education will not only maintain, but even transcend its present high level. In the past, decisions regarding the internal affairs of each school were made by the whole teaching staff assembled in conference and were therefore subject to fluctuating majorities; but now that the National Socialist principle of leadership has been introduced, the conference has merely consultative functions, whilst the power to make decisions is restricted to the school leader who knows that his superiors, and the whole community, expect him to make his school a model of a German educational institution conducted on National Socialist principles.

It is also the duty of the school leader to maintain regular contact between his school and the progress of events, so that all questions of topical importance that affect our nation can receive attention as part of the teaching work. All the steps taken by the German people as represented by their vigorous National Socialist leaders, in order to preserve and strengthen its national existence and status, concern the schools too. This applies, for example, to aviation, air-raid protection, the self-sufficiency policy, the Four-Year Plan, etc. School children are to take an active interest in everything done by the nation and its rulers, so that they may realise that their own destinies are identical with those of the nation. This will enable them in after-life to render active assistance in moulding the nation’s future.

The external structure of German education is as concentrated and systematic as its internal organisation. This explains, inter alia, why public schools are accorded preference to private ones. Although it is quite true that the National Socialist State attaches great importance to the vigorous initiative of the individual, it nevertheless demands that the special desires of the individual must adjust themselves to the requirements of the community. This applies more particularly to all matters capable of vitally affecting the life of the nation. The State must therefore claim that its own institutions are entitled to receive unconditional preference over those established by individuals or by organisations, more especially so whenever there is a danger that the latter kind cannot be unconditionally relied upon to follow the lead given by the State. In view of the importance of education, the State must therefore maintain that private schools and private teaching are justified only in those localities whose educational needs cannot be satisfied by public schools. Moreover, the denominational aspect being looked upon as a matter of secondary importance that must no longer be allowed to divide all Germans in their early youth and ever afterwards into two different camps, it has been the practice to impose restrictions upon private denominational schools wherever it is seen that efficient provision has been made for publicly conducted schools. This does not affect the continued existence of such private institutions as, for example, those of the Lietz Landschulheim type and others.

As regards children below school age (six years), provision has been made wherever necessary by the establishment of crèches (for younger infants) and kindergartens (for the older ones). They are conducted by Government-trained teachers and are partly of a public and partly of a private character. Attendance at them is optional.

At the age of six, children enter the elementary schools (Volksschulen), which – generally speaking – are not organised on the co-educational principle. There they are taught, apart from general racial education, those theoretical and practical subjects which are required for all vocations. Special schools (Hilfsschulen) are provided for children whose mental faculties are below the normal. Another type of special schools (Sonderschulen) are provided for normally developed children suffering from serious physical disabilities (e.g., deaf-mutes, blind children, etc.). Specially-trained teachers are in charge of them while there. Attendance at the elementary schools is compulsory for eight years. Whenever the number of pupils is too small to justify a separate grade for each year, several grades may be combined, or boys and girls may be taught together.

Recognition of the fact that many boys and girls of healthy racial stock are rather out of place in the artificial and unhealthy atmosphere of our big towns, so that their valuable faculties cannot or but imperfectly develop there, has led me to introduce in 1934 a scheme I had long contemplated. I refer to what is called the Landjahr. The children spend nine months of the year in one of the Landjahr camps where specially suitable men and women teachers of youthful age are in charge of them. There, their physical health is to be promoted; they are to become familiar with every aspect of country life; their will-power is to be strengthened; they are to be politically educated, and to experience the blessings derived from an unselfish corporate life. Upon completing the Landjahr course, the children start upon their vocational training, or – if they prove especially gifted – they may be admitted to an Aufbauschule.

The four lower grades of the elementary schools are sometimes called the Grundschule, because they form the foundation for most of the higher schools. Children who are not going to join one of the latter, leave the elementary school at the age of 14. They are required to spend the next three years at a vocational school of the Berufsschule or Fachschule type. This part of the educational system is now also looked after by the Department of Education, having previously (up to 1934) been the domain of several other departments. The same as at the elementary schools, no fees are charged to pupils attending the Berufsschulen. These schools are not intended, as a rule, to furnish a general education, although their courses of studies include some subjects dealing with national politics. Their principal function is to supplement the work of training the young persons for some definite vocation. They are of many different types, according to the trades or industries domiciled in the localities concerned. Such schools have also been established for juvenile workers not apprenticed to an employer. The teaching work of the Berufsschulen not only acquaints pupils with the practical needs of their vocation, but also with its national political aspects. This is of particular importance to the agricultural type of Berufsschulen, because National Socialism has always stressed the great value of a healthy farming community. Thus, the former continuation schools (Fortbildungssehulen) have been superseded, except for a few special kinds, by the agricultural schools for boys and the rural economy schools for girls.

Attendance at a Fachschule is optional and implies exemption from attendance at a Berufsschule. The Fachschule supply a more extensive knowledge of the subjects taught than the Berufssehulen, and fees are payable by their pupils. Like the Berufsschulen, there are a great many different types of them, but all are supervised by the State. Their pupils, on leaving, may continue their studies at some höhere Fachschule, at which they may qualify themselves for a university career or for some leading position or appointment.

Attendance at the Berufsschulen and Fachschulen, therefore, coincides with the practical vocational work of the young people. The intermediate schools (mittlere Schulen) and higher schools (höhere Schulen), however, continue the education of their pupils for a few more years prior to their choice of a profession, and are therefore called schools of general education (allgemeinbildende Schulen). Those which admit candidates after they have attended the Grundschule for the customary four years are known as the grundständige Form, and those whose pupils join them after spending six years at the elementary schools, are called the Aufbauform. Attendance at the Mittelschulen lasts six, or four years, according as they are of the grundständige Form or of the Aufbauform. They are intended for boys and girls with a pronounced gift for practical work, and are differentiated to some extent on vocational or professional lines. The compulsory subjects taught by them are: the deutschkundige Fächer, physical exercises, natural science, mathematics, and English. Besides these, French – but not Latin – is an optional language. Their leaving examination used to be described as the mittlere Reife. Pupils desirous of continuing their studies at a höhere Schule, must first pass an entrance examination for the latter. So far, Mittelschulen only exist in Prussia and a few other parts of Germany.

The höhere Schulen have had a varied development since the foundation of the first humanistisches Gymnasium about a century ago. There have always been two principal types of them: (I) the humanistische Schulen or Gymnasien, with Latin and Greek as the two chief foreign languages, and (2) the Realanstalten, where attention was specially concentrated upon modern languages, mathematics, and natural science. As a result of the competition between them, a large number of intermediate types were also established, so that the desired unity of final purpose became more and more hypothetical. This drawback was particularly manifest in connection with the order of teaching foreign languages, so that pupils .whose parents had moved from one town to another were frequently unable to attend a school of the type they were accustomed to, which involved much loss of time and effort.

For these reasons the Department, after a careful study of the problem, decided to introduce a fundamental reorganisation of higher education at the Easter 1937 term, affecting boys’ as well as girls’ schools, both of the grundständige Form and the Aufbauform. At the grundständige höhere Schule attendance has been reduced from nine to eight years, by combining its lower and intermediary sections and dropping one of the six years formerly spent in them, whilst leaving the upper section’s three years unchanged. This reduction of school time was necessary for reasons of population policy. There need be no apprehension lest the quality of the work done by the schools should suffer, because the uniform National Socialist attitude of the teachers and the compactness of the courses of study renders it possible to make the teaching far more intensive and to accelerate progress.

The teaching of boys and girls, though of identical value, proceeds along different roads, which is necessary for the reason that the respective spheres of men and women in after-life are likewise different. Henceforth, there will be practically two types of höhere Schulen for boys as well as for girls. For boys, there is the Oberschule and alongside with it the Gymnasium, and for girls there is also an Oberschule, which is split up (during the last three years of attendance) into a section for domestic economy and another for languages. Both categories are supplemented by an Oberschule in Aufbauform, which – in the case of girls – gives prominence to domestic economy. The Oberschule for boys has to be regarded as the principal type, as it is the one that must be provided in a district if there is one higher school only. Thus, the difficulties above referred to when parents change from one town to another can now be obviated much more easily. Apart from some exceptional cases, only one Gymnasium can be established in towns where more higher schools than one are needed.

With a view to meeting the various preferences and capacities of pupils, the upper section of the Oberschule is divided into two branches. In the language branch provision is made for a second modern language, whilst comparatively limited attention is given to natural science and mathematics. In the science and mathematics branch no second language is included, whilst the chief interest centres around natural science and mathematics. In the Gymnasium there is no analogous division.

The reduced number of Gymnasien is due to the fact that a knowledge of both ancient languages is not considered necessary for the majority of German boys and girls. This is borne out by the constant decline in the number of pupils attending the former Gymnasien.

The subjects common to all höhere Schulen and to the Mittelschulen are: the deutschkundliche Fächer, physical exercises, natural science, and mathematics. The höhere Schulen, of course, provide more far-reaching instruction in them than the others; and no regard is paid to the pupil’s future profession.

Foreign languages are taught on the following plan:

(a) Oberschule – English (1st grade), Latin (3rd grade), French or some other modern language ( 6th grade).

(b) Gymnasium – Latin (1st grade), Greek (3rd grade), English (6th grade).

The Oberschulen for girls give instruction in the same subjects as those for boys, except that they add some that are of special importance to women, whilst curtailing the teaching of foreign languages. Thus, in those specialising in languages, English is begun in the 1st grade, and French and Latin in the 6th, whilst in those where domestic economy is taught in the upper section, the only foreign language taught is English.

Apart from these grundständige Schulen there are the Aufbauschulen for boys and girls. In those for boys, foreign language teaching is started in the 1st, 3rd and 4th grades respectively (corresponding to the 3rd, 5th and 6th grades of the grundständige Oberschule).

The Aufbauschulen – which were first introduced by the reform scheme for the schools of Prussia in 1925 – have to fulfil a special purpose in connection with our population policy. In many parts of Germany there are few (if any) fairly large towns possessing grundständige höhere Schulen. These parts are inhabited by a particularly robust type of population closely associated with the soil they cultivate. National Socialists look upon it as an important item to counteract the tendency among country people of migrating to the towns, but want them nevertheless to secure leading positions. For that reason extended facilities must be given them for acquiring a sound education.

The Aufbauschulen are intended to assist in this task. Accordingly, they are largely domiciled in rural districts, and Schülerheime are connected with them. The children in rural districts can now attend their local Volksschule for six years and have then an opportunity of continuing their studies for another six years until they possess the qualifications for university study. During the whole of that time they remain in direct connection with rural life.

The Schülerheim is no longer a place where school children are merely housed and fed, but an educational institution. Whilst there, the children’s corporate instincts can be encouraged by their close association with their comrades, thus laying the foundations for their sense of racial community.

Similar purposes are to be achieved by the National Political Courses of Instruction (Nationalpolitische Lehrgänge) for the pupils of the higher schools and by the children’s stay in the Landheime. In view of the increased demands on pupils due to the reorganisation of higher education, the Courses named have had to be temporarily discontinued notwithstanding the benefits already derived from them. All the more important, therefore, is the children’s stay in the Landheime and Youth Hostels (Jugendherbergen). These facilities are open to pupils from all types of schools. They are an essential part of our educational system, because without them it would be impossible to master the great tasks that have still to be carried out if the young people are to take their proper share in shaping the country’s future.

The leaving examination of all higher schools is called the Reifepräfung. After passing it, the young people are qualified for admission to any German university or other institution of university rank, and for entering a number of professions, including that of officers in the army.

The categories of higher schools have been increased in number since 1933 by the so-called Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten. There are fifteen of them in Prussia and in some other parts of the country. Their educational purposes and their courses of study are the same as those of the other higher schools. They are, however, of the boarding-school type and work in close collaboration with the Hitler Youth. Their special aim is to give a good all-round training to boys who have already distinguished themselves for their intellectual capacities, their physical prowess and bodily skill, their strength of mind, and their loyalty towards their comrades. These institutions are also under the administration of the Department of Education. Early in 1937, the Reich Youth Leader – acting in co-operation with the Reich Organisation Leader – founded seven Adolf Hitler Schulen, whose specific purpose it is to train boys for the position of leaders in the National Socialist party. It is too early to state details regarding their work and their organisation, as they have only been in existence for a short time.

The third educational factor, in addition to the home and the school, is the Hitler Youth. It has been commissioned by the Führer to train German boys – in close collaboration with the home and the school – for their great tasks in the future. The schools have to devote the major part of their time to intellectual education; and although, by that means and by other special arrangements, they do exercise an important influence in the direction named, they have but few opportunities for enabling their pupils to cultivate the corporate spirit beyond their own limits. This drawback is to be overcome by the Hitler Youth. The youth of all classes and all vocations is initiated by it in the practical working of a national community and is to be prepared for that achievement by physical, ethical and political training. Even though a certain overlapping was unavoidable during the early stages, it is evident by now that the collaboration of the three factors is becoming closer and closer.

Germany’s former school system has done much. The new National Socialist school system will do more still and will make the young people racially sound, efficient and ready for sacrifices. They will regard their nation, their national existence and their national freedom as their greatest assets. They will be taught – in conformity with the wish of the Führer – that the vital rights of other nations must be equally respected and that co-operation between all nations is both necessary and desirable. These aims are consciously fostered by the schools themselves and by special arrangements for the international exchange of students. The central organisation for such exchange is the Akademischer Austauschdienst, which works in close collaboration with the Department of Education, and whose activities receive a valuable stimulus from the successful efforts of the National Socialist party for international co-operation. Thus, the call addressed to German youth is: Love your German nation above everything, and be a good neighbour to all those nations that desire to live in peace with your own.

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