Adolf Hitler considered education to be a very important factor in Nazi Germany. When he wrote ‘Mein Kampf’ while serving out a prison sentence at Landsberg, Hitler wrote “whoever has the youth has the future”. In Hitler’s Germany, education would be the key that ensured that he had “the youth” of Germany.
Hitler’s view on education was that it served a sole purpose – to ensure that a child was loyal to the Nazi state to ensure that the Third Reich lasted for 1000 years. A lot of the Nazi education system also reflected Hitler’s educational experiences. After his failure to get into the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna Hitler developed a loathing of intellectuals who in his opinion based their teaching on what could be learned behind desks or in lectures halls. Hitler wrote that the first duty of the state was to care for the physical well-being and physical development of the young:
“The whole education in a national state must aim first of all not at stuffing the student with mere knowledge but by building bodies which are healthy to the core.”
Hitler wanted education to create a younger generation that was “virile and strong”.
Hitler believed that two basic ideas underwrote education in Nazi Germany.
The first was that the importance of race had to be burned into the heart and soul of all children in Germany.
Secondly, Hitler believed that education had to prepare the youth of Germany for war if it came and not to fear death.
“The ultimate purpose of education was to fashion citizen’s conscious of the glory of country and filled with fanatical devotion to the national cause. National Socialism would furnish the necessary elite for the nation.” (Louis Snyder)
Other senior Nazis followed the lead of their Führer. Dr Robert Ley, head of the RAD, stated that:
“A street cleaner sweeps a thousand microbes into the gutter with one stroke; a scientist preens himself on discovering a single microbe in the whole of his life.”
Nazi newspapers invariably referred to successful German scientists in a derogatory manner while continually pushing the idea of physicality as being at the heart of an education. Such was the party’s desire to control the youth of Nazi Germany that Joseph Goebbels, head of propaganda, said:
“Youth belongs to us and we will yield them to no one.”
If the young were going to belong to the Nazi Party, then the very youngest were targeted for an education based along Hitler’s educational philosophy. The first book a child in Nazi Germany came across after kindergarten was “Primer”. On the front cover was a caricature of a Jew with the words: “Trust no fox on the green heath; Trust no Jew on his oath.”
The book was full of the joys of camping and soldiering. In it was:
“He who wants to be a soldier,
That one must have a weapon,
Which he must load with powder,
And with a little hard bullet.
Little fellow, if you want to be a recruit,
Take good care of this little song.”
Hitler required schools to push national pride and race issues within the lessons taught regardless of the age of the pupils. History became historicism – the study of history for political purposes. Biology was used as a vehicle to push race ideas while PE was used to develop a child’s physical well-being.
“This new Reich will give its youth to no one but will itself take over youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.” (Hitler)
“I begin with the young. We older ones are used up. We are rotten to the marrow. But my magnificent youngsters! Are there any finer ones in the world? Look at these young men and boys! What material. With them I can make a new world. My teaching will be hard. Weakness will be knocked out of them. A violently active, dominating, brutal youth – that is what I am after. Youth must be indifferent to pain. There must be no weakness and tenderness in it. I want to see once more in its eyes the gleam of pride and independence of the beast of prey. I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my young men. I would have them learn only what takes their fancy. But one thing they must learn – self-command. They shall learn to overcome their fear of death under the severest tests. This is the heroic stage of youth. Out of it will come the creative man, the god-man.” (Hitler)