Adolf Hitler Schools were seen as being at the very pinnacle of the Nazi education system. Adolf Hitler gained power in January 1933 and quickly started to redesign the whole educational structure of Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler Schools – Adolf Hitler-Schule – was one of three new types of educational facilities introduced by Hitler to create a Nazi elite. It took a few years for the changes to take firm roots and when it was clear that such changes were fully in place, in January 1937 Hitler allowed his name to be attached to such schools. National Political Training Institutes catered for the same age group as Adolf Hitler Schools while Order Castles catered for university aged students.
Initially there were ten Adolf Hitler Schools but another two were built. Each one served a specific district (gau) and initially children selected to go to such a school could only come from that gau. This practice ended in 1941 when it was decided that children from anywhere in Germany could attend any Adolf Hitler School. Competition for a place at Adolf Hitler Schools was intense and the selection process was such that it was designed to cultivate a sense of pride and loyalty to the state that had introduced such a system.
Children who attended the Adolf Hitler Schools were preselected from the Hitler Youth movement (Hitler Jugend). The selection process started at the junior end of the Hitler Youth Movement – the so-called Young Folk (Jungfolk). Children in their second year of the Jungvolk were deemed old enough to be considered for selection. They were checked for their racial purity and once they passed this they were sent to a camp for two weeks to prove that they were worthy of being part of the Adolf Hitler Schools system.
Physical appearance was important and a good candidate was considered to be a child who had blond hair and blue eyes as such characteristics fitted in with Hitler’s Aryan ideals.
Those who started at an Adolf Hitler School were subjected to an education that was militaristic. Pupils were divided into squads and they trained not only in military and academic studies but in deportment, bed-making and personal hygiene. Squads were put up against one another and no one individual passed or failed – the whole squad either passed or not. In this way instructors/teachers could ensure that each squad member would keep an eye on others in his squad and ensured that everyone did their best for the benefit of the whole squad. Peer group pressure was used to ensure that each squad pushed for the highest standards.
The majority of the time spent in an Adolf Hitler School was based around physical training. It usually outweighed academic classroom work by a proportion of 5 to 1. Each child had to ‘prove himself’ – ‘Bewährung’ – if they wanted to pass their so-called ‘Final Review’. Those who completed their time at these schools, usually five years, left at the age of 18 and were eligible to go to university. Many joined the officer corps of the military and were viewed as the future military leaders of the 1000-year Third Reich. Regardless of which direction they chose, graduates of an Adolf Hitler School were considered to be the future elite of Nazi Germany and their education was considered a passport and guarantee for future progress within the system.
The teachers in Adolf Hitler Schools were also selected. They were known as “school leaders” as opposed to teachers. Each one had a rank in the Hitler Youth movement, which also set them apart from teachers in normal schools, the gymnasiums. The overall control of an Adolf Hitler School was given to a “commander”.
However, while on the surface these schools seemed to typify the Nazi ideal, they probably were not a good as the government wanted the public to believe. Not all of the “school leaders” were trained teachers and the syllabus in each school was very narrow. In fact, a syllabus directed to the “commanders” of the twelve schools was not published until 1944. Up to that time it seems that each of the schools could develop their own syllabus based around an “educational and curricular plan”. One subject that had to be taught was ‘folklore’. But up until 1944 it was up to each school to decide what ‘folklore’ should be taught until the directive specified what constituted ‘folklore’. “Schooling in worldview” and “religion lore” were also taught. Again, these were so varied in terms of what could be taught that the 1944 syllabus directive had to specify what had to be taught.