“Education begins when the youngest National Socialist stands on the street…in uniform.”
Hitler’s ‘seizure’ of power on January 30, 1933 marked a turning point in German history and in traditional German education. Hitler’s aim regarding education was to reshape and mold the German psyche into one that would benefit the Nazi Regime. With motives that were rather political than academic, he was able to accomplish an astonishing amount in little time.
Education and youth measures played a very important role in Nazi Germany in trying to create loyal supporters to Hitler and National Socialist ideals. The primary aims of the educational and youth reforms in the Nazi regime were to mobilise the German youth behind Hitler ready to face the war. The Hitler Youth had been created for post-school activities and were to play a critical part in developing loyalty to Hitler and in converting the youngsters to National Socialism. Nazi propaganda took over the German education system.
The sole purpose of the Nazi educational structure was to create a future generation that was loyal to Hitler and the Nazis without criticism or questioning. National Socialism was concerned with creating a certain type of character surrounding their ideals and philosophy, including the acceptance of the necessity for intervention to ensure a positive outcome of the struggle for existence amongst other nations. Without such a moulding of character it would be difficult for Nazism to survive and dominate through means of war.
This moulding of character would have to begin at an early age, and would be most effective if incorporated in the German school system. The old image of the good schoolboy (punctual, well-behaved) no longer was continued. It became more favourable for the boy to exercise a sense of adventure, and self-will. The teacher was responsible for developing this self-initiative, to encourage activity, struggle and adventure. A metamorphosis took place from a school for learning to a school for character. The emphasis was on training the character and not the brain, as a strong character would be of more use to German domination than academic ability would be. Nazis referred to the moulding of character as a hardening of character, which should involve spiritual torment. The qualities aimed at were those of soldiers. The German people were to be a figure of armed strength, loyalty, and honour.
Education and youth policies of the Third Reich were meant to ensure that there would be men to protect the system in the future and not fear war if it were the necessary means to achieve this. “The winning of the youth is identical with the future security of the system…there can be no doubt that the totalitarian system succeeds by means of the youth for which it commits itself.” The education system was to raise a new generation of Germans to suit this purpose.
Nazi youth and education theories stated that the Volksgemeinschaft, the community, could be achieved on a long-term basis through education. The system should not focus on individual education, but rather on collective education. It was to be a strictly obeyed, with everyone following the same guidelines and no individual action was to be taken. The aim was rather that action should be taken only as one strong German force, a mass action following the Führer. This would overcome all obstacles including any objection to war.
Militarism was drilled into children at all stages in their school life, as schools were to focus less on academic achievements. Hitler felt that “a healthy man imbued with decisiveness and strength of will is more valuable for the national community than an intelligent weakling” . At school this included marching, military sports, and military science. This was to keep youngsters from sophistication. All intellectualism should be wiped out early in schools and be...