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Why did the German Youth Become Nazis?
Audrey Mechlingon 2 December 2013
Transcript of Why did the German Youth Become Nazis?
Although schools were much more progressive starting during WWI and continuing into the Weimar Republic, this actually allowed for increased nationalism in the school system. Teachers in the Weimar Republic were vastly overrepresented in the Nazi Party and were able to more freely instill their nationalistic values into the German Youth due to the progressive reforms. While a militaristic culture, active youth organizations, and church involvement likely contributed to Nazi membership, it was actually the progressive schools that were most able to influence all youth. After the Basic School Law nationalistic teachers were able to influence large numbers of students, who otherwise would not have been subjected to nationalist ideals at home or elsewhere.
What part of their childhood caused the German Youth to support the Nazi Party?
From the very start of the Weimar Republic the anti-republican nationalist movement was characterized by a large amount of support from the youth. What part of their upbringing in the Weimar Republic caused the German Youth to so fanatically support the NSDAP?
The authoritarian style of teaching and power dynamic between teachers and students taught students to be obedient. The Weimar Republic did little to actually reform the older styles of teaching so nationalistic and militaristic values were instilled in children at a very young age.
Authority in the Schools
Youth organizations such as hiking groups or sports clubs were often taken over by nationalists who then imparted their values to the youth. Organizations like sports teams were used as a sort of military training for young men.
During the Weimar Republic the general public never felt satisfied with the end of WWI. Children raised in this culture that treated the front generation as unsung heroes wanted to go to war to become heroes as well. The Nazi Party and the SA were ways for the youth to be like the great generation that came before them.
The Weimar Republic often had a hostile relationship with the Churches in Germany as the Social Democrats campaigned for a separation of Church and State and, even more contentiously, separation of Church and School. Because of this the Churches were a voice against the Weimar Republic.
A Deeper Look at Authority in Schools
On the surface it appears as though German Schools went through very little democratic and progressive reform during the Weimar Republic. However, looking only a few years earlier to the school system during WWI it can be seen that many reforms did take place, and they actually contributed to the rise of nationalistic sentiments.
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments of a War Pedagogy written in 1914 by Theobald Ziegler was a guide for teachers during the First World War. Its advice includes:
1. Don't be a school tyrant, today less so than ever.
4. Thou shalt teach more interestingly.
5. Thou shalt more than before make every lesson a German Lesson.
7. Thou shalt speak of battles in history class and be happy.
How I Play War
Why I Would Like To Enter The War
Our Volunteers in the Army
Why Do We Hate England?
France's Old Hate and Desire for Revenge
The Pious Cannot Remain in Peace When Evil Neighbors Do Not Fail
To What Extent Has the World War Produced an Upsurge in National Consciousness
Learning to Sacrifice for Germany
"A wounded soldier was placed on the table. A couple of cuts separates the legs of his shredded trousers, a large wound is visible, the doctor takes up the saw, a grating sound of steeled teeth, then a cry- I stand numb and see this frightening scene that is playing out before my eyes. The saw grates, the knife cuts through its bloody work, the male and female attendants stand with pale faces. The wounded soldier is lifted down and a loud monotone reverberates in the room: 'Next!'"
- Written by a secondary school boy, published by Hermann Reich
The Basic School Law
The Basic School Law passed on the April 28th, 1920 was one of the only large school reforms passed under the Weimar Republic. It restructured primary schools, designating the first 4 years of education as
or basic school. This did nothing to change the school reforms that occurred during WWI or place more control over what the curriculum was. We can also see that the rates of teachers who joined the NSDAP were higher than that of the general population, so students were being exposed to nationalistic ideals at a very young age, regardless of their parents beliefs, their religion, or their membership in youth organizations.
An Eighth Grade Boy
"I only wish that I could be a soldier. Then I would like to stand across from the English, whose skulls I would smash with my rifle butt so that they would lose their hearing and sight."
This is an excerpt from one of many compositions written by young boys during WWI that were later displayed in a museum exhibit titled "School and War"