Elsinore High School
The Third Reich (1933-1945) from the angle of German juveniles
Research Essay by Peter Loose Class of 2000
The Third Reich (1933-1945) from the angle of German juveniles
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“My program for educating youth is hard. Weakness must be hammered away. In my castle of the Teutonic Order a youth will grow up before which the world will tremble. I want a brutal, domineering, fearless, cruel youth. Youth must be all that. It must bear pain. There must be nothing weak and gentle about it. The free, splendid beast of prey must once again flash from its eyes That is how I will eradicate thousands of years of human domestication That is how I will create the New Order.”
Nowadays, when you ask people about the Third Reich, they usually can only remember the things they were told in school or saw on television: twelve million people died in German concentration camps; sixty-five million soldiers died on the battlefields; Germany started the Second World War (WWII) with its Blitzkrieg against Poland; the leader of Germany was Adolf Hitler; the German people followed him without reservation. All these points are factual, all of them but the last one. To claim all German’s followed Hitler without reservation is very misleading and can’t be stated without evaluation or explanation.
Clearly, such a statement is not totally wrong, but unfortunately, it doesn’t give the accused a chance to explain their (wrong-) doing. Considering the extent of pain, violence and sorrow the German reign of terror spread around the globe during the late 30’s up to early 40’s, such a generalization is Adolf Hitler very common among people, especially among victims. It is nothing really unusual, but it shows that people still can’t fully comprehend, how just a few individuals were able to create a climate of hatred and “eliminationist anti-Semitism” among ordinary people, and turned them into “willing executioners” that “followed their [leveled] beliefs to their logical conclusion” (Goldhagen). To comprehend it, one has to realize, this development didn’t just take place from one day to the other. The “Reeducation” of the German people was a well organized and carefully thought out operation that started in the early 30’s, and affected all areas of society, life, and culture up to the end of WWII. Hitler’s objective to integrate every German into a system was not only a way to unite their force, but also a move to control the mob as easy as possible and filter out any possible enemy (Winkler).
No other group in German Society was more affected by this operation than the eight million German teenagers, that grew up in a system totally normal to them, since they had never seen anything else. How could they know the man they followed and admired was a maniac and mass murderer who simply used them for his purposes? Hitler once stated in his book: “…who owns the youth, gains the future” (123). In his visions, the German youth of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s was supposed to be the first generation of a new kind of people that would fulfill his dream of the “New Order.” They would rule the world for a thousand years. Therefore, it became one of the political priorities of the Third Reich to do everything possible, in order realize the Fuehrer’s vision. It is not very surprising to ascertain that, in those days, the daily life of a teenager was completely scheduled by the National Socialists (Nazis).
Like everywhere else in the world, German teenagers had to go to school, and they probably hated it as much as their American colleagues. There was however a slight difference between the American curriculum and the German one. In Germany, schools played an important role in spreading Nazi ideas. The school day began with an appeal on the schoolyard where the best (Aryan) students were allowed to hoist the German swastikaflag, while the others would sing the first stanza of the German national anthem. Jewish students had to stand in the last row and were not allowed to sing at all. Often, the uniformed principal gave a five to ten minute speech in which he glorified Adolf Hitler, Germany and the Aryan Race (The perfect Aryan was blond, blue-eyed, and tall). After that, the students went to their classrooms and saluted their teacher with “Heil Hitler” (Hoffmann). In 1933, when the “Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” Act was passed, thousands of teachers and professors were forced into the “National Socialist Teachers League” (NSTL). In order to join, they had to prove they were Aryan and had to study the new curriculum, of what they were allowed to teach and not. When a teacher didn’t meet these requirements, he lost his teaching credentials (Marjamaa). By the end of 1935, 97% of all teachers had joined the NSTL. Over and above that, 40% had become members of Hitler’s “National Socialist German Worker’s Party” (NSDAP) (Winkler). With this in mind, it is no wonder that “(...) teachers applied the “principals” of racial science” (Nazi). “Hatred of the Jews and sub humans was the main theme of all courses, even math. Problem Solving included word problems with questions concerning ammunition and cost of maintaining an insane asylum (Mentally ill people were considered to be a burden for society)” (Marjamaa).
Homework: The annual expense for an insane individual is 766 Reichsmark (RM); the expense for a deaf and blind individual is 615 RM; the expense for a cripple amounts to 600 RM. They are all kept in special homes at public expense. There are 167,000 insane individuals, 8,300 deaf and blind individuals, 20,600 cripples. How much do these infirm creature cost the taxpayer annually? How many healthy, Aryan families could live in rented accommodation when the monthly fee is 60 RM (...)? (Rudolf)
New classes like “Rasenkunde” (Science of races) were created to convince students, that there are measurable differences between Aryans and non-Aryans. Teachers “…measured skull size and nose length, …recorded the color of their pupils’ hair and eyes to determine whether students belonged to the true Aryan race. Jewish and Sinti/Romani (Gypsy) students were often humiliated in the process” (Nazi).
When school ended at one o’clock in the afternoon, students ran home as fast as possible, had lunch and jumped into their uniforms. The fun part of the day, the Hitler Youth (HJ) was going to start and they really didn’t want to be late. When the HJ was founded in 1926 by several young Hitler followers, it was only one of approx. 2000 youth movements in Germany at that time. It’s role until Hitler’s takeover wasn’t more than to be a youth-unit of the Storm Detachment (SA) and supported them in their street fights and demonstrations. After the takeover in 1933, the Reich’s Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach marked in a speech the HJ’s new role in German Society: “The NSDAP is the only party in Germany.
That’s why it is the HJ’s destiny to be the only youth organization!”