Now, today, I feel impelled to do so.
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I was prompted to this by a trivial incident. A woman spoke to me in the street and the way she held her head suddenly reminded me quite strikingly of you. But what is the real reason which made me sit down and write to you as soon as I came in? Perhaps in the intervening years I have, without being aware of it, prepared an account within me which must be presented. You will compel me to be much more precise than I could be if left to myself.
What I hope, dare to hope, is that you might be able to understand—not excuse—the wrong and even evil steps which I took and which I must report, and that such an understanding might form the basis for a lasting dialogue. Their brief correspondence can be read online. Some critics found the text candid and forthright; others considered it defensive, prevaricating, and melodramatic. In Germany, the book went through eight editions the last in and was added to high-school reading lists in some school districts.
Students of memoir used the text to showcase the vagaries of personal narrative; sociologists looked for a relation between the literary work and the cultural setting from which it arose. They theorized about the Jewish friend to whom the memoir is addressed: Was she a construct, a composite, or a reality? Maschmann took a Hindu name, lived in Indian ashrams, and returned to Germany only on brief family visits every two or three years.
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And someone whose best self had been attracted to Nazism. According to her sister-in-law, now in her nineties, Maschmann had trouble finding friends and establishing a postwar life. She travelled, took some university courses, and freelanced for newspapers. In , she toured Afghanistan and India and, after publishing her memoir, decided to leave Germany. We located her at her home in La Jolla, California, and she almost hung up when we called, thinking we were telemarketers.
At ninety-five, Schweitzer is an impressively sharp, brisk, and busy woman, who attends a weekly yoga class and still volunteers at the San Diego Museum of Man. She told us that in the spring of , when she had just turned fifteen and was failing Latin and math, her mother had her transferred to a new high school, where Melita became her best friend. They did their homework together, discussed literature, and exchanged confidences. I came from a more progressive, artistic family, and I was more of a loner, a listener and observer.
At first, Marianne and Melita agreed about politics.
Gradually, these discussions erupted into serious conflict. Melita joined the B. I was horrified. She persuaded me to attend meetings where Hitler would speak; her intent was to have me convert. She told me that I was not able to appreciate his greatness because I had Jewish blood. Eighty years later, Marianne recalls that she found this remark ridiculous.
In , Melita suddenly disappeared. Marianne recalls being devastated that Melita had left without a word, and pressed Dr. Flashar, their favorite teacher, for answers. My face was flushed, but I made sure to walk calmly back to my seat. According to one report the activities of the Hitler Youth and the Nazi government was slowly destroying the education system in Germany. They have been wilfully destroyed from above. No thought any more of proper working methods in school, or of the freedom of teaching.
In their place we have cramming and beating schools, prescribed methods of learning and Instead of freedom of learning, we have the most narrow-minded school supervision and spying on teachers and pupils. No free speech is permitted for teachers and pupils, no inner, personal empathy. The whole thing has been taken over by the military spirit. New mathematic textbooks were introduced and included "social arithmetic", which "involved calculations designed to achieve a subliminal indoctrination in key areas - for example, sums requiring the children to calculate how much it would cost the state to keep a mentally ill person alive in an asylum.
This was a typical question from a mathematics text: "An airplane flies at the rate of kilometers per hour to a place at a distance of kilometers in order to drop bombs. When may it be expected to return if the dropping of bombs takes 7. Geography textbooks were produced that "propagated concepts such as living-space and blood and soil, and purveyed the myth of Germanic racial superiority".
One popular textbook used had been written by Hermann Gauch : "The animal world can be classified into Nordic men and lower animals. We are thus able to establish the following principle: there exist no physical or psychological characteristics which would justify a differentiation of mankind from the animal world. The only differences that exist are those between Nordic men, on the one hand, and animals Art was Tomi Ungerer favourite subject.
Below is a school textbook that provides a comparative study between modern paintings and deformed humans. For example, the Amedeo Modigliani plate is compared to a person with Down's Syndrome. At school Irmgard Paul was brainwashed into accepting Nazi views on the Jewish race. The book encouraged every child to note these differences and to bring anyone who bore Jewish features on the attention of our parents or teachers.
I was horrified by the crimes Jewish people were being accused of - killing babies, loan-sharking, basic dishonesty, and conspiring to destroy Germany and rule the world. The description of the Jewish people would convince any child that these were monsters, not people with sorrows and joys like ours. Bernhard Rust introduced a Nazi National Curriculum. Considerable emphasis was placed on physical training.
Boxing was made compulsory in upper schools and PT became an examination subject for grammar-school entry as well as for the school-leaving certificate. Persistently unsatisfactory performance at PT constituted grounds for expulsion from school and for debarment from further studies. In timetable allocation of PT periods was increased from two to three. Two years later it was increased to five periods. All teachers below the age of fifty were pressed into compulsory PT courses. Selection for entry included racial origins, physical fitness and membership of the Hitler Youth.
These schools, run by the Schutzstaffel SS , had the task of training the next generation of high-ranking people in the Nazi Party and the German Army. Only two out of the thirty-nine Napolas constructed over the next few years catered for girls. After leaving school at the age of eighteen students joined the German Labour Service where they worked for the government for six months. Bernhard Rust claimed that the new education system would benefit the children of the working-class that made up 45 per cent of Germany's population. This promise was never fulfilled and after six years in office, only 3 per cent of university students came from working-class backgrounds.
This was the same percentage as it was before Adolf Hitler came to power. One of the objectives of the Nazi government was to reduce the number of women in higher education. On 12th January , Wilhelm Frick ordered that the proportion of female grammar school graduates allowed to proceed to university should be no more than 10 per cent of that of the male graduates. In the year before the Nazis came to power there were 18, women students in Germany's universities. Six years later this number had fallen to 5, The government also ordered a reduction in women teachers.
By the number of women teachers at girls' secondary schools had decreased by 15 per cent. The organization issued a statement explaining its role in Nazi Germany : "The purpose of the National Mother Service is political schooling. Political schooling for the woman is not a transmission of political knowledge, nor the learning of Party programs.
Rather, political schooling is shaping to a certain attitude, an attitude that out of inner necessity affirms the measures of the State, takes them into women's life, carries them out and causes them to grow and be further transmitted. Joseph Goebbels pointed out in a speech in "Women has the task of being beautiful and bringing children into the world, and this is by no means as coarse and old-fashioned as one might think.
The female bird preens herself for her mate and hatches her eggs for him. In exchange, the mate takes care of gathering the food and stands guard and wards off the enemy. Hope for as many children as possible! Your duty is to produce at least four offspring in order to ensure the future of the national stock. As Richard Evans , the author of The Third Reich in Power has pointed out: "The reorganization of German secondary schools ordered in abolished grammar-school education for girls altogether.
Girls were banned from learning Latin, a requirement for university entrance, and the Education Ministry did its best instead to steer them into domestic education, for which a whole type of girls school existed The number of female students in higher education fell from just over 17, in to well under 6, in One of the major problems for schools in Nazi Germany was attendance. School authorities were instructed to grant pupils leave of absence to enable them to attend Hitler Youth courses. In one study of a school in Westphalia with pupils showed that 23, school days were lost because of extra-mural activities during one academic year.
This eventually had an impact on educational achievement. On 16th January, , Colonel Hilpert of the German Army complained in Frankfurter Zeitung , that: "Our youth starts off with perfectly correct principles in the physical sphere of education, but frequently refuses to extend this to the mental sphere Many of the candidates applying for commissions display a simply inconceivable lack of elementary knowledge. By it was reported that there was a problem recruiting teachers.
It was claimed that one teaching post in twelve was unfilled and Germany had 17, less teachers than it had before Adolf Hitler came to power. The main reason for this was the fall in teacher's pay. Entrants to the profession were offered a starting salary of 2, marks per annum. After deductions, this worked out at approximately marks per month, or twenty marks more than was earned by the average lower-paid worker. The government tried to overcome this problem by introducing low-paid unqualified auxiliaries into schools. Tomi Ungerer has pointed out that after the outbreak of the Second World War the first hour of school was dedicated to history, especially to the rise of the Nazi movement and the latest news of military victories.
Indoctrination was daily and systematic. Jazz, modern art, and comic strips were considered degenerate and forbidden. I could easily imagine Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, or Superman and their likes dutifully arrested by the Gestapo to serve in some hard labour squad We had special classes building model airplanes to make us future pilots in the Luftwaffe , of course.
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He was born the 20th of April in Braunau. He delivered German from misery. Now everyone has work, bread, and joy. In my great educative work," said Hitler, " I am beginning with the young. We older ones are used up. Yes, we are old already. We are rotten to the marrow. We have no unrestrained instincts left. We are cowardly and sentimental. We are bearing the burden of a humiliating past, and have in our blood the dull recollection of serfdom and servility. But my magnificent youngsters!
Are there finer ones anywhere in the world? Look at these young men and boys! What material! With them I can make a new world. Weakness has to be knocked out of them. In my Ordensburgen a youth will grow up before which the world will shrink back. A violently active dominating, intrepid, brutal youth - that is what I am after". Youth must be all those things. It must be indifferent to pain. There must be no weakness or tenderness in it. I want to see once more in its eyes the gleam of pride and independence of the beast of prey.
Strong and handsome must my young men be. I will have them fully trained in all physical exercises. I intend to have an athletic youth - that is the first and the chief thing. In this way I shall eradicate the thousands of years of human domestication. Then I shall have in front of me the pure and noble natural material. With that I can create the new order. 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 the fear of death, under the severest tests. That is the intrepid and heroic stage of youth. Out of it comes the stage of the free man, the man who is the substance and essence of the world, the creative man, the god-man. In my Ordensburgen there will stand as a statue for worship the figure of the magnificent, self-ordaining god-man; it will prepare the young men for their coming period of ripe manhood.
The whole organization of education, and training which the People's State is to build up must take as its crowning task the work of instilling into the hearts and brains of the youth entrusted to it the racial instinct and understanding of the racial idea. No boy or girl must leave school without having attained a clear insight into the meaning of racial purity and the importance of maintaining the racial blood unadulterated. Thus the first indispensable condition for the preservation of our race will have been established and thus the future cultural progress of our people will be assured.
A reform of particular importance is that which ought to take place in the present methods of teaching history. Scarcely any other people are made to study as much of history as the Germans, and scarcely any other people make such a bad. If politics means history in the making, then our way of teaching history stands condemned by the way we have conducted our politics.
But there would be no point in bewailing the lamentable results of our political conduct unless one is now determined to give our people a better political education. In 99 out of cases the results of our present teaching of history are deplorable. Usually only a few dates, years of birth and names, remain in the memory, while a knowledge of the main and clearly defined lines of historical development is completely lacking.
The essential features which are of real significance are not taught. It is left to the more or less bright intelligence of the individual to discover the inner motivating urge amid the mass of dates and chronological succession of events. The subject matter of our historical teaching must be curtailed. The chief value of that teaching is to make the principal lines of historical development understood. The more our historical teaching is limited to this task, the more we may hope that it will turn out subsequently to be of advantage to the individual and, through the individual, to the community as a whole.
For history must not be studied merely with a view to knowing what happened in the past but as a guide for the future, and to teach us what policy would be the best to follow for the preservation of our own people. The systematic reform of Germany's education system was started immediately after the coming into power of National Socialism. If these far-reaching changes were to materialize, teachers had first to be made capable of introducing them. Numerous courses, camps and working communities have been arranged to provide the necessary instruction, which includes the teaching of the philosophy of National Socialism in addition to the strictly educational subjects.
The influence of Germany's educational system on her national fortunes invites comparison with that of the playing-fields of Eton on the Battle of Waterloo. It could be said of the teachers that they had travaille pour le roi de Prusse both in the metaphorical and the purely literal sense of the phrase: they earned meagre salaries and inculcated an ethos of Prusso-German patriotism. This they largely contrived to do even when the Empire had followed the Kingdom of Prussia into the limbo of history. Though after some mainly elementary teachers supported the Social Democrats or middle-of-the-road political parties, the schools in general acted as incubators of nationalism under the Weimar Republic.
The choice of Hans Grimm's Volk ohne Raum People without Space as a standard matriculation text reflected a virtually nation-wide consensus among teachers of German language and literature, while schoolboys would inject new topicality and frisson into the game of Cowboys and Indians by calling it "Aryans and Jews"; by Jewish communal newspapers were publishing lists of schools where children suffered less exposure to anti-Semitism so that parents could arrange transfers Denunciation also constituted an ever-present occupational hazard for teachers, since low marks or adverse comments on essays lifted verbatim from articles in the Nazi Press could be construed as evidence of political opposition.
In actual fact, however, the teaching profession represented one of the most politically reliable sections of the population. Fourteen per cent of teachers compared to 6 per cent of civil servants belonged to the Party's political leadership corps. This remarkable commitment to the regime was exemplified in the highest ranks of the Party hierarchy by seventy-eight District Leaders and seven Gauleiter and deputy Gauleiter who had graduated from the teaching profession. It also found expression in the schoolmasterly, moralizing tone which - as we have noted elsewhere - informed so many Nazi utterances.
The Party image also benefited from the presence of many teachers at the grass-roots level of its organization, where they acted as "notabilities" Respektspersonen , masking the more disreputable elements entrenched in the local apparatus. The Aryans Nordic people were tall, light-skinned, light-eyed, blond people. It was Nordic energy and boldness that were responsible for the power and prestige enjoyed by small nations such as the Netherlands and Sweden. Everywhere Nordic creative power has built up mighty empires with high-minded ideas, and to this very day Aryan languages and cultural values are spread over a large part of the world.
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When Klauss got back from school at five o'clock he bullied me into helping him with his homework. Glancing through his school books, I noticed again how different they are from those I had had only a few years ago. The change has been particularly marked since Streicher became head of his Institute of Political Instruction at Berlin University.
Here is a maths problem, picked out at random: "A Sturmkampfflieger on take-off carries twelve dozen bombs, each weighing ten kilos. The aircraft makes for Warsaw, the centre of international Jewry. It bombs the town. On takeoff with all bombs on board and a fuel tank containing 1, kiios of fuel, the aircraft weighed about eight tons.
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When it returns from the crusade, there are still kilos of fuel left. What is the weight of the aircraft when empty? Here is another one I had to solve for Klauss: "The iniquitous Treaty of Versailles, imposed by the French and the English, enabled international plutocracy to steal Germany's colonies. France herself acquired part of Togoland. If German Togoland, temporarily under the administration of the French imperialists, covers fifty-six million square kilometres, and contains a population of eight hundred thousand people, estimate the average living space per inhabitant.
There is, indeed, twofold evidence to show that something was wrong with education.
In the first place, the high level of popular enlightenment had failed to protect the German people against the poisonous effects of Marxist teaching and other false doctrines. Large masses of people had fallen victims to them, whilst other sections - more especially those of higher education - had been unable to take up an effective stand against the spread of the poison. If they had, the events of and the succeeding period of national disintegration and deterioration would have been prevented. In the second place, a careful study of the situation shows that the German people are sound to the core and are gifted with just as much national sentiment as any other.
Hence, the temporary lowering of their previous high standards could not have been the result of any innate inferiority, but the reason must be sought in a faulty system of education, which - notwithstanding its high intellectual achievements - tended to impair the healthy spirit of the nation, men's energies and their soundness of judgment, and to produce selfishness and a deficient sense of national solidarity.
The attainment of high intellectual standards will certainly continue to be urged upon the young people; but they will be taught at the same time that their achievements must be of benefit to the national community to which they belong. As a consequence of the demand thus clearly formulated by the Nuremberg Laws, Jewish teachers and Jewish pupils have had to quit German schools, and schools of their own have been provided by and for them as far as possible. As the mere teaching of these principles is not enough, it is constantly supplemented, in the National Socialist State, by opportunities for what may be called "community life".
By this term we mean school journeys, school camps, school "homes" in rural neighbourhoods, and similar applications of the corporate principle to the life of schools and scholars. History insists that every biological race deterioration coincides with the growth of big towns, that these latter exercise a paralysing effect upon community life, and that a nation's strength is rooted in its rural elements.
Our National Socialist system of education pays due regard to these important considerations, and makes every effort, to take the young people from the towns to the country, whilst impressing upon them the inseparable connection between racial strength and a healthy open-air life. The Nordic race is tall, long-legged, slim, with average height, among males, of about 1. The face is narrow, with a rather narrow forehead, a narrow, high-built nose, and a narrow lower jaw and prominent chin. The hair colour is blond. The relatively great number of Nordic people among the famous and outstanding men and women of all Western countries is striking, as also is the relatively low number of famous men and women without noticeable Nordic strain.
I am trying through the teaching of geography to do everything in my power to give the boys knowledge and I hope later on, judgment, so that when, as they grow older, the Nazi fever dies down and it again becomes possible to offer some opposition they may be prepared. But we cannot meet in conference, we cannot have a newspaper. I might have taken my chances. Others did, I mean other teachers in the high school.
We had thirty-five teachers. Only four, well, five, were fully convinced Nazis. But, of these five, one could be argued with openly, in the teachers' conference room; and only one was a real fanatic, who might denounce a colleague to the authorities. Three of the five were very religious. The teachers were all Protestants, of course, but only half a dozen, at most, were really religious these were all anti-Nazi, these half-dozen, but only three of them held out. One of the three was the history teacher now the director of the school , very nationalistic, very Prussian, but a strong churchman.
He stood near the anti-Nazi Confessional Church, but he couldn't join it, of course, or he'd have lost his job. Then there was the theology teacher, who also taught modern languages; he was the best teacher in the school; apart from his religious opposition, his knowledge of-foreign cultures made him anti-Nazi. The third was the mathematics teacher, absolutely unworldly but profoundly pietistic, a member of the Moravian sect. He was not an atheist, you understand, just a historian. He was a non-joiner, of anything. He was nonpolitical. He was strongly critical of Nazism, but always on a detached, theoretical basis.
Nobody bothered him; nobody paid any attention to him. And vice versa The other nonbeliever was really the truest believer of them all. He was a biologist and a rebel against a religious background. He had no trouble perverting Darwin's 'survival of the fittest' into Nazi racism - he was the only teacher in the whole school who believed it.
That's why the biologist never joined. Now he's an anti-Nazi. In , when I started school, I was six years old. In , my first teacher was fired for political reasons. One time, I must have been ten, a teacher took me aside and said, "When we're finished with the Jews, you're next.
There was a drive to enroll young kids into the Hitler Youth movement. I wanted to join, of course.
My mother took me aside and said, "Look, Hans, you may not understand, but they don't want you. All my friends had these black shorts and brown shirts and a swastika and a little dagger which said Blood and Honor. I wanted it just like everybody else. I wanted to belong. These were my schoolmates. In , our class had a chance to go to Berlin to watch the Olympics. Not all Germans were sold on this Hitler nonsense.
Jesse Owens was the undisputed hero of the German people. He was the darling of the Olympic games. With the exception of a small Nazi elite, they opened their hearts to this black man who ran his butt off. I was so proud, sitting there. It's clear to me that had the Nazi leadership known of my existence, I would have ended in a gas oven or at Auschwitz. What saved me was there was no black population in Germany. There was no apparatus set up to catch blacks. The apparatus that was set up to apprehend Jews entailed questionnaires that were mailed to all German households. The question was: Jewish or non-Jewish?
I could always, without perjuring myself, write: non-Jewish. In the schools it is not the teacher, but the pupils, who exercise authority. The refusal of parents to "allow their children to join the youth organization" is regarded as an adequate reason for taking the children away. All subjects - German Language, History, Geography Chemistry and Mathematics - must concentrate on military subjects - the glorification of military service and of German heroes and leaders and the strength of a regenerated Germany.
Chemistry will inculcate a knowledge of chemical warfare, explosives. Buna, etc. In , when I had reached the age of ten, I was sent to the Paulsen Realgymnasium. We were thus forced to "defend" ourselves. This was rather simple. Our Latin master set us an interminable extract from Caesar for translation. He was only sixteen, but as a leader in the Hider Youth he could not allow such obstructionism to hinder us in the performance of duties which were much more important than our school work. From that day onwards the question of homework was settled. Whenever we did not want to do it we were simply "on duty," and no one dared to say any more about it.
I had never thought much about being "well educated"; but a German man must know something about the history of his own people so as to avoid repeating the mistakes made by former generations. Gradually, one after the other of the old masters was weeded out. The new spirit had come to stay. We obeyed orders and we acknowledged the leadership principle, because we wanted to and because we liked it. Discipline is necessary, and young men must learn to obey. School was the serious side of life, never meant to make a child happy. I began first grade at Easter , but since Hitler changed the beginning of the school year to the fall shortly afterward, I am not quite sure whether my first year was very short or very long.
At any rate, the war had already eaten into resources and materials, as well as the supply of male teachers, most of whom were drafted. In these efforts she was aided by two canes cut from a filbert bush, one thin and one thick. She used them for slight infractions Over the course of two years she used her filbert canes on my hands at least four times, three times for whispering answers to kids she had called on. Each time I had to leave my crowded bench and walk, embarrassed and infuriated, to the front of the classroom and onto the podium to receive a couple of stinging lashes on my outstretched hand.
There had been a lot of changes in school, too after Some had been barely noticed, others had been introduced as though with drums and trumpets. None of my neatly dressed, well-behaved primary-school mates questioned the new books, the new songs, the new syllabus, the new rules or the new standard script, and when - in line with national socialist educational policies - the number of PT periods was increased at the expense of religious instruction or other classes, and competitive field-events added to the curriculum, the less studious and the fast-legged among us were positively delighted.
The rector spelled it out for us. It is what you want in order to grow strong and healthy! In class, Frau Bienert, our form teacher, explained why a healthy mind could only be found in a healthy body, and - instead of two PT periods a week - the revised time-table featured a daily class and a compulsory weekly games afternoon.
Running, jumping, throwing balls, climbing ropes, swinging on the bars or doing rhythmic exercises to music, we fitted smoothly into the new pattern of things, into a scheme which, for most of us, appeared to be an attractive feature of national socialism, for an hour spent in the gym or on the sports pitch seemed infinitely preferable to sweating over arithmetic or German grammar.
I loved the new physical-fitness programme, but not the loud, aggressive songs we had to learn, the texts of which our music teacher would rattle off in a funereal voice. But then, Fraulein Kanitzki had been born in the Cameroons and suffered from bouts of malaria, which, in our eyes, entitled her to some form of eccentricity.
And it was no secret that she never raised her arm in the "Heil Hitler! The new greeting was, after all, a bore. Arm up, arm down. Up, down. But it was the formal salute in Germany now, and everyone did as they were told, including my father. The common people spoke Alsatian, a German dialect, and had no trouble switching. But I, from a bourgeois background, spoke only French.
My brother gave me a crash course, allowing me, three months later, to return to school It was now obligatory for children to be sent to the local school.
All Alsatian teachers were sent to Germany for Umschulung retraining