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Subject: Re: Education in Hitler Germany
Date: 04 Mar 1999

Here is a short paper I wrote a year ago on the subject:



1- In Germany, education has traditionally been administered by the
state. Teachers are employed by the state and are held in high regard.
At the Oberschule level, many have doctorates. This was so prior to
Hitler, during the Third Reich, and is true to this day.

2- During the Weimar Republic, schools were segregated by gender. They
remained so under Hitler. Today, schools are co-educational.

3- Many schools were run by the major religious denominations, Lutheran
or Catholic, until all schools were made non-denominational in, I
believe, 1933 or 1934.

4- School started at age six. The first four grades were called
`Grundschule,` or `basic school.` The emphasis during those grades was
on reading, writing and arithmetic. It should be noted for the
English-speaking reader that German students have far less difficulty
learning to read and write German than do English-speaking students
have learning to read and write English. This is because German is a
phonetic language, and the spelling of words follows naturally from
their spoken sounds. At the end of fourth grade, all would know how to
write essays and spell word correctly.

5- Toward the end of fourth grade, students could be admitted to an
examination that determined their eligibility for `Oberschule` (Upper
School). This was a one-day affair and consisted of essay writing,
speed dictation, reading aloud, reading for meaning, longhand
arithmetic problems and speed arithmetic (adding, subtracting and
multiplying two-digit numbers in your head at speed). A similar exam,
not as demanding, may have been required for the Mittelschule.

6- Those students who took the Oberschule entrance exam and passed it
then continued on to `Oberschule.` Oberschule encompassed eight grades
and ended with a very difficult, comprehensive exam called the
`Abitur.` Admission to any university required the Abitur. The Abitur
was administered centrally by the state. The number of students who
passed the Abitur was adjusted year by year to fit the number of places
available for freshmen at the universities in the country.

7- There were two kinds of Oberschulen:

 a- The Gymnasium prepared for the learned professions, such as the law
and medicine. Foreign languages taught were Latin, Greek and a third
electi ve one. The languages were phased in consecutively: Latin
started in fifth grade (age ten), Greek in seventh grade, and the third
language two years later. Reading s in the classics were emphasized, so
was art, rhetoric, history, philosophy, religions and similar subjects
of classical importance. The objective was to produce a humanistically
oriented person well rounded in the classics, ready to attend
universities (Universitaeten).

 b- The Realgymnasium prepared for the study of the technical professions,
i.e. engineering, architecture and the sciences in general. Foreign
languages were English, Latin and a third, elective one which could be
dropped in favor of more physics and chemistry. The third-language
electives in my school in 1940-1945 were French and Italian. The
emphasis was on the sciences: Biology, zoology, botany, physics,
chemistry. Math eductation led through calculus. The objective was to
produce candidates for the technical universities (Technische

8- There were three kinds of special political schools:

 a- The Adolf-Hitler-Schulen. Shirer* says that they were run by the
Hitler Youth, that they took youngsters at age twelve and `gave them
six years of intensive training for leadership in the party and in the
public service. The pupils lived at the school under Spartan discipline
and on graduation were eligible for the university. There were ten such
schools founded after 1937.` One of my fellow PWs was a graduate of
such a school.

 b- The Nationalpolitischen Schulen (Napolis). Shirer
says: `[Their purpose was] to restore the type of education formerly
given in the old Prussian military academies. This `... cultivated the
soldierly spirit, with its attributes of courage, sense of duty and
simplicity. To this was added special training in Nazi principles. The
s chools were under the supervision of the SS, which furnished the
headmasters and most of the teachers. Three such schools were
established in 1933 and grew to thirty-one before the outbreak of the
war, three of them for women.` I know nothing about these schools.

 c- The Ordensburgen also were residential schools. There were four of
them, and all students attended all four, one at a time, in a
predetermined sequence. Shirer says: `Only the most fanatical young
National Socialists were chosen, usually from the top ranks of the
Adolf-Hitler-Schulen. There were four of these castles, and a student
attended successivly all of them.` Further paraphrasing Shirer: The
course took altogether six years. The first year was spent on racial
science and other Nazi ideology, with emphasis on mental training. The
second year was devoted to athletics, sports and physical fitness. The
next eighteen months offered political and military instruction. The
final eighteen months were within the ancient walls of the Marienburg,
the East Prussian castle of the old order of the Teutonic Knights,
where the political and military training was continued with emphasis
on Lebensraum acquisition in the east. I remember the Ordensburg at
Sonthofen, near where the family vacationed, but nothing else about

9- The `Mittelschule` level prepared for the mid-level, non-academic
professions and positions in society. I believe it had six years, i.e.
ended with the tenth grade. Its objective was to produce pragmatically
oriented graduates that would be the backbone of the middle class which
had its roots in commerce, the civil service and general societal
services. I believe it was the traditional school for girls to enter
after Grundschule, because academic university training for females was
considered a waste of resources at the time.

10- The `Volkschule` was for those that `stayed behind.,` i.e. did not,
or did not want to, qualify for Oberschule or Mittelschule. It
continued on for four more grades and graduated its students after the
eighth grade, at age fourteen. Many of these graduates entered
apprenticeships. What happened to the others, I don't remember . In any
event, they were destined to become the laborers and ditch diggers of

11- Apprenticeship was a time-honored way to get ahead. A fourteen-year
old would contract with a trade master for an apprenticeship. This
contract could be broken only for cause. The contract stipulated that
the master would teach the apprentice the trade, and for the apprentice
to learn it. The apprenticeships, and their contracts , were
administered by the guilds, with the assistance of the state. Most
apprenticeships were for four years, some for five, and some perhaps
for three or even two years. At the end of his apprenticeship, the
student would pass his journeyman exam, which consisted of both
theoretical and practical parts. Apprentices were paid on a sliding
scale, with very little at first, then rising to full journeyman pay at
the end. A journeyman was allowed to practice his trade and make his
living at it, but he could not teach it. To really set himself up in
business, a tradesman found it desirable if not necessary to become a
trade master. That involved a specified number of practice years in the
trade, preferably if not compulsorily with several different trade
masters. The journeyman would then prepare his masterpiece, stand for
a difficult examination by the guild and, once passed, become a guild
member. Several of my friends in Grundschule became apprentices.

12- These systems were largely traditional well before Hitler's time
and continue, with some modifications, to this day. There are two major
changes that occurred during the past fifty years and that meet the
eye: (a) All schools are now coeducational, with females given equal
access at all levels; (b) In an effort to give young people more
choices and to better suit their individual personalities and
preferences, the system has become vastly more complicated. Different
schooling opportunities, different educational branches and tracks
abound, and it has become quite possible to shift from one branch to
another, though perhaps at the cost of a few months or a year of time.
For example, a journeyman can attend a special school for a year or
two, mak e the abitur and qualify for training at a technical

Note: This is how I remember the system. I am sure that I am wrong in
some details, but the essentials were as I remember them today, and
they have not changed all that much.

* William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich; New York: Simon
and Schuster, 1960; p. 255.


I hope this will prompt comments and questions. -- Heinz (Heinz Altmann)

"I have no desire to win, only to get things right." A.J.P. Taylor

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