•Message •Dictatorship •Democracy •Citizen •Civic education
(See the main glossary in the unit’s “Introduction” for definitions of these key terms.)
is this lesson about?
In Lesson 11, students explored the impact of Nazi propaganda on the attitudes andactions of the German public. One of the critical audiences for this propaganda was German youth. Time and time again, Hitler spoke of the importance of indoctri-nating German youth to Nazi ideals. In a 1935 speech to Nazi party ofﬁcials, Hitlerdeclared, “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future,”
and four years later heannounced, “I am beginning with the young. . . . With them I can make a new world.”
What kind of youth did the Nazis believe would best support their plans for Germany?On that point, Hitler was very speciﬁc. In the following speech, he described the idealGerman youth:
A violently active, dominating, intrepid, brutal youth—that is what I am after. Youthmust be all those things. It must be indifferent to pain. There must be no weakness ortenderness in it. I want to see once more in its eyes the gleam of pride and independ-ence of the beast of prey. . . . I intend to have an athletic youth—that is the first andthe chief thing. . . . I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my young men.
As soon as the Nazis came to power, they set in motion the process of permeating the lifeof German youth with Nazi propaganda. One of the critical spaces where the Nazishoped to indoctrinate German youth was in the schools. Recalling his experience as astudent in Nazi Germany, Alfons Heck shares:
Unlike our elders, we children of the 1930s had never known a Germany withoutNazis. From our very first year in the
or elementary school, we receiveddaily doses of Nazism. These we swallowed as naturally as our morning milk. Neverdid we question what our teachers said. We simply believed what was crammed intous. And never for a moment did we doubt how fortunate we were to live in a country with such a promising future.
Heck’s memory illustrates how the Nazis redesigned the school curriculum toward teach-ing students not to think but to unquestioningly accept. They changed the curriculum inother ways, too. The teaching of race science in all subjects became mandatory and physi-cal education was emphasized. Additionally, girls and boys were offered different course- work, usually in separate schools. While the boys took classes in military history and sci-ence, the girls took classes in cooking and child-rearing. When studying this history, it is important to focus not only on what the Nazis did, buton how Germans responded to their actions. In order for Hitler’s plans to work, teachersneeded to execute the Nazi curriculum in the classroom. But did they? According to