Saturday, December 4, 2021

Young Nazis: How I uncovered the close ties between British private schools and Hitler’s Germany

In the spring of 1936, teenage schoolboy – and later war hero – Dick Hargreaves was offered the opportunity to go on an all-expenses-paid exchange trip to Germany. But this was no ordinary school exchange – Hargreaves’ destination was Oranienstein, one of a system of new elite boarding schools known as the National Institute of Political Education (“Napoles” for short).

These Nazi colleges were clearly based on a mixture of British public schools, the Prussian cadet corps and the rigorous educational practices of ancient Sparta. The schools educated boys from the age of ten, training them to be future leaders of the Third Reich. By participating in the exchange, Hargreaves and ten of his peers from the Dauntsey School in Wiltshire, England, would soon become aware of Napoleon’s “total” program of education, education and National Socialist propaganda.

Hargreaves’ initial impressions recorded in his diary at the time are highly favourable. Situated in the town of Diez an der Lahn near Koblenz, the school has been described as “a very nice place … a huge palace, modern and very posh – chair, super lab, stables … school bicycle and paradise . [knows] What!” According to the diary, everyone is “extraordinarily decent”, and the boys’ Nazi uniforms are “really very smart – light khaki corduroy breeches, black riding boots, khaki coat, red armband with swastika, brown Color coat lapels, blue shoulder straps and talk of a dagger”.

‘Very smart really’: young German schoolchildren reading a Nazi newspaper at NPEA Rügen, 1943.
Dietrich Schultz

Most interesting, however, is an unbiased overview of the Nazi May Day celebrations in Diez’s neighboring town of Diez. On April 30, 1936, his diary records a visit “with our comrades” by the Hitler Youth to hoist the Maypole and watch folk dances. The boys listened to speeches by some of the “big bugs of the city”. There was also a community singing in which everyone participated.

There was a fair bit of ‘healing’ which we also did because we were in a big rush. It was a spectacular sight – the old palace above the market lit by thousands of enthusiastic farmers with torches and candlelight …

The following Friday, 1 May, which was the spring festival or “Fruhlingsfest”, Hargreaves’ diary records that the boys had to get up at six to salute the flag and parade. They then went to Diaz where they gathered with the local Hitler Youth to listen to a 90-minute speech broadcast on Hitler’s radio.

That same afternoon, the boys returned to Dietz to hear another long speech by “Der Führer”. Hargreaves noted:

He worked himself into such a frenzy and was able to move the crowd in such a tremendous way that we saw three people faint. Not out of fatigue or crush but with his amazing oratory power. Then when Hitler was ‘healed’ from the earth, Goering talked for half an hour!

Here, the way foreign observers can easily be seduced into the fervor of “healing” and the Hitlerism around them is poignantly explained—though the intertwined speeches between Hitler and his henchmen are soon given. It seems to have been pacified.

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‘cultural messenger’

My decade-long research project on Napoleonic history – published as The Elite Schools of the Third Reich: A History of the Napoleons – has shown that, during the 1930s, hundreds of students participated in this program of exchange and sport. had participated in. Tournament.

Group of young German schoolchildren during a shooting exercise at the NPEA Rügen, c.1944.
Ready for action: Young German schoolboys learn to shoot.
Dietrich Schultz, author provided

For example, between 1935 and 1938, Napola Oranienstein participated in exchanges with British private schools, including Westminster, St Paul’s, Tonbridge School, Dountsay and Bingley School in Yorkshire. The school also entertained the headmasters and exchange teachers of Shrewsbury School, Dountsay and Bolton School, and was involved in sports tournaments with Eton, Harrow, Westminster, Winchester, Shrewsbury, Bradfield and Bryanston.

Napoles also participated in exchange programs with several US academies under the auspices of the International Schoolboy Fellowship. American schools involved include Tabor Academy in Massachusetts, St. Andrews Delaware and Phillips Academy Andover – all considered top-drawer educational establishments.

Ultimately, the Nazi regime wanted German boys and workers to act as “cultural ambassadors” of the Third Reich, increasing sympathy for Hitler’s policies, and spreading pro-Nazi propaganda. Many British headmasters of the time were understood to have had knowledge of these exchanges.

Young Nazis: How I uncovered the close ties between British private schools and Hitler's Germany
In Phase: Marching Band at NPEA Rügen, 1943.
Dietrich Schultz, author provided

EK Milliken, head of Lansing House Prep School in Lowestoft, England, was so enthralled by Napola’s own experiences in Naumburg that he even wrote an article expressing his belief that the exchanges would “further a spirit of true comradeship, so that the world could sleep better.” stands in dire need”, calling on all members of the Association of Prep Schools to welcome Napoleon with open arms.

Even those who were not readily convinced, such as Abby Sackett, headmaster of Kingswood School in Bath, expressed hope that the program could provide “an opportunity to influence the sons of senior Nazis by discussion and friendship”. .

The American response seems to have followed a similar pattern, with Walter Huston Lillard, headmaster of Tabor Academy, still trying to persuade American schools to continue the program – even after Kristallnacht, in November 1938. The infamous pogrom, during which homes, businesses and synagogues were systematically attacked in major cities across Jewish-owned Germany.

Overall, both British and American participants in the Napola exchange program were initially prepared to give the Nazis the benefit of the doubt. Although they could not be convinced of the aims and ideals of the Third Reich, they continued to hope that their national differences could be overcome in the name of international cooperation – at least until the Nazi insurgency reached its deadly peak.

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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