University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > German Graduate Research Seminar > "DU HAST DICH ALS ECHTER KÄMPFER, ALS TAPFERER HITLER-JUNGE, ALS BRAVER SPARTANER ERWIESEN!": The importance of Sparta in national-socialist elite education (a case study)

"DU HAST DICH ALS ECHTER KÄMPFER, ALS TAPFERER HITLER-JUNGE, ALS BRAVER SPARTANER ERWIESEN!": The importance of Sparta in national-socialist elite education (a case study)

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Praised by Hitler himself as ‘the foremost racial state in antiquity’, ancient Sparta was presented in national-socialist thought as the ideal of a totalitarian, Aryan state whose defining characteristics (life in an ordered community, enslavement of conquered races, and permanent readiness for war) mirrored uncannily those of the new Germany. however, than in the Third Reich’s elite-schools. At the Adolf-Hitler-Schools, boys had to study a textbook on Sparta entitled ‘The Life-struggle of an Aryan master-race’, which subordinated historical accuracy to make Spartan history ‘fit’ National-Socialist ideological tropes. At the National-political Educational Institutes (‘Napolas’), boys were also encouraged to identify themselves with young Spartans, in order to promote the schools’ cardinal virtues, such as unconditional bravery and readiness for self-sacrifice in war. Napolas in general, and at one particular schooll, Napola Naumburg, in particular. From correspondence with a number of ex-pupils, I have been able to reconstruct a vivid picture of what exactly their ‘Spartan education’ entailed. Their self-identification with young Spartans was encouraged by a large proportion of the teaching-staff, and, during the winter holiday of 1943-44, one class was made to memorise a long text on Sparta, which also contained (unknown to them) a German translation of a poem by Tyrtaios (Fr.11-West). The way that the rest of the (more ideologically-loaded) text frames the poem, and the ways in which Tyrtaios’ poetry was used educationally during this period, are interesting in themselves – however, my main aim would be to present as complete a picture as possible of the way the Nazis’ use of Spartan ideology took practical shape at this particular school. Since the evidence is based on eyewitness testimony which I have only just been able to recover, the paper’s content would be the fruit of completely original research, which has never yet been presented or published in English.

This paper would focus on the experiences of boys at the

This talk is part of the German Graduate Research Seminar series.

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