What jobs did Hitler make available
In his 800-page, newly published book "Täterprofile", the former teacher Hans-Peter de Lorent portrays people who spread and implemented Hitler's ideology in the education system in Hamburg during the Nazi era. The biographies range from the Nazi school councilor to the sadistic sports teacher. In an interview with NDR.de, the 67-year-old talks about how, in decades of work, he managed to locate hundreds of perpetrators - and why many of the ardent National Socialists were allowed to continue teaching after the war.
Mr. de Lorent, did you yourself have experience with Nazi-influenced teachers during your school days?
Hans-Peter de Lorent: Oh yes, when I think of my former headmaster in Harburg, for example. At the time, we felt that he was ossified, extremely conservative school monarchs. When our hair got longer, he would tell us to go to the hairdresser. All those who were politically more left-wing or union-oriented, he had on the kieker. In 1968, for example, as a head boy, I called on people to take part in the star march against the emergency laws in Bonn. The demo fell on a Saturday when we had class. As a result, this man put insane pressure on and threatened that everyone who participated would not get a high school diploma. That's why only very few took part - and in the end there was no penalty at all. In the course of my research I have now found out that our headmaster at the time - like so many others - had a Nazi past and was even a member of the SA. After 1945 he was initially not employed in the government service for a long time. That's when I realized why we didn't get along so well.
How did you come to deal with those responsible in Hamburg's education system during the Nazi era?
De Lorent: In the 1980s I was the editor-in-chief of the Hamburg teachers' newspaper. In 1981 we started to publish a series called "School under the Swastika" because we realized that there was nothing on the subject at the time. The generation of those who had experienced National Socialism were unable to address this. But the post-war generation asked questions. At the beginning of this work we mainly took the perspective of the persecuted. We wrote portraits of those who resisted, were thrown out of school and some were sent to concentration camps or were murdered. We described everyday school life under the swastika and devoted ourselves to topics such as the murdered children in the school on Bullenhuser Damm. After we presented the story of the victims, I asked myself: what about the perpetrators?
Was there such a thing as the typical Nazi teacher?
De Lorent: The most ardent National Socialists who spread Hitler's ideology in schools came from two different socializations. On the one hand, there were those born around 1900 who had more than just made ends meet in the economically difficult times of the Weimar Republic. At the beginning of their rule in Hamburg, the Nazis initially dismissed hundreds of teachers from the school system through personnel policy measures, be they Jewish or politically dissenters. In addition, a change in the law meant that many retired early. They then filled these vacancies with those who had previously shifted from job to job - and were accordingly grateful for their permanent position. The other type of Nazi teachers were those who had been at the front in World War I. Many former officers taught or ran the schools. They saw with National Socialism the time had come to eradicate the shame of the lost First World War.
Hans-Peter de Lorent / State Center for Political Education: "Perpetrator profiles. Those responsible in Hamburg's education system under the swastika". Hamburg 2016, price: 3 euros.
How was teaching?
De Lorent: Great emphasis was placed on physical education, which was very military. A healthy body was the top priority for the Nazis. The boys were trained to fight, the girls to have children. Otherwise there were subjects such as heredity and race studies, in the lesson the rule was mostly: "Hands on the tables, only those who are asked speak". Beatings were part of everyday life. Those who were weak or different were marginalized. Contemporary witnesses such as Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi, whose father came from Liberia, report how teachers tortured and insulted them massively in class. The discrimination of a teacher even drove the Jewish student and later intellectual Ralph Giordano into a suicide attempt. However, it must also be said that not all Nazi teachers were sadists. For example, Loki Schmidt later reported on a teacher at the reform pedagogical Lichtwark School, who was a high-ranking Nazi, but who had supported her. Students who saw this teacher after he was reinstated in the 1950s found him educationally inspiring. Overall, well over half of the Hamburg teaching staff were likely to have been members of the NSDAP or other NS organizations.
What happened to the Nazi teachers after the war?
De Lorent: Everyone had to fill out a denazification form, then everyone who had joined the NSDAP by 1933 was dismissed. A large part was later used again in the school service. On the one hand, this was due to the fact that around 95 percent of the people were involved in the National Socialist regime, "and only the remaining five percent cannot make a state," as the mayor of the time, Max Brauer, once said. Many of course tried to wash themselves off and denied their involvement in the Nazi system or said they had acted under duress. Those who didn't have a chance in Hamburg because the burden of proof was too overwhelming often made it to school in other federal states, sometimes under a false identity. At times during my research, however, I was wondering what Nazi perpetrators were allowed to continue to work as teachers or even headmasters into old age.
How did you find out all of this?
De Lorent: I started collecting personal data systematically. My archive now includes around 300 personnel files. When I started in the 1980s, however, there was the problem that many of the perpetrators or their widows were still alive. Therefore, their files were subject to data protection and the NSDAP archive had not yet been released. It is now possible to access the personnel files, to view denazification and military files. The NSDAP card index in the Berlin Federal Archives also offers a lot of material. However, you have to know who you are looking for.
How did you know the names of the perpetrators?
De Lorent: From 1911 to the 1960s there were teacher directories in which all Hamburg teachers, school principals and the school administration are listed by name. An oppositional teacher friend of mine had all the directories from this time at home - and thanked me for making them available to me. So it was possible for me to understand the careers of the perpetrators: Who was hired where and when? Who was appointed head of school during the Nazi era? Where did these people work after the war? When I was dealing with the directories, I also realized quite a few Nazi teacher networks.
What reactions have you received to your book so far?
De Lorent: There has been a very large, almost entirely positive response to the book. For one, I get a lot of reactions from the descendants of those portrayed. Many suspected: There was something with Grandpa - but he never said anything specific. Now many are happy that they know. At the moment I'm writing volume 2 of the "perpetrator profiles" - although you could continue to work on the subject for 20 years if you consider how many thousands of teachers must have been involved.
The interview was conducted by Kristina Festring-Hashem Zadeh, NDR.de
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Culture journal | 03/21/2016 | 10:45 p.m.
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