Nazi history teaching – guidelines from the NSDAP

The following guidelines for Nazi history teaching are taken from a 1938 manual produced by the Nationalsozialistischer Lehererbund, or Nazi Teacher’s League. Extract reproduced with the permission of the German Propaganda Archive.

“The German nation in its essence and greatness, in its fateful struggle for internal and external identity is the subject of the teaching of history. It is based on the natural bond of the child with his nation and, by interpreting history as the fateful struggle for existence between the nations, has the particular task of educating young people to respect the great German past and to have faith in the mission and future of their own nation and to respect the right of existence of other nations.

The teaching of history must bring the past alive for the young German in such a way that it enables him to understand the present, makes him feel the responsibility of every individual for the nation as a whole and gives him encouragement for his own political activity. It will thereby awaken in the younger generation that sense of responsibility towards ancestors and grandchildren which will enable it to let its life be subsumed in eternal Germany.

A new understanding of the German past has emerged from the faith of the National Socialist movement in the future of the German people. The teaching of history must come from this vital faith, it must fill young people with the awareness that they belong to a nation which of all the European nations had the longest and most difficult path to its unification but now, at the beginning of a new epoch, can look forward to what is coming full of confidence.

The certainty of a great national existence is for us based on the clear recognition of the basic racial forces of the German nation, which are always active and indestructibly enduring. Insight into the permanence of hereditary characteristics and the merely contingent significance of environment facilitates a new and deep understanding of historical personalities and contexts.

The course of history must not appear to our young people as a chronicle which strings events together indiscriminately, but, as in a play, only the important events, those which have a major impact on life, should be portrayed in history lessons. It is not only the successful figures who are important and have an impact on life, but also the tragic figures and periods; not only the victories but also the defeats. But it must always show greatness because in greatness, even when it intimidates, the eternal law is visible. Only a sentient grasp of great deeds is the precondition for an understanding of historical contexts; the powerless and insignificant have no history.”