School for Barbarians: Education Under the Nazis by Erika Mann (1938)

MannSchoolBarbariansThis is a 2014 Dover republication of Erika Mann’s book published in 1938. Since it is about the Nazi approach to education and the training of young people. So Ms. Mann did not know what we know about how this was going to work out, and seems to imply that she expected the Nazi regime to last longer than it did. That’s what comes of reading an old book, which is truly necessary to understanding history.

It’s very readable in terms of the writing style, but hard to read in the sense of breaking your heart. She has real details about real children and their lives being basically owned by Adolf Hitler. I really cannot imagine what it must be like to be a child in that environment, where girls were primarily being prepared to be Nazi mothers. Boys were being prepared to join the military and die for the fatherland.

Thinking was discouraged, books were all propaganda-laden and brutality was encouraged. The children knew absolutely nothing about the world outside of Germany, and not very much within the country except exactly what the Nazis want them to know. Still, the Epilogue is about Ms. Mann in New York, where two little boys from Germany are talking to her about their experiences. They were not really brainwashed, in the sense that they immediately recognized the differences between Germany and the US, and declare that they want to be Americans. “I won’t see another, I don’t want to see another swastika!” Recall, therefore, that these kids did not yet know who would win the war.

Statements in this review do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.