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‘Wanderer, kommst du nach Pforta …’: the tension between Classical tradition and the demands of a Nazi elite-school education at Schulpforta and Ilfeld, 1934–45

Roche, Helen



This paper explores the tensions which arose when Schulpforta, Germany's leading humanistic boarding school, was forcibly turned into a Nazi elite school (a Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalt, or Napola). The time-honoured traditions of Christianity and enlightened humanism previously cultivated at the erstwhile Landesschule zur Pforta (alma mater of Fichte, Ranke and Nietzsche) were swiftly subordinated to the demands of National Socialist ideology. Schulpforta, a former monastic foundation, was radically dechristianised, and the school's Classical curriculum soon served only to emphasise those aspects of Greco-Roman Antiquity which could ‘help the Third Reich achieve its destiny’, portraying the Greeks and Romans as proto-National Socialists, pure Aryan ancestors of the modern German race. The Napola curriculum focused on sport and pre-military training over academic excellence, and contemporary documentary evidence, memoirs and newly obtained eyewitness testimony all suggest that the Napola administration wished to assimilate Pforta with any other Napola. This idea is borne out by comparing the case of Napola Ilfeld, a former Klosterschule (monastery school) with a similar history. By the mid-1940s, Ilfeld had lost almost all connection with its humanistic past. Ultimately, we can see the erosion and Nazification of these schools' Christian and humanistic traditions as exemplifying in microcosm tendencies which were prevalent throughout the Third Reich.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 7, 2013
Online Publication Date Jun 25, 2013
Publication Date 2013
Deposit Date Nov 22, 2018
Journal European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire
Print ISSN 1350-7486
Electronic ISSN 1469-8293
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 4
Pages 581-609
Public URL