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Nazi Elite Boarding Schools and the Attempted Creation of a New Class System

Roche, Helen



Daniel Gerster

Felicity Jensz


This article uses the elite education provided by the Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten (Napolas), the Third Reich’s most prominent elite schools, as a case study of the Nazi regime’s drive to eradicate class-based social differences. Nazi propaganda claimed that the Napolas embodied the most ‘socialist’ elements of National Socialism, and that they were instrumental in realising the Nazi ideal of the racialised national community (Volksgemeinschaft). Pupils from working-class and farming backgrounds were particularly privileged, and older year-groups were sent to work in factories or down mines for months at a time to get to know the life of the German worker at first hand. The article explores the forms of assistance which the Napolas offered to facilitate pupils’ social mobility, as well as analysing some of the class tensions which were still manifest within the Napola system, including the predominantly middle-class nature of the schools’ recruits, and the school authorities’ desire to retain certain elements of ‘middle-class cultivation’ (bürgerliche Bildung) in their programme. Given sufficient time, it seems likely that the Napolas could have become instrumental in helping to consolidate a new, National Socialist caste structure—a class system of stratification based on racial rather than financial grounds of inclusion and exclusion.

Online Publication Date Nov 15, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Nov 24, 2023
Publicly Available Date Nov 16, 2024
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Pages 79-100
Book Title Global Perspectives on Boarding Schools in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Chapter Number 4
ISBN 9783030990404
Public URL