Sparta's German Children: The ideal of ancient Sparta in the Royal Prussian Cadet-Corps, 1818-1920, and in National Socialist elite schools (the Napolas), 1933-1945

published by the Classical Press of Wales, Swansea 2013.

From the eighteenth century until 1945, German children were taught to model themselves on the young of an Ancient Greek city-state: Sparta. From older children, from teachers in the classroom, and from higher authority first in Prussia, then in Imperial and National Socialist Germany, came images of Sparta designed to inculcate ideals of endurance, discipline and of military self-sacrifice.  In treating the final period of this process, the author has collected testimony from numerous surviving German witnesses who attended the Napolas as children in the early 1940s. Read more...

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Brill's Companion to the Classics, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany

edited by Helen Roche and Kyriakos Demetriou (Brill's Companions to Classical Reception, Volume 12), Leiden 2017.

Intended for a wide readership, this volume offers the first ever comprehensive guide to the manifold uses and reinterpretations of the classical tradition in Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. The essays within the collection explore the ways in which the classical past was constantly recreated to fit Nazi and Fascist ideology. Political propaganda manipulated the legacy of ancient Greece and Rome in order to create consensus and historical legitimation for the Fascist and National Socialist dictatorships. Read more...

German Philhellenism: PEGS Volume 82, Issue 3

Guest-edited Special Issue of Publications of the English Goethe Society, October 2013.

Inspired by the proceedings of a colloquium on ‘German Philhellenism’ held at Cambridge University in 2012, this volume includes: 'Visions of Philhellenism in the Poetry of Wilhelm von Humboldt: Between historical analysis and idealized modernity' (Felix Saure); '"Life in the Whole": Goethe and English Aestheticism' (Stefano-Maria Evangelista), and '"Anti-Enlightenment": National Socialist educators’ troubled relationship with humanism and the philhellenist tradition' (Helen Roche). Read more...



'Blüte und Zerfall: "Schematic Narrative Templates" of decline and fall in völkisch and National Socialist racial ideology'

in The Persistence of Race: Continuity and Change in Germany from the Wilhelmine Empire to National Socialism, ed. Lara Day, Oliver Haag, Oxford (Berghahn) 2017, pp. 65-86.

At the turn of the 20th century, the idea that the destinies of races, nations and empires were universal and biologically determined (wherever and whenever in human history they existed) was the preserve of a minority of racial theorists and academics. However, within a few decades, such ideas came to dominate National Socialist thought, and were propagated in ideological and educational material throughout the Third Reich. Read more...

'Classics and Education in the Third Reich: "Die Alten Sprachen" and the Nazification of Latin- and Greek-teaching in secondary schools'

 in Brill's Companion to the Classics, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, ed. Helen Roche, Kyriakos Demetriou Leiden (Brill), pp. 283-63.

Focusing upon a specific corpus of articles published in Die Alten Sprachen, the Classics teachers’ periodical produced by the Nazi Teachers’ League, this article examines some of the ways in which the Nazi regime sought to politicise the Classics for educational purposes. Whatever the topic in hand, Classics teachers in the Third Reich constantly sought to present the ancient past as an explicit “paradigm and warning” for the National Socialist present. Read more...

'Sport, Leibeserziehung und vormilitärische Ausbildung in den Nationalpolitischen Erziehungsanstalten: Eine “radikale” Revolution der körperlichen Bildung im Rahmen der NS- “Gesamterziehung”?'

in Beiträge zur Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus 32, 2016 (special issue on Sport und Nationalsozialismus, ed. Frank Becker, Ralf Schäfer), pp. 173-196.

Right from their very inception, sport was always a crucial part of life at the Napolas, the most prominent type of Nazi elite-school. From the gruelling physical aspects of the entrance examination, to the wealth of extracurricular opportunities provided for learning exotic or elite types of sport such as riding, fencing, sailing and skiing, pupils’ time was dedicated just as much to physical training and exercise as it was to academic or intellectual pursuits. Read more...

'Herrschaft durch Schulung: The Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten im Osten and the Third Reich's Germanising mission'

in Nationalsozialismus und Regionalbewusstsein im östlichen Europa. Ideologie, Machtausbau, Beharrung (Regionen des östlichen Europas im 20. Jahrhundert Bd. 3), ed. Burkhard Olschowsky, Ingo Loose, Berlin (De Gruyter) 2016, pp. 128-151.

From their very inception in 1933, the Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten (Napolas) were conceived by their founders not only as the principal training schools for the future elite of the Third Reich, but as being of crucial benefit to the Nazi regime’s mission to Germanise the Eastern territories. Read more...

'"Wanderer, kommst du nach Sparta oder nach Stalingrad?" Ancient ideals of self-sacrifice and German military propaganda'

in Making Sacrifices: Visions of Sacrifice in European and American Cultures (Opfer bringen: Opfervorstellungen in europäischen und amerikanischen Kulturen), ed. Nicholas Brooks, Gregor Thuswaldner, Vienna (New Academic Press) 2016, pp. 66-86.

Since antiquity, the heroic fight to the last of King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans against the overwhelming might of the Persian Empire has often been considered the ultimate expression of sacrificial patriotism. This article considers the juxtaposition of supposedly ‘ancient’ and ‘modern’ notions of patriotic self-sacrifice in German military propaganda during the 20th century. Read more...

'Xenophon and the Nazis: A case study in the politicisation of Greek thought through educational propaganda'

Classical Receptions Journal 8 (1), 2016 (special issue on The Legacy of Greek Political Thought, edited by Barbara Goff and Miriam Leonard), pp. 71-89.

During the Third Reich, radical reinterpretations of Classical texts were always on the agenda. The Reich Education Ministry decreed unequivocally that only those ancient texts which were deemed of value for the Nazi regime’s new ‘national-political’ education should be taught in schools. This sometimes led to the pre-eminence of texts which had previously been considered less worthy – the writings of Xenophon being a case in point. Read more...

'Surviving Stunde Null: Narrating the fate of Nazi elite-school pupils during the collapse of the Third Reich'

 German History 33 (4), 2015, pp. 570-587.

Winner of German History journal's "Best Article of 2015" prize.

This paper considers the experiences of one particular, rarely-discussed group of 'war children': former pupils of the Napolas – the most prominent type of Nazi elite-school. Drawing upon a variety of original testimonies, the paper explores the hardships and dilemmas which Napola-pupils faced as World War II drew to a close, and the ways in which former pupils have attempted to present this aspect of their past in memoirs and personal recollections. Read more...

'Kadettengeschichten: Exploring the Prussian cadet-school story'

 in Books for Boys: Literacy, Nation and the First World War, ed. Simon James, Durham (DIAS) 2014, pp. 20-25.

This short essay investigates a little-known genre of German children's literature, the Prussian cadet-school story, exploring the ways in which patriotic feeling and the prospect of a martial career were justified or glorified in volumes such as Paul von Szczepanski’s Spartanerjünglinge (Spartan Youths), Hans Nikolaus Ernst Graf von Bernstorff's Im Bunten Rock (The King's Coat) and Johannes van Dewall’s Kadettengeschichten (Cadet-Tales). Read more...

'Zwischen Freundschaft und Feindschaft: Exploring relationships between pupils at the Napolas and British public schoolboys'

in Angermion: Yearbook for Anglo-German Literary Criticism, Intellectual History and Cultural Transfers / Jahrbuch für britisch-deutsche Kulturbeziehungen 6, 2013, pp. 101-126.

Between 1934 and 1939, pupils from the Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten engaged in a series of exchanges with boys from British public schools. This article explores in detail the Anglo-German relationships – including tensions and prejudices – which were forged between pupils and staff during these exchanges, focusing particularly on those exchange programmes which were organised with Dauntsey's, Kingswood, and The Leys. Read more...

'"Wanderer, kommst du nach Pforta…": The tension between Classical tradition and the demands of a Nazi elite-school education at Schulpforta and Ilfeld, 1934–1945'

European Review of Historyin European Review of History / revue européenne d'histoire 20 (4), 2013, pp. 581-609.

This article explores the tensions which arose when Schulpforta, Germany’s most renowned 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. Read more...

‘"Anti-Enlightenment": National Socialist Educators’ Troubled Relationship with Humanism and the Philhellenist Tradition'

in Publications of the English Goethe Society 82 (3), 2013, pp. 193-207.

This article examines some of the ways in which scholars and educators under National Socialism attempted to construct a model of philhellenism for the ‘Thousand Year Reich’ which explicitly defined itself as descended from, yet opposed to, earlier manifestations of the phenomenon, especially as personified by Enlightenment figures such as Winckelmann and Goethe. Turning the ideal of the Humboldtian Gymnasium on its head, they also proclaimed a return to the true, ‘living’ spirit of the original Greek gymnasion. Read more...

"'In Sparta fühlte ich mich wie in einer deutschen Stadt" (Goebbels): The Leaders of the Third Reich and the Spartan Nationalist Paradigm'

in English and German Nationalist and Antisemitic Discourse, 1871-1945, ed. Felicity Rash, Geraldine Horan, Daniel Wildmann, Oxford (Peter Lang) 2013, pp. 91-115.

This article examines some of the ways in which many of the Third Reich's leading figures (including Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Rust and Rosenberg) treated Sparta as the perfect paradigm of a racially-pure warrior-state, as well as claiming that, in a certain sense, the Reich was Sparta incarnate. Read more...

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'Spartan Supremacy: A "Possession for Ever"? Early fourth-century expectations of enduring ascendancy'

in Hindsight in Greek and Roman History, ed. Anton Powell, Swansea (Classical Press of Wales) 2013, pp. 91-112.

This article explores and analyses the ways in which historians, both modern and ancient, have applied hindsight to the Spartan empire of 404-371 B.C., and to its downfall. Many modern treatments of the period are even labelled as studies in Spartan failure, and thus betray a tendency to over-emphasise error and lack of foresight on the part of Sparta. Read more...

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'"Go, tell the Prussians...": The Spartan paradigm in Prussian military thought during the long nineteenth century'

in New Voices in Classical Reception Studies ejournal, Issue 7 (2012), pp. 25-39.

This article examines the ways in which Ancient Spartan history and mores, and in particular the Spartan art of war, were often portrayed as providing useful precedents for the Prussian military. Commentators frequently saw the Officer-Corps as embodying a type of ‘new Sparta’ in Prussia, recreating a similarly militaristic and socially exclusive society in contemporary terms. Read more...

'"Spartanische Pimpfe": The Importance of Sparta in the Ideology of the Adolf Hitler Schools'

in Sparta in Modern Thought. Politics, History and Culture, ed. Stephen Hodkinson, Ian Macgregor Morris, Swansea (Classical Press of Wales) 2012, pp. 315-42.

This article explores the ways in which an ancient history textbook by the well-known archaeologist and educator Otto-Wilhelm von Vacano, entitled 'Sparta: The Life-Struggle of an Aryan Master Race', was used to encourage pupils at the Adolf Hitler Schools to identify with young Spartans, and to see Spartan history in proto-National Socialist terms. Read more...


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'"Spartanische Pädagogik deutscher Art": The influence of Sparta on the Royal Prussian Cadet Schools (1818-1920)'

in Das antike Sparta, ed. Anton Powell, Vassiliki Pothou, Stuttgart (Franz Steiner Verlag), 2017, pp. 157-180.

Based on an abridged version of the third and fourth chapters of the author's doctoral thesis, this article provides a useful summary of those findings which concern laconophilia in the Royal Prussian Cadet Corps. The paper on which the article is based was first presented at a conference of the International Sparta Seminar which took place at Regensburg University in September 2009. To read an abstract of the article in German, click here.

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'"Der Versuch einer Antwort, warum ich von Auschwitz nichts wußte": The evolution of Napola pupils' responses to the Holocaust'

Forthcoming in Früher/später: Zeugnisse in der Zeit, ed. A.S. Sarhangi, Alina Bothe, Berlin (Oldenbourg).

This paper looks at some of the ways in which pupils at the Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten have engaged with the Holocaust – both during their childhood in the Third Reich, and as adults. The article begins by exploring the ways in which anti-Semitic attitudes were fostered at the schools before World War II, before examining former pupils' recollections of close encounters which took place between pupils and concentration-camp prisoners towards the end of the war. Read more...


'Inhumane propaganda, humanely analysed?'

Review of David B. Dennis' Inhumanities. Nazi Interpretations of Western Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), in Reviews in History.

For the past few years, David B. Dennis has had the unenviable task of steeping himself in the (turgid, yet strangely compelling) prose of the Völkischer Beobachter, the Nazi party’s major propaganda organ, and the Third Reich’s daily paper of choice. The result is a synoptic compendium of National Socialist thought on major cultural and artistic figures, which is both chilling in the delusion it reveals, and startling in its originality. Read more...

From Humboldt to Hitler? The Third Reich's Education Ministry Revealed

Review of Anne C. Nagel's Hitlers Bildungsreformer. Das Reichsministerium für Wissenschaft, Erziehung und Volksbildung 1934-1945 (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 2012), in Reviews in History.

What's in a name? Often, particularly with books marketed at a more popular audience, all too much seems to be at stake - the controversy caused by Paul Preston's The Spanish Holocaust being a recent case in point. Thus far, criticism of Anne C. Nagel's 2012 volume, Hitlers Bildungsreformer, has followed similar lines. Read more...

Totalitarian Individualism? Berliners Under the Microscope from Weimar to the Wall

Review of Moritz Föllmer's Individuality and Modernity in Berlin: Self and Society from Weimar to the Wall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), published in the Book Reviews section of the Wiener Library Blog.

All too often, it is glibly assumed that the rise of individuality, the spirit of modernity, and the triumph of democracy must necessarily go hand in hand. Moritz Föllmer’s new monograph provides an important corrective to this frequently uninterrogated set of assumptions. Read more...

'An Uncompromising Generation' in a French Impressionist Key? Christian Ingrao's Anatomisation of "Intellectuals" in the SS War Machine

 Review of Christian Ingrao's Believe and Destroy: Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013), published in the Book Reviews section of the Wiener Library Blog.

In 2006, a publishing sensation erupted in France with the publication of Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones, a novel which sought to recreate the motivation and incremental brutalisation of an intelligent, educated SS officer, as he becomes ever more damningly implicated in the horrors of the Holocaust. It is in this spirit, too, that Christian Ingrao's most recent monograph has been conceived. Read more...

Masculinity and the German First World War Experience: A Secret History

Review of Jason Crouthamel's An Intimate History of the Front: Masculinity, Sexuality, and German Soldiers in the First World War (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), in Reviews in History.

In his classic thriller Greenmantle, first published in 1916, John Buchan describes his hero Richard Hannay's first encounter with his adversary, the German officer Colonel Ulrich von Stumm, in a fashion which hints at a hidden strain of sexual deviance within the German armed forces: Read more...

Review of 'German Philhellenism' by Damian Valdez

Review of Damian Valdez, German Philhellenism: The Pathos of the Historical Imagination from Winckelmann to Goethe (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), in Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 40 (1), March 2017, pp. 138-9.

Damian Valdez’s monograph provides a keen dissection of the clashing currents of idealism and historicism which shaped German thought on ancient Greece during the eighteenth century, placing idealism – and particularly idealists such as Goethe, Herder, Schlegel and Winckelmann – squarely within their respective historical and intellectual contexts. Read more...

Review of 'Contested Commemorations' by Benjamin Ziemann

Review of Contested Commemorations: Republican War Veterans and Weimar Political Culture, by Benjamin Ziemann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), in The English Historical Review 131 (553), December 2016, pp. 1569-71.

Views of the Weimar Republic as essentially anarchic, unloved and unmourned have been extensively questioned in recent scholarship. Still, popular pronouncements tend to perpetuate such impressions – witness one critic of the recent Berlin Metropolis 1919-1933 exhibition, who began his appraisal with the statement that ‘Nobody in Germany liked the Weimar Republic’. Read more...

History's proximity? Crisis and Colonisation in Greece - and the Greek Imagination

Review of Daniel M. Knight, History, Time, and Economic Crisis in Central Greece (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and Sheila Lecoeur, Mussolini’s Greek Island: Fascism and the Italian Occupation of Syros in World War II (London: I.B. Tauris, 2015), in Reviews in History.

There were times during the resurgence of the economic crisis in 2015 when it seemed as if 'Greek-bashing' had become a pan-European pastime. In this fraught international context, Daniel Knight’s first monograph provides a salutary reminder of the human consequences of austerity. Read more...

Review of 'Philanthropy, Civil Society, and the State in German History, 1815-1989' by Thomas Adam

Review of Philanthropy, Civil Society, and the State in German History, 1815-1989, by Thomas Adam (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2016), in the Modern Language Review 112 (3), July 2017, pp. 738-40.

The primary aim of Thomas Adam’s survey of philanthropy and its entangled relationship with the State in Germany is twofold. Firstly, he wishes to emphasise the indispensability of private donations and endowments to the maintenance of social and civic institutions in the spheres of education, culture, and poor relief. To this end, he asks his readers to imagine the cultural and social impoverishment of a hypothetical Germany without philanthropy. Read more...

Greek Debts: Literal and Symbolic; Ancient and Modern

Review of Johanna Hanink's The Classical Debt: Greek Antiquity in an Era of Austerity (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017), in Reviews in History.

At the height of the Greek financial crisis, reports from colleagues based in Athens painted a sorry picture of respectable citizens who had fallen upon hard times desperately rummaging in dustbins to supplement their dwindling larders. The statistics told an even grimmer story – between 2010 and 2011, suicide rates in Greece rose by 40 per cent. Read more...

Books worth (re)reading

Review essay, published in the International Journal of Play 5 (3), 2016 (special issue on Histories of Play, edited by Kate Darian-Smith and Simon Sleight), pp. 343-345.

Featuring George Eisen's Children and Play in the Holocaust: Games Among the Shadows (1988); Nicholas Stargardt's Witnesses of War: Children’s Lives under the Nazis (2006); Heidi Rosenbaum's “Und trotzdem war’s ’ne schöne Zeit”: Kinderalltag im Nationalsozialismus (2014), and Bastian Fleermann and Benedikt Mauer (eds) Kriegskinder: Kriegskindheiten in Düsseldorf 1939–1945 (2015).