"Neither Political nor National Socialist": Former Nazi elite-school pupils' conflicts with their contested pasts

Presented at an international conference on ‘Memories of Conflict, Conflicts of Memory’, Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of London, 13 February 2013.

Now in their eighties or nineties, ex-pupils from the two most prominent types of Nazi elite-school, the Adolf-Hitler-Schools and the National-Political Education-Institutes (Napolas) finally feel able to discuss this part of their lives.

This paper aims to explore the diverse ways in which men of this generation – too young to be implicated in the Nazi regime’s crimes, yet old enough to have lived in its embrace from infancy to late adolescence – have come to terms with memories of their schooldays at these elite educational institutions, which aimed to prepare them for positions as future leaders of the ‘Thousand-Year Reich’.

Drawing upon new material which has never yet been presented, this paper aims to analyse the depoliticisation and contestation of these memories from the Nazi past, and to demonstrate the ways in which such conflicts of memory can have a life-long impact upon their subjects.

This paper forms part of a long-standing research project on the history of the Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten.

Material from this research has now been published in Helen’s monograph The Third Reich’s Elite Schools: A History of the Napolas and in German History journal.