Nazi Elite Schools and International Exchange

Presented at the University of Manchester as part of a seminar series entitled ‘Young in Dangerous Times: Children and Youth in Global History’, 13 February 2014.

The Napolas (Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten) were the most prominent type of Nazi elite school. Founded as a birthday present for Hitler in 1933 by Prussian Culture Minister Bernhard Rust, they aimed to educate future leaders of the Third Reich in all walks of life (including politics, economics, and the military). Before the outbreak of World War II, international exchanges with British public schools, U.S. academies and schools in Scandinavia formed an important part of school life – Napola pupils were seen as ‘cultural ambassadors’ for the Third Reich, who could potentially proselytise and convince youth in other ‘Nordic’ countries of the rightness of National Socialism.

This paper will explore some of the general background to these exchange programmes, before focusing on a series of exchanges between Napola Ilfeld and Kingswood School in Bath. The British public schools had long been perceived as an important model for the Napolas, but it was intended that the National Socialist model should prove itself incontrovertibly superior to that of the ‘Eton schools’. Using a mixture of contemporary documentary evidence and eyewitness testimony from former pupils on both sides of the Anglo-German divide, we can analyse the development – and deterioration – of relations on both sides, as the political situation steadily worsened.

An article focusing on Napola exchange-programmes with British public schools has now been published in Angermion: Yearbook for Anglo-German Literary Criticism, Intellectual History and Cultural Transfers / Jahrbuch für britisch-deutsche Kulturbeziehungen 6, 2013, pp. 101-126.