'The Biopolitics of Education in the Third Reich's "Special Schools" and "Elite Schools"'

The Historical Journal 66 (2), 2023, pp. 413-34.

While discussion of eugenics and biopolitics during the Third Reich has largely focused upon the regime’s most destructive and genocidal policies, this article concentrates on Nazi ‘special schools’ and ‘elite schools’ as a crucial sphere of quasi-eugenic thought and praxis, drawing attention to education as a previously under-researched category of intervention in the history of modern biopolitics.

The article also sheds new light on the racialized nature of the Nazi ‘national community’ (the Volksgemeinschaft), and contributes to recent debates on the Third Reich’s status as a ‘racial state’ which suggest that the National Socialist regime was driven less by fanatical adherence to racial ideology, and more by a mixture of anthropological and eugenic racism, combined with productivist pragmatism.

The two case-studies draw attention to less familiar corners of the National Socialist pedagogical landscape, covering both extremes of the spectrum of biological selection in education, from the negative, eugenic policies applied to supposedly ‘abnormal’ pupils at the so-called ‘special schools’ (Hilfsschulen), to the ‘positive’ biological selection of elite-school applicants at the National Political Education Institutes (Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten, NPEA), the regime’s principal training institutions for the future elite of the Third Reich.