Extract From Report of the Ambassador in Germany (Dodd)71

6. Current Educational Developments. Pending a basic reform of the school system to meet the new situations created by the prolongation of military service as well as by the need for engineers and mechanicians, German educational affairs appear to be in a momentary state of confusion.

One of the issues apparently giving trouble seems to be the extent to which political training of the university and secondary school students should be carried out. The institution which claims to be competent in this respect is the National Socialist Student League, which is in charge of Herr Derichsweiler, a Party radical of the first order, and which is supreme in the field formerly held by the various student corporations. This organization has its own uniform as well as its own Kameradschaftshäuser and summer camps in which, in conformity with a recently-issued decree, all new students will be expected to live during their first three semesters in order to acquire political training. According to an educational authority, the power of this organization to do mischief has grown so great as to lead to an intolerable state of affairs. It is reported that in several universities the students dare to badger professors concerning their political beliefs, besides spending a large part of their time in student politics which are enlivened by denunciations and threat of imprisonment, by the dismissal and setting up of new leaders, the issuance of orders and counter-orders, and so forth.

Reich Minister of Education Rust is said to be perturbed by this situation and it is learned that at the meeting in the Kroll Opera House on September 28 he said some strong words on this subject which were not printed in the Goebbels’72-controiled press (see Embassy’s despatch No. 3068 [3069] of September 29, 193672a). He exhorted the student representatives to attend strictly to their university work and to give up playing politics as well as wasting their time in beer halls. A few days later at Weimar, the well-known surgeon, Dr. [Page 185] Sauerbrueh, delivered a speech pleading for a return to methods of scientific training existing prior to 1914, an address which is said to have had the approval of the Ministry of Education. Dr. Rust is reported to be endeavoring to combat the influence of Herr Derichsweiler by reviving the importance of the Deutsche Studentenschaft which in the days when students were split into various corporations served as the all-inclusive parent organization but which has recently been pushed out of the picture by the National Socialist Student League. Through the Studentenschaft, Dr. Rust, it is understood, has issued several orders annuling those put forth by the National Socialist Students League, but it appears that so far the latter, supported by radical Party elements, has had the best of the struggle.

It will be recalled that Dr. Rust at the same meeting in the Kroll Opera House announced that the school course, beginning with the next school year opening at Easter, would be reduced from 13 to 12 years. A lively discussion has ensued as to whether the reduction should take place in the four years of primary school or in the higher school courses. From the circumstance that discussion is still permitted in the press, it would appear that no decision has yet been made, but it seems to be Dr. Bust’s idea that in any case the time lost through reduction of the total period should be made up in part by a longer school year consisting possibly of three semesters, with greatly abridged vacations, instead of two as at present. To the end of accelerating the school work, he is thought to be all the more eager to remove the disturbing influence of student politics.

Incidentally, it is learned from the Military Attaché73 that the army authorities are engaged in discussions with the Reich Ministry of Education with a view to providing for university and technical high school students some form of relief from the onerous two and a half-year period of labor and military service. Owing to the undemocratic aspects of the voluntary one-year term of military service for university students obtaining before the war, the Government appears to be reluctant to revert to this method, but it is expected that some sort of arrangement providing for a reduction of labor or military service will be worked out on a new basis. Possibly the regulations just published governing the admission of volunteers in the army may be a part of the new plan, for, by permitting the acceptance of recruits upon the completion of their seventeenth year, it would seem to open the way for the immediate admission to the army of the exceptionally gifted student who finished his Gymnasium course at this early age. In view of the decline in members of university students brought about by National Socialist policy, the accommodation of [Page 186] those who are qualified or desirous of attending a university may perhaps prove to be a less difficult problem than it might have been under other circumstances.

With respect to the delicate question of the confessional schools, it appears that the trend away from these schools to the non-denominational State schools is pursuing a set course. In a speech delivered in Stuttgart on October 11, Herr Mergenthaler, Minister-President of Württemberg, declared that in his district 98 per cent, of the children attended the State Volksschule, or High School, in preference to confessional schools. This proportion apparently does not apply, however, to the elementary schools, or Grundschvlen, a large proportion of which it is believed still remain in Confessional hands.

According to a report published in the Berliner Tageblatt of October 14, the arrangement peculiar to Bavaria whereby members of the Catholic orders perform a certain amount of lay teaching in the public schools (Volksschulen) will be gradually abolished beginning with the first of next year. In a press statement, State Counselor Böpple of the Bavarian Ministry of Culture explained that 1686 members of orders were engaged in teaching in some 400 state schools. The activity of the orders in this respect was provided for in a decree issued January 1, 1920, which stipulated moreover that such teaching could be abolished only with the consent of the majority of parents. This decree, Herr Böpple stated, ran counter to National Socialist policy which sought to make important decisions independent of popular vote and had been annulled by consultation with the competent State educational authorities. He declared it was no longer admissible that the State should pay money for the maintenance of schools merely to have the Catholic orders determine the spirit of the teaching, particularly in State schools which were attended by many Protestant children. The teaching of the orders had been found unsatisfactory in several fields, including race knowledge, history and biology, and sport development. Herr Böpple admitted that the church authorities had objected that his proposal infringed the Concordat, but held that the Concordat only guaranteed the establishment of schools operated by a Catholic foundation and did not apply to Catholic teaching in the State schools. It had also been objected that the displacement of members of the Catholic orders by lay teachers might entail additional expense for the taxpayer. In this connection Herr Böpple stated that the increased financial burden would not be great inasmuch as the orders received subsidies for their teaching which would subsequently be reduced.

It is not difficult to mistake the tendency of such a measure as that described above, which has as its objective the suppression of Catholic influence wherever it exists. It also bears witness to the tenuous character [Page 187] of the Catholic-Government truce. In this respect, the question may possibly be asked, how much longer the so-called truce may be expected to outlive such an attack as that published in the latest issue of the Schwarze Korps, which accuses the Vatican of endeavoring to form a “popular front” against “new heathenism,” and thereby by implication against Germany.

  1. Transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in Germany in his despatch No. 3095, October 14; received October 24.
  2. Joseph Goebbels, German Minister for National Enlightenment and Propaganda.
  3. See footnote 70, p. 182.
  4. Maj. Truman Smith.