Nazi Germany’s elite schools held exchanges and sports tournaments with the likes of Eton, Harrow and Winchester in the 1930s, a historian has revealed.
The first in-depth history of these top Nazi schools, set up to train the future leaders of the Third Reich, shows the connections with the best English schools before World War II.
Dr. Helen Roche of Durham University has written a book based on research from 80 archives in six countries and testimonies from more than 100 former students.
She found that between 1934 and 1939, students from the most prominent type of National Socialist elite school, known as Napolas, participated in a series of exchanges and sports tournaments with boys from British public schools, including Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Westminster, Rugby and Leys School. in Cambridge.
The Napola students who participated in these exchanges were considered to perform the function of cultural ambassadors for the “new Germany”.
Dr. Roche’s research showed that British public schools were an important model for Naples, which the Nazis studied and ultimately hoped to emulate and improve.
Archives show that a German education inspector often praised British public schools for being character-forming.
Dr. Roche said: “In the early days of the exchange program, the English boys and masters often felt that what they saw in Nazi Germany and in Naples was in some ways superior to the state of affairs in England.
“There was a feeling that found its way to broader British attitudes towards Germany that Britain would do well to emulate Germany’s racial trust, and there was an admiration for the great strength and physical development of the German boys.”
She added: “We can see the exchange program as a microcosm of more general attitudes towards the Nazi regime on behalf of the British middle and upper class public – not entirely convinced by the aims and ideals of the Third Reich, but nonetheless ready to give their German counterparts the benefit of the doubt until Nazi warfare reached its fatal climax. “
The Third Reich’s Elite Schools – A History Of The Napolas, is published by Oxford University Press.