New School Environments
In response to increasing antisemitism and expulsion from public schools, Jewish students looked for ways to continue learning.
Children sit at their desks in the Carlebach School in Leipzig, Germany, circa 1934–1938. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Irene Lewitt.
In places where it was allowed, many Jewish students joined existing Jewish schools, and new schools were founded. For these students, school became a place where they could feel safe from antisemitic attacks and learn about their heritage.
In places where there were no Jewish schools, informal study groups gathered in private homes, or students turned to books to keep their minds active and distracted from the disturbing and violent events going on around them.
Eventually, all Jewish schools were closed, and Jewish youth were forced to find other ways to occupy themselves.
Their education had been disrupted and they wouldn’t see the inside of a classroom for a long time.
A New Jewish School in Berlin
Clips of students at the Goldschmidt School, a private Jewish school in Berlin that opened as a response to increasing numbers of Jewish students leaving public schools. Germany, 1937.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Julien Bryan archive.
In a classroom of young girls, a teacher talks at the front of the room as a girl gets out of her desk and approaches the blackboard and writes Hebrew letters on the board with chalk. In an outdoor open area with a large building in the background, students play and move around. Then they file up the steps into the school building.
Adjusting to Jewish School
“When the new race laws of 1935 started to be enforced, everything quickly escalated. Jewish children were no longer allowed to mingle with the ‘Aryans’ in schools and had to enrol in a Jewish school. In Leipzig the only Jewish day school was the Carlebach Schule [school], which was ill equipped both in staff and facilities to accommodate this influx of new pupils. For my brother and me, it meant a thirty-minute bicycle ride twice a day because we didn’t live close to the school, which was located toward the centre of the Jewish residences and community life.”
The Benefits of Jewish School
A Quality Education in Germany
A Teacher’s Perspective
“Soon after the German military entered a city, they closed all Jewish schools, so the children were just idle. Since my father and I had been teachers in Lodz, seeing the children wandering around broke our hearts. That gave me an idea: even though it was against the law, I would gather a few children in my place and carry on their interrupted studies with them…
With my aunt’s help, we found students and within a few weeks I was able to organize three classes, totalling sixty children. As the number of students grew, our living quarters became so crowded that we had to rent a room not far from where we were living in order to continue our work.
I loved teaching; it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I was so engrossed in the work that I sometimes forgot we were living in a time of terrible war, a war with unforeseen consequences.”
Happier in Jewish School
“Public school was a daily grim experience until, in 1941, when I was eleven, the authorities threw us out of the public school and forced us to attend a separate Jewish school. Despite the shock of having to leave our school, we were happier than we had been in the regular public school where we had suffered so much humiliation.”
Getting into Mischief
“Without school, organized activities or community centres, I had a lot of time to run around the streets and get into mischief with other children. Parents had little control over their kids. Most men had been deported or sent to camps, and the absence of fathers contributed further to our unruly behaviour...”
Preparing for Difficult Times
Nazi Germany Gains Control of Europe
Click on “Learn more” to explore a map showing the spread of Nazi Germany’s control throughout Europe, and hover over the pins to read the memories of those who witnessed it.