In 1933, a student sitting in a math class in their hometown of Berlin opens their textbook and reads the first equation: The Jews are aliens in Germany — In 1933, the German Reich had 66,060,000 inhabitants, of whom 499,682 were Jews. What is the percentage of aliens?
German children reading the antisemitic schoolbook Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom, published in 1938), warning children about the supposed dangers posed by Jews. Nuremberg City Archives E 39/I No. 2381/5.
This question appeared in a Nazi-era book about math instruction. Lessons that posed questions like this were a way for the Nazis to spread the idea that Jews and other minority groups were inferior and didn’t belong in Germany. Negative images and ideas about Jews were also circulated through newspapers, posters, films and all forms of media. At the same time, “pure Germans” were glorified in parades and songs. Many young Germans readily accepted these views and joined Nazi youth groups.
Misleading and biased information used to influence people, also called propaganda, was spread throughout all the countries that Germany controlled.
Propaganda fuelled existing antisemitism, and Jewish students were singled out and experienced increasing discrimination from their classmates and teachers.
What did this propaganda look like, and how did it make Jewish students feel?
Nazism in Daily Life in Germany
Nazis Take Control of German Media and Culture
Nazi student groups burned tens of thousands of books by Jewish and socialist authors, and destroyed any other works that criticized the Nazi regime. This was a targeted attempt to influence German culture and silence voices that didn’t agree with Nazi beliefs.
“In school some of the teachers singled us out as undesirables and made sure that the class understood the difference between blue-eyed blond Germans and the propaganda picture of the greasy, hook-nosed Jew…. [S]choolteachers began encouraging their students to denounce parents who didn’t adhere to the new Nazi politics. Teachers told students that if they overheard any conversation at home or anywhere else criticizing the Führer or the Nazi Party, they should be patriotic and report [them].”
Did you know that?
In 1932, about
of Jewish youth in Germany went to Jewish schools. Because of the rise of antisemitism in the years that followed, many Jewish students were harassed by teachers and students in public schools and some were forced to leave.
By 1937, about
of Jewish youth in Germany attended Jewish schools.
“Schoolmates were baiting me and sneering, ‘There’s no place for you here.… We have no use for you. You’re responsible for all our troubles.’ They would become frenzied. It wasn’t possible for me to study among them or to be among them. … I told my father that I could no longer attend a public Gymnasium, that I couldn’t stand it….”
Anti-Jewish Propaganda in Nazi-Occupied Countries
Isolated from Friends
Nate Leipciger noticed a change in his friends after the Nazis occupied his city.
Afraid at School
“It was a miserable situation for us — the gentile students and teachers had only contempt for us… We were so terrified of the gentile students that during recess, when we had to leave the classroom, we went to the washroom and hid until the bell rang. It was the only way we could think of to avoid the constant abuse.”
Between 1939 and 1945, Jews living in Nazi-occupied territories were forced to wear a badge or armband featuring a Star of David. This marked them and separated them from “Aryans.” Jews had to wear this badge at all times when they were in public. Identifying Jews this way made it easier for the Nazis to control and persecute them.
Target of Hate
“I recall the feeling of being marked, a target for people with the worst instincts to hurt defenseless people. … I was marked even though my eyes, hair, face and body were no different from those of other Hungarian or Romanian girls. Actually, many years after the war, a visiting teacher said to the other teachers during lunch that I was representative of a typical Romanian girl (he did not know that I was Jewish). So, it would be difficult to identify me as one of those dangerous and evil people supposedly responsible for all of the world’s problems. But a way was found. That yellow star, quite large and visible even for those with poor eyesight, helped. The rest of the children could then easily distinguish those who you throw stones at or beat up. It was awful…”
Youth in Germany were exposed to Nazi propaganda in many different ways. Click on “Learn more” to reflect on two such examples. Note that the images contain negative and inaccurate stereotypes.