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Soviet school during the Nazi occupation

On the work of secondary schools in the occupied territories of the USSR.

The history of the Nazi occupation of the European part of the USSR is a very dangerous topic for research. There are literally dozens of pitfalls in it that can lead an interested person to places not so remote. However, this can not in any way extinguish interest in individual moments of such an intriguing subject. In particular, the work of education authorities.

Bobruisk. 1941 German soldiers against the background of a typical Soviet school. A gust of wind made this photo safe for posting on the Internet.

The first plans for the fate of the school network of the future occupied territories of the USSR were discussed in the Nazi circles even before the immediate development of the Barbarossa plan. So on May 28, 1940 Reichsfuhrer SS and German police chief Himmler noted:

“There should not be higher schools for the non-German population of the eastern regions, it is enough for him to have a four-year public school.The goal of education in this folk school should be only: a simple bill, at most up to 500, the ability to sign, the suggestion that the divine commandment is, to obey the Germans ”

Heinrich Himmler
The Reichsfuehrer of the SS and the chief of the German police.

The beginning of the operation “Barbarossa” coincided with the period of summer holidays in Soviet schoolchildren. The bulk of schoolchildren who found themselves in the occupied territories of the RSFSR and Ukraine in 1941 did not start their studies. An exception in this was the Baltic States and Belarus. In these regions, national schools were organized, where it was obliged to study all children between the ages of 7 and 14. In rare cases, it was permitted to open vocational schools and courses.

The organization of the school network in the occupied territory of the RSFSR began in the spring of 1942. The occupation authorities completely reorganized the education system in the territories under their jurisdiction. On the ground, four-grade elementary schools were created, the beginning of the school year was set for October 1. School attendance was declared compulsory for children aged 8 to 12 years. The exception was Jewish children. They did not have the right to study at school. Walks were punished with large monetary fines and deprivation of bread cards.

Volkhov. Destroyed school number 38 during the war.

The control over education was carried out by local self-government bodies. The most notable is the example of the Smolensk City Council. In its structure in July 1941, the Education Department was established. Initially, his tasks were to collect information about the availability of educational institutions in the city, as well as registration of educators and school-age children in the city. In the summer of 1942, their duties were complemented by the staffing of future schools by teachers, as well as the development of plans and curricula.

The military actions had a devastating effect on the school infrastructure. The number of schools operating in the occupied territory of the USSR was sharply reduced – some of them suffered from bombing and artillery bombardment and fell into disrepair, others began to be used to accommodate German troops. The problem of lack of knowledge was solved by creating schools in the open air. At the same time, classes were conducted in the warm season during the summer holidays.

The surviving schools lacked all equipment – furniture and implements, paper and writing materials, and fuel. This circumstance hampered the educational process in the cold season. A significant part of students did not attend school due to poor financial situation. Few parents could buy their children warm shoes and outerwear. Another part of the students was moved by patriotic feelings. This went against their beliefs at a time when their fathers and other relatives were fighting at the front. The main reason, uniting all students of schools, was the introduction within their walls of strict discipline and physical punishment.

The local administration of the occupied regions played a significant role in ensuring the work of the restored educational institutions. A lot of documents were adopted on the vital issues of education. However, the financial capacity to ensure the decisions reflected in the documents was insufficient. The bulk of the budget went to pay wages. On average, it was 300-400 rubles. Its size differed from the length of service in education and the training load, as well as from the training duties. Payed with cash allowances check notebooks (10 rubles.), Classroom management (30 rubles.), Etc. School principals were entitled to an extra 10-15% of the rate, teachers who worked more than 25 years – 50% of the rate. In rural areas, wages were sometimes replaced by bread rations

The poster of the film “I’m a Teacher”. The first and still the last film devoted to the fate of teachers of the occupied Soviet school.

The occupied schools experienced serious personnel problems. Young teachers were mobilized in the ranks of the Red Army or evacuated into the interior of the country. As a consequence, people of advanced age made up a significant part of the pedagogical corps. Aggravated the personnel hunger additional checks. Each of the candidates was checked for loyalty in the police. More often than not, the “police filter” missed candidates who had either a pre-revolutionary past or anti-Soviet views. Later, through fingers began to look at the membership in the VKLM and the candidate’s experience in the CPSU (b). Before the work, only Jews and members of the party were not allowed. Accounting for all teachers was carried out through the education departments under the local authorities.

In the programs developed for the occupied territories of the RSFSR, the following recommendations for the study of subjects were indicated. For primary school, the study of the Russian language was envisaged in 8 hours in 1-2 classes, 7 hours in 3-4 classes); German for 3 hours in 3-4 grades; arithmetic for 6 hours. Local subjects, natural science, singing, needlework (in the case of girls) or work (in the case of boys) served as additional subjects. And special attention was paid to physical culture. In the upper grades, physics, chemistry, natural science, geography, and drawing were added.

The substantive results were clearly stated in the ” Prescription for Teachers” issued by the German authorities.At the end of the school, the student was required in the German language “to speak German in everyday life”. At the end of the course of the Russian language, the student had to have only reading skills. Grammar was offered to study at the initial level “in so far as it is necessary to achieve this goal.” In the field of natural history, it was supposed to achieve utilitarian results by engaging, “mainly those animals, plants and natural phenomena that children have to deal with.” The course of arithmetic did not provide for a graduate of deep knowledge, and included the ability to use four basic arithmetic operations with numbers from 1 to any value from grade 4

Priests of the “Pskov mission” with children. This organization, with the assistance of the Germans, restored religious life in the occupied territories and secretly supplied intelligence to the Soviet authorities.

Particular attention in education was given to religious education of students. In some regions, the revived Law of God became mandatory for all students, in others voluntary visits were allowed, at the desire of parents. Thirdly, it was included in the system of extracurricular activities. The occupation press emphasized the special enthusiasm shown by the students during these lessons: “The children vied with each other to ask them to read the prayer before the teaching … and after the lessons they say the words of prayer with great feeling and lifting. In the mood of children, there is no longer any discord between the school and the religious family . 

In practice, in many places, the teaching of the subject was hampered by the inability to select individuals, due to conflicts in church circles. In some regions, this was decided by the instruction to teach God’s law to secular persons. An integral part of religious education was the return to the celebration of church holidays. During thewinter holidays of 1942/1943 academic year students were required to celebrate the following holidays – January 19 – Epiphany, February 15 – Sfense; in the spring holidays – April 7 – Annunciation, April 22-27 – Easter, May 1 – national holiday, June 3 – Ascension, June 12-15 – Trinity.During the holidays, the teachers were given the responsibility to conduct walks and conversations in the open air with students, accompanied by students, visits to the church, walks and conversations.

The cover of the Soviet alphabet of 1937. Scans of occupational textbooks I could not find on the net.

A serious obstacle to the educational process was the lack of educational and methodological complexes. Initially, the occupation authorities were going to prohibit the use of Soviet textbooks, but later realized that this could lead to a loss of control over education. So the chief of the security police and SD in Kiev in May 1942, wrote in his report:

“The lack of prescribed teaching material will force us to provide teachers with the freedom to choose educational subjects, and this will open for them undesirable opportunities for approaching pupils in order to influence them.”

At first glance, the content of the textbooks was deeply ideologized. They glorified Nazi Germany, there were portraits of Hitler, stories of a good life under German rule. However, they were nothing more than an indispensable element, within which more attention was paid to materials based on the Russian culture of the pre-revolutionary era. In the books for reading the first-class pupils Russian fairy tales “The Bear and the Girl”, “Repka”, “The Frog Princess” were published. In subsequent years of training, poetic and prose works by A. Pushkin, I. Bunin, I. Turgenev, V. Zhukovsky, K. Ushinsky, K. Chukovsky, A. Fet and other Russian writers were added to them. Of contemporary Soviet authors, only those works that were outside of communist ideology were used. In the teaching of history, the Soviet period was struck out.

One of the pages of the “Letter” of 1937. It was possible to teach children about it.
But this page would have to be pulled out.

In the first academic year, in occupied schools, classes continued on Soviet textbooks. According to eyewitnesses, all the images, one way or another related to modernity – portraits of Soviet party leaders, military leaders of the Red Army, were stuck.

Some of the restored schools were reopened in a solemn atmosphere. So in the city of Taganrog a renovated school building was torn off by the commandant of the garrison along with “a representative of the Reknagel group, the burgomaster, a pedagogical instructor and students.” The beginning of the classes was often reported in local newspapers. In the last days of the holidays teachers’ teams were presented tasks for the whole academic year. In the instructions received by the schools of the Caucasus group, it was stated that “all teaching in the school must be imbued with a spirit of respect for the German army – the deliverer and gratitude to the Liberator-Hitler . ” Public speeches indicated the difficulty of the work of teachers in achieving the goal of ” uprooting all Soviet children from children’s heads”

Along with the change in the curriculum and the CMB, a system was created for the retraining of teachers. In particular, in Smolensk, teachers had to listen to a series of propaganda lectures before being allowed to work. Travel of teachers to Germany was practiced, so in May 1943 a group of teachers from the Smolensk and Orel regions visited schools in Jena, Erfurt, Wartburg, Salzburg. During the trip, they visited the Racial Institute in Weimar, where they were given lectures on the need to combat global Zionism.

As a result, we can state that education in the occupied regions of the USSR has ceased to be a single one, due to the activities of the local administration and the occupation authorities. During the three years of occupation, it has undergone some development. The transformation of Operation Barbarossa into a protracted war forced the occupation authorities to solve the school issue now, and not after the war. By creating its education system in the occupied territories, the German command solved the problem of child and adolescent crime, because “young people in cities aged 12 to 14 are practically left to their own devices, idling, speculating or killing time in other ways”, and also attracted to their side population, whose support was needed in a protracted war with the USSR.

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