Children of the «Volk»

Children’s Literature as an Ideological Tool in National Socialist Germany

by Stephanie Robertson (Author)
©2018 Thesis 244 Pages


From the beginning of their rise to power, the National Socialist regime began carefully laying the groundwork for a systematic overhaul of Germany’s literature. Strongly believing the key to a successful Third Reich was to secure the unwavering loyalty and belief of the youth, they began to monitor their exposure to literature.
The author exposes how, and to what extent, the National Socialist’s primary ideology was reflected in the children’s literature produced between 1933 and 1945. This work uncovers many surprising insights into the reception of openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic literature produced for children under the National Socialist regime. This is supported by rare finds in the form of articles and women’s magazines, which clearly demonstrate that not all children’s books were in line with the State‘s subtle approach to ideologically educating the youth.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Abbreviations
  • I. Didacticism, Ideology and Defining Children’s Literature
  • Introduction
  • Ideological Inclinations and Literary Didactics
  • Defining the Undefinable: The Presence of Ideology in Children’s Texts
  • The Impossibility of Separating Politics and Ideology
  • Ideology in Children’s Literature under Totalitarian Regimes
  • Literary Criticism and Children’s Literature
  • Children’s Literature as a Means of Defining the Child
  • The Development of Children’s Literature in Europe and Germany
  • The Emergence of Children’s Literature: From the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment
  • From The Seventeenth to Eighteenth Century: The Age of Enlightenment
  • The Romantic Period of Children’s Literature: Late Eighteenth to Nineteenth Centuries
  • The Golden Age of Children’s Books: Early Twentieth Century
  • From Weimar to the Third Reich: Shifts in Literary Environment
  • The National Socialist Notion of the Child
  • II. Literary Publication and Discourse Under National Socialism
  • Introduction
  • Paving the Way for ‘Appropriate’ Children’s Texts
  • Burning Books: A Cultural ‘Säuberung’
  • The Reichsschrifttumskammer: Establishing Control
  • National Socialist Publishing Houses: Adhering to State Ideology
  • Literary Discourse; National Socialist Newspapers and Magazines
  • National Socialist Literary Guidelines
  • Censoring ‘Inappropriate’ Children’s Texts
  • Promoting ‘Appropriate’ Literature for Children
  • “What Our Children Should Be Reading”: National Socialist Commentary on the Appropriate Children’s Book
  • Categorising the Child Reader According to Age
  • Recommended Reading Materials For National Socialist Boys and Girls
  • Targeting a Gender-Specific Audience
  • III. Mädchen- und Jungenbücher Under National Socialism
  • Introduction
  • The Texts
  • Male and Female Roles in National Socialist Germany: Shifting Perspectives
  • The Influence of Gender and Environment in the Writing Process
  • Tales of Coming of Age in National Socialist Germany
  • Tapfer Girls and Boys: Personifying ‘Ehre,’ ‘Treue’ and ‘Opferwilligkeit’
  • From ‘Frauenarbeitsdienst’ to Youth Organisations: Adventures in ‘Kameradschaft’
  • IV. From Doctors to Butchers: Anti-Semitic and Racial Representations
  • Introduction
  • The Texts
  • Julius Streicher’s Stürmer Verlag: The Power of ‘Fips’ and Despicable Caricatures
  • Disciples of Der Stürmer: Elvira Bauer and Ernst Hiemer
  • Lessons in Anti-Semitism for the Third Reich’s Youth
  • Writing Anti-Semitism for a Child Audience
  • Giftpilze, Füchse, and Pudelmopsdackelpinscher: Anti-Semitic Proverb and Rhyme
  • Sexual Deviancy in Children’s Texts: Cautionary Tales For Young Readers
  • Concluding Remarks
  • V. Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix One: RSK Structure (1939)
  • Series index

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List of Figures

Fig. 1: Children’s reading interests (taken from 1937 JSW survey)

Fig. 2: Children in the Volksschule’s reading interests (taken from 1937 JSW survey)

Fig. 3: Reading interests of girls in primary, middle, and high school (taken from 1937 JSW survey)

Fig. 4: “Jugend dient dem Führer. Alle Zehnjährigen in die HJ.”

Fig. 5: “Unterstützt das Hilfswerk Mutter und Kind.”.

Fig. 6: “Wir Frauen kennen unsere Pflicht!”

Fig. 7: “Die Ausgesaugten”

Fig. 8: “Die Spinne”

Fig. 9: “Der Giftwurm”

Fig. 10: “Die Wanderrattenplage”

Fig. 11: “Der Vampyr”

Fig. 12: “Der Mediziner”

Fig. 13: “Der Manager”

Fig. 14: “Das ist der Streicher!”

Fig. 15: “Ohne die Lösung der Judenfrage gibt es keine Rettung der Menschheit”

Fig. 16: Cover page of Trau keinem Fuchs

Fig. 17: “The German and the Jew”

Fig. 18:Die Deutschen [sic] – die und Weichen!”

Fig. 19: “Der Viehjud”

Fig. 20: “Der Jude Aaron Kahn”

Fig. 21: “Der Judenmetzger”

Fig. 22: “Der Judenmetzger”

Fig. 23: “Der Wettbewerb”

Fig. 24: “Jud bleibt Jud”

Fig. 25: “Inge’s [sic] Besuch bei dem Jüdischen [sic] Doktor”

Fig. 26: “Judenärzte. Frauenschänder und Mörder”

| xiii →

List of Abbreviations

BDM Bund Deutsches Mädchen

HJ Hitler-Jugend

JSW Der Jugendschriften-Warte

JV Jung-Volk

JM Jung-Mädel

NSDAP Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei

NSLB Nationalsozialistischer Lehrerbund

RKK Reichskulturkammer

RSK Reichsschrifttumskammer

| 1 →

I. Didacticism, Ideology and Defining Children’s Literature


The function of children’s literature in National Socialist Germany can be best understood through through a consideration of its role within the socio-historical context of the governmental structural changes that took place following the dissolution of the Weimar Republic in 1933. In addition to these shifts in government and social policies, guidelines were introduced to regulate the production, circulation and censorship of children’s literature under National Socialism; these must also be carefully considered. This book demonstrates how Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich affected the production and promotion of children’s texts, especially in relation to the indoctrination goals of this new government, which differed so vastly from those of the Weimar Republic.

This first chapter defines the concepts of didacticism and ideology, within a framework of children’s literary studies. Additionally, the historical background of children’s literature is explored. The emergence and development of children’s literature from the Middle Ages to the period directly preceding the National Socialist era provides a context for the disruption that this fascist state caused to the trajectory of children’s literature, when compared with Germany’s neighbouring countries. This investigation of the development of both children’s literature and children’s literature criticism establishes how the child is conceived of as a reader, and in turn, the notion of the child under National Socialism.

It’s no secret that the National Socialists specifically and deliberately sought to indoctrinate the youth of Germany according to their own system of beliefs. The complexity of this system is, however, often underestimated. It was multi-faceted, involving authors, educational institutions, state departments, and beyond. Literature, as an integral part of the state’s newly restructured education program, was shaped into a tool for the political and ideological indoctrination of young readers. As Gaby Thomson-Wohlgemuth argues:

every society applies its own rules when selecting literature for publication […]. Equally, the criterion by which they select the literature to be published will be determined by their individual ideologies or the ideologies prevailing in their societies (2).

An investigation of the children’s literature published under the National Socialist regime reflects the ideological attitudes the state aimed to impart to their child ← 1 | 2 → readership. In approaching National Socialist children’s texts, the pedagogical aims of the state must be considered, as these books formed an integral part of their propagandist agenda. The education of the youth was vital to the future success of their empire. This book discusses textual examples of National Socialist children’s literature that support these propagandistic aims. It was the National Socialists’ goal to indoctrinate the youth in placing community values over those of the individual, a willingness to sacrifice for the nation and an aversion to the other, in order to ensure their utopian ideals for the future eventuated.

The investigation of the children’s texts in chapters three and four are taken from a socio-historical perspective. These texts are considered in terms of social norms, cultural constructs and the environment in which their authors produced them. In this respect, the texts are approached as a means of assessing to what degree they conform to and reflect the children’s literature guidelines established under National Socialism and also determine their intended impact on the child reader. These guidelines are discussed in chapter two. Note that it is not the aim of this work to assess the reception of these texts, but instead to establish their ‘desired’ reception.

Ian Kershaw argues that the multi-faceted didactic campaign of National Socialism created a decided generation gap “between those who had reached adulthood in the Imperial or Weimar eras and those who had experienced little else other than Nazism” (178). This claim is well-founded, given the extreme effort that the National Socialist state put into the new literary guidelines imposed under their control to ensure control of the youth that resulted in a near ignorance of cultures and races outside of their immediate environment. The youth of National Socialist Germany can be grouped into three distinct levels, based on the years of their adolescence, ranging between the early regime (1933–1936), pre-war (1936–1939), and the war period (1939–1945).

As the first of these groups reached adolescence early in the regime, they were actively targeted by the National Socialist’s educational and propagandist agendas, due to their ability to recollect their lives under the Weimar Republic. Historian Detlev Peukert maintains that due to their experience of the ‘economic crisis’ of early 1930s, these youths were receptive to: “the benefits offered by the rearmament programme” and the “the ideas of the Führerstaat” as this promised to end “‘party squabbles’ and […] the ‘restoration of national greatness’” (25). While how much awareness a child had of “party squabbles” is debatable, the promise of a stable and great nation no doubt held appeal for many Germans. In light of this generation’s recollection of life under the Weimar Republic, Kershaw argues that “the basis of the Nazis’ dynamic mobilisation of youth” was founded ← 2 | 3 → on “the rejection of the old bourgeois world and idealistic notions of a new and more mobile and egalitarian society” (178). For this reason, the state sought to emphasise the appeal of fulfilling collective desires and goals over those of the individual.

The second youth group, reaching adolescence between 1936 and 1939, had no formulated memories of life prior to National Socialist Germany; they attended schools that exposed them to the cultural-political agenda of the state, and participation in the Hitlerjugend (HJ) formed a part of everyday life. Peukert suggests that the HJ presented itself to these youths as “a rival to the traditional authorities of home and school [and] could to some extent serve as a ‘counter-authoritarian’ sanctuary” (25). This “sanctuary” exposed the youth to the ideological agenda of the state, which began to ingratiate itself into all aspects of daily life and ensured that the youths were actively impacted on by this cultural education program. Participation in the HJ was the first indication of the National Socialists actively encouraging a shift in the child’s allegiance from the church and the family, to the Führer and the Fatherland.

The last youth group reached adolescence as the war began, in the years between 1939 and 1945. As a “war generation,” Peukert argues that for these youths

Kershaw adds that Hitler intended that these youths “would have imbibed Nazi values like its mother’s milk” (178), had their cultural education under National Socialism continued. Hitler lamented the disruption to his political agenda for the youth of Germany in his final testament as he faced his crumbling empire in 1945, stating:


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (July)
Didacticism Pedagogy 1933–1945 European children’s literature Nazi propaganda Weimar Republic
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018, 244 pp., 13 fig. col., 13 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Stephanie Robertson (Author)

Stephanie Robertson is an instructional designer and learning and development expert in Melbourne, Australia. She is particularly interested in pedagogy and indoctrination through literature, and the way in which text is used and adapted to impart meaning onto its readership.


Title: Children of the «Volk»
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246 pages