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ERIC Number: EJ763860
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Feb
Pages: 15
Abstractor: Author
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0030-9230
Eastern Borderlands in German Schoolbooks, 1890-1945
Kennedy, Katharine
Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education, v43 n1 p29-43 Feb 2007
Continuities and changes in stories, poems and historical texts over several generations of German textbooks, from the final decades of the Kaiserreich through the Weimar Republic to the Third Reich, show how schools encouraged children to imagine Germany's eastern borderlands and to incorporate them into their sense of national belonging. The schoolbooks considered in this study are those read by the largest number of German children, namely the 90 percent who attended the Volksschule. Of particular importance are different regional versions of the reading book, an anthology used to support instruction in many subjects. The article also refers to history and geography books. Texts from all three periods claimed German superiority over Poles, arguing that the medieval Teutonic Knights gave Germany legitimacy in the East and that German economic and cultural contributions entitled them to dominate in areas with large Polish populations. German schoolbooks typically minimized the reality of long-term Polish presence and perpetuated negative stereotypes of Poles. Nonetheless, in the Wilhelmine period, textbooks used in parts of Germany most remote from the eastern borderlands devoted relatively little attention to them. This changed when the bitter loss of eastern territory after the First World War intensified assertions of deep German roots in the East. In Weimar-era schoolbooks, Germans living outside the newly shrunken border became celebrated models of Germandom. These stories encouraged children to envision a German nation that extended well beyond its formal boundary. Many of these texts reappeared in Nazi-era schoolbooks, which added a more explicitly racist and expansionist layer to textbook treatment of the eastern borderlands. The Nazis' wartime reading book celebrated Hitler's arrival in Poland as the "liberator" of grateful ethnic Germans, and continued to denigrate Poles as "dirty" and "disorderly". This book appeared at the very time that Germans were engaged in savage ethnic cleansing in Poland. Especially insistent on the legitimacy of a German homeland in Polish lands were schoolbooks compiled for use by newly arrived German residents in the region from which Germany had expelled many of the Polish residents. While national hubris, prejudice and sentimentality were not unique to German schoolbooks, the German experience suggests that such perspectives can, under certain circumstances, enable brutal policies. (Contains 55 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Germany; Poland