On November 15, 1938, Jewish and Roma (Gypsy) children were banned from German schools. From the time when Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, Jewish children had experienced rising humiliation and discrimination within German classrooms and under education related legislation. Many schools targeted Jewish children as social outcasts and scapegoats through the teaching of “racial biology” classes. Such classes acted to isolate Jewish children by making them appear as a race separate and inferior to Germans.
On April 25, 1933, the “Law against Overcrowding in German schools and universities” was passed, restricting the number of Jewish children in schools and universities to 1.5 percent of the total student population. As a result of the discrimination and as a form of Jewish resistance, private German Jewish schools were developed where Jewish students met with Jewish teachers to continue their education.
The events of Kristallnacht, a Nazi-organized pogrom held on November 9-10, 1938, in which hundreds of synagogues, Jewish homes, schools and businesses were burned to the ground and hundreds of Jewish men put into concentration camps, led to the ban of Jewish and Roma children from German schools. One month later, Jewish students were banned from all universities as well. The 10th regulation of the Nuremberg laws, dated July 4, 1939, gave the newly established Reichsvereinigung, or Reich Association of Jews in Germany, responsibility over the education of Jewish children. Jewish schools continued to exist in Germany until they were finally closed on July 7, 1942, after the first wave of deportations of German Jews to the East was completed.
The ban against Jewish children in German schools was part of the effort to “Aryanize” society and remove Jews from German life. It was one of the many antisemitic laws in a series established to isolate and discriminate against Jews, one that was remembered as particularly humiliating and dehumanizing by the children who suffered under it.
The elimination of Jewish children from schools can be discussed in a number of ways. It shows how Nazi power in Germany had pervaded every aspect of German life. The institution of racialized curricula allowed the Nazis to teach students to view Jewish people in a racist, socially humiliating manner, which alienated Jewish students from an education system and a world in which they had previously felt welcome. You may ask your students why the Nazis felt it was imperative to humiliate and alienate Jews before they tried to eliminate them.