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5 Education for the National Community? Waldorf Schools in the Third Reich

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Chapter Summary

According to anthroposophist treatments, Waldorf schools adopted a purely defensive posture toward Nazism, viewing the rise of National Socialism as a threat to be parried as effectively as possible, and obstinately resisted Gleichschaltung and other accommodations to the new regime. Many of the characteristic features of Waldorf education, from its emphasis on music, artistic activities and mythology to its downplaying of standard academic instruction, were based on Steiner's occult precepts. Beyond concerns about race, there were other issues at stake in the controversy over Waldorf schooling in the Third Reich, from occultism to individualism to elitism. Some Nazis distrusted all private schools as enclaves of privilege and considered anthroposophy an elitist doctrine suffused with disdain for the masses. Waldorf proffered not only an education for the national community, but hoped to educate the nation itself, to lead Germany to its proper spiritual destiny.

Keywords: Germany; national community; national socialism; Nazism; spiritual destiny; Steiner; Third Reich; Waldorf schools



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