HARVARD HISTORICAL STUDIES
Cover: From Nazism to Communism: German Schoolteachers under Two Dictatorships, from Harvard University PressCover: From Nazism to Communism in HARDCOVER

Harvard Historical Studies 170

From Nazism to Communism

German Schoolteachers under Two Dictatorships

Tracing teachers’ experiences in the Third Reich and East Germany, Charles B. Lansing analyzes developments in education of crucial importance to both dictatorships. Lansing uses the town of Brandenburg an der Havel as a case study to examine ideological reeducation projects requiring the full mobilization of the schools and the active participation of a transformed teaching staff. Although lesson plans were easily changed, skilled teachers were neither quickly made nor easily substituted. The men and women charged in the postwar era with educating a new “antifascist” generation were, to a surprising degree, the same individuals who had worked to “Nazify” pupils in the Third Reich. But significant discontinuities existed as well, especially regarding the teachers’ professional self-understanding and attitudes toward the state-sanctioned teachers’ union. The mixture of continuities and discontinuities helped to stabilize the early GDR as it faced its first major crisis in the uprising of June 17, 1953.

This uniquely comparative work sheds new light on an essential story as it reconceptualizes the traditional periodization of postwar German and European history.

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Who among us hasn’t considered what our lives would be like if we had taken alternate paths, made different decisions? Storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have, says Andrew H. Miller, author of On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives. As we live through a worldwide pandemic, the ideas of what might have been are even more appealing. Much like the adolescents on the verge of adulthood in Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, Miller tells us, we wait to see what comes next.