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.