Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Arts
From 1933 to 1941, the eight existing Waldorf schools in Germany were forced to close. As an alternative system of education, they were considered a threat to National Socialism. Yet, they were not systematically nor uniformly brought into line with the Nazi state through the process of Gleichschaltung. Very few studies address the history of the Waldorf schools under National Socialism, and those that do are invariably written by members of the Waldorf school community. By examining correspondence between the Waldorf school administrators and Nazi officials, this study helps to fill the void. This investigation reveals that the personalities of both the local Nazi officials and the leadership of particular Waldorf schools played a large role in determining the fate of each school. The ambitions and attitudes of Nazi officials in each state determined the amount of pressure each school felt. In turn, each school was free to determine for itself how best to respond to this pressure. As a group, the schools were motivated by a desire to preserve the pedagogical philosophy Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Waldorf schools. As such, they were initially eager to cooperate with the demands made of them by the Nazi administration and prove that they were not a threat to National Socialism. As Nazi demands encroached on the schools’ freedom to practice Rudolf Steiner pedagogy, however, die schools’ cooperation decreased. As each school reached its limits of compromise, they chose to close their doors rather than compromise Steiner’s pedagogy. By investigating the eight German Waldorf schools, this study reveals that Gleichschaltung was not always an efficient and successful process and that local authorities heavily impacted the course of Nazi education policy. Moreover, it reveals that individuals did have some room to make choices in Nazi Germany; choices that did not always conform to Nazi wishes.
Priestman, Karen, "Illusion of Coexistence: The Waldorf Schools in the Third Reich, 1933–1941" (2009). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). Paper 1080.