How ideology influenced history textbooks in Nazi Germany and in the German Democratic Republic


by Sang Bin Hong



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Contents Page





1 Introduction

2.1 Introduction to Volk und Führer

2.2 Henry the Great founds the First German Folk’s State

2.3 Otto the Great, the first German Emperor

2.4 The Pope Prepares to Fight

2.5 The Jews

3.1 Introduction to Lehrbuch für den Geschichtsunterricht II

3.2 Henry I and Otto I

3.3 The Policy of Conquest in the era of the Saxon Emperor

3.4 The Struggle of the Church against Secular Feudal Power

3.5 The Feudal Lords Oppress the People with the Help of their Ministeriales

3.6 Class Strife in German Cities

3.7 Summary of Analysis

4.1 Introduction to Geschichte 9

4.2 The February Revolution in Russia

4.3 The Transition from the Civil-Democratic to the Socialistic Revolution

4.4 The Fight over Soviet Power

4.5 Special Note: Stalin

5.1 Comparison of Two Books: introduction

5.2 Selection of Material in Text

5.3 Treatment of Selected Topics

5.4 Literary Style

6 Conclusion


    Appendix I

    Appendix II





1. Introduction

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In this paper, I have tried to analyze three history textbooks used in schools under two separate systems of government in Germany – (1) the Nazi regime and (2) German Democratic Republic. I have tried to accurately depict to what extent there was distortion of facts or omission of important material, and propagandistic and judgmental statements in the narrative. The books used were Volk und Führer (published in 1942), Lehrbuch für den Geschichtsunterricht (published in 1952), and Geschichte 9 (published in 1966). From now on, I will use the acronyms VuF for Volk und Führer, LBfdGU for Lehrbuch fürden Geschichtsunterricht, for convenience.

The idea of the project I acquired from Mr. Ganse, who also provided me with the textbooks, and to whom I am deeply indebted.

I had to face several difficulties in writing the paper. First, the extent of history covered in the history books (mostly about German history) was more detailed than the coverage of my previous history classes. As a result, I had to do extensive research before the actual analysis could start. Second, as the analysis had to be accurate, I had to find and use only authoritative material (e.g. Encyclopaedia Britannica). Third, since the textbooks were obviously in German (and one of them printed in a Gothic font that was quite difficult to decipher) I had to refresh my German language and translation skills. Fourth, on starting the project, only two books (Vuf and Geschichte 9) were available, which made direct comparison between the two books impossible since they covered two entirely separate eras in history (nonoverlapping). Luckily, toward the end of the time I worked on the project Mr. Ganse acquired the third book, LBfdGU, which covered the same historical era as VuF and made comparison between the two books much easier and more accurate. Fifth, some of the German historical terminologies were problematic to translate. To make up for the ambiguities resulting from the translation process, I have added a glossary of terms at the end of the paper.

All these difficulties were overcome in writing this paper and I give my special thanks to Mr. Ganse for continual support and encouragement.

In the first three sections, I have analyzed the three books individually. In the last section, VuF and LBfdGU are compared and contrasted. I decided to include some analysis of Geschichte 9 to show how the history of the formation the communist state in Russia was treated in the GDR era.

In the appendix is the translation of the full table of contents of the books VuF and LBfdGU, and a partial translation of the contents of Geschichte 9.




2.1 Introduction to Volk und Führer

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The textbook analyzed in this section is titled: Volk und Führer, Geschichte für Mittelschulen, Klasse 3 (People and Leader, History for Middleschools, Grade 3), subtitled Deutschland, die Vormacht Europas (Germany, the hegemonial power of Europe). The title Volk und Führer is reminiscent of the Nazi party’s slogan “Ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Führer” (one realm, one people, one leader) of the early 1930s[1]. The book covers the history of Germany from 919 to 1648, dealing with the formation of Germany, the competition for power between German emperors and the Pope, the Reformation, etc. (cf. appendix I: contents of Volk und Führer)

It was published in 1942, when the Nazi Regime had been in power for a decade, and World War II has been going on for three years. The paperback book is printed on cheap paper, possibly a result of the desperate economic situation of the period it was printed in.





2.2 Henry the Great founds the First German Folk’s State

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The first pages of the book deal with the election of Henry I as king, and his accomplishments in his reign.

In this chapter, several sentences can be suspected of directly serving to indoctrinate the reader. Most of these sentences appear at the end of a paragraph, summing up the historical information with a conclusion strongly advocating Nazi ideology, or providing a certain reason for an occurrence.

Where there is no leader, there is no unity, no order, no power. (p.1)

Now it was possible for all tribes that had maintained German blood and heritage to form one pure German state. (p.1)

One who recognizes and accepts the born leader of German provides an example for all times. (p.2)

They (Liudolfings) were descendants of the Widukinds, and, like their ancestors, were powerful, stubborn men of action. (p.2)

The shame of Verden was purged. (p.3)

It was decided for all times that the Rhine remained to be the German river, not the German boundary. (p.4)

Thousand years later, the leader and chancellor of Great Germany proclaimed from the same Prague Castle, the Hradshin, the protectorate requested by the Czechs, and renewed Bohemia and Moravia being part to the German Reich. (p.6)

For the first time, the German power had pushed its boundary to the East again and recovered for the Reich the old German ground that was lost for centuries. (p.6)

Each year, the SS, with the people, honors the founder of the German Reich at the burial place. (p.8)

These sentences all evince the ideology of Nazi Regime: strong nationalism, evaluation of people in terms of race, backup of the claim on the land that German people had once occupied, and propaganda in favor of Hitler and his associates.

The narrative of the book on the state of the German lands after the separation of the Frankish Empire into east and west is misleading on the subject of the people. Most common folk at that time were half-slaves, laboring under dukes. The book, ironically, constantly refers to the people only as the source of acclaim for unified Germany.

The dukes were part of the Carolingian international aristocracy which stayed in Germany even after Charlemagne died and left the Frankish Empire in the hands of incompetent rulers. However, in the text, the aristocrats are described ethnically as Germans, as the descendants of first inhabitants in German lands.

The narrative also attempts to glorify Henry I. When Arnulf was elected king in Bavaria in addition to the already-elected king Henry I (because Bavarians thought that they had a better right to the Carolingian inheritance than the Saxons), Henry surrendered to him the right to dispose of the region’s bishoprics and abbeys. Arnulf’s homage and friendship entailed no positive obligations toward Henry, and the Bavarian duke pursued his own tribal interests as long as he lived (Britannica). The book’s narrative tells a different story.

[…] Before there was a chance for battle, Henry invited the Bavarian Duke to a meeting. The duke appeared armed to the meeting, because he thought that the king wanted to challenge him to a duel. Henry was weaponless, however. He said ‘Why do you dispute God’s will? It is his will that the people have chosen me for a king. Had you been elected king, nobody would have been more pleased than I. […]’ The duke was convinced and therewith stayed loyal to the kingdom. (p.4)

The book also constantly glorifies Henry in its narrative of Henry’s battle scenes, in his heroic behavior toward his subjects, and in his pursuit of land. The chapter specifically deals with Henry I’s battles with Hungarians and Slavs, describing the process of the battle, even mentioning the arrows, swords, lances that were used in battle.

However, the chapter doesn’t mention any specific policies Henry implemented during his reign, nor does it depict the social situation of specific classes. Most efforts are made to give Henry I the image of a heroic leader, focusing on his appearance.






2.3 Otto the Great, the first “German” Emperor

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This chapter is dedicated to Otto I – it resembles more a biography of the king than a chapter in a history book. The emphasis on one-man leadership becomes more apparent. The first sentence describing Otto reads: Otto was even more talented than his father. (p.9)

Starting with Otto’s coronation in 936, the book focuses on several aspects of Otto’s policies: his strengthening of central authority, his campaigns to the east and the south, and his struggle to keep the church authority in check.

The description of Otto’s physical appearance, along with a picture of a sculpture of Otto on a horse, presents the king vividly.

Pride shone from his eyes. His form was gargantuan, his face reddish. He maintained to confirm his words with the lush flowing beard,…(p.10)

The chapter shows a pronounced bias for Otto, and against all who stand in his way to a safe throne. The following statements substantiate this:

Only the people who follow the orders of a single ruler can win world power. When many rule, no great deed is accomplished. (p.10)

National states and international powers are like fire and water, and none can serve two masters. (p.14)

The two sentences above explicitly promote one-man leadership, both nationally and internationally. To those who resisted Otto’s kingship internally,

Three dukedoms in wild indignation! The leader of the rebellious tribes found comrades in the house of the king. Even Otto’s brother, the young Henry, who wanted to become king himself, joined the insurgents. (p.11)

After this passage, another follows in which Otto mercifully pardons every insurgent.

Otto strategically appoints bishops and archbishops as princes of German states (since these clerics are not allowed to reproduce). As long as he appoints these bishops and abbots, they would stay under his power. However, the king fears that these clergymen will also bend to the Pope’s power. The book unequivocally takes Otto’s side: The German bishops, as German princes, should obey the king, […] (p.14) As Otto’s enemy, the Pope is depicted thus:

The ‘holy fathers’ were often inferior men, who allowed themselves to be ruled by immoral females. (p.15)

In addition to the stress on solitary leadership and the greatness of Otto the Great (and the faults of his enemies), the narrator holds belligerence and virility very important.

The priest does not know the words to express that the first duty of a German king is to fight for the right and power of the Germans.

This sentence appears after the priest crowning Otto has told him that he should have a concern for peace and mercy for the servants of God. In stating that a leader should first and foremost fight for the right and power of his people, the narrator justifies the necessity of a war, and undermines the importance of peace.

Otto’s campaigns to the east are expressed as praiseworthy.

He took over the enormous task of winning back the Germanic ground of settlement in the east with all his power. (p.12)

[…] he (Otto I) walked the destiny of the German people: the way into the east and the way into the south. (p.13)

The painting of Otto’s battle scenes against the Hungarians is steeped with heroism similar to that of Henry I.

This time they (Hungarians) devastated Bavaria and Swabia and robbed, murdered, and raged more severely than ever. On the Lechfelde, king Otto and the realm’s army met the enemies. All German tribes were represented in armies; the people’s consciousness had become powerful in the general emergency. What did it help the Hungarians that they avoided Otto shrewdly and attacked him in the back! Duke Konrad with his Franconians crushed them down and so made way for the king. What did it help the Hungarians their large number! What did it help them that the courageous Duke Konrad had to depart from his life! With wild suddenness Otto threw himself gallantly against their heap, and with him came the dukes and the knights. The German sword raged in the closest swarm and mowed down everything which placed itself in its way. (p.13)

This passage, among others, slightly puts the German heritage above the foreign. Two further issues in this chapter overtly claim the superiority of the German.

One concerns the marriage of Otto’s son to the princess Theophano from Byzantium. It was a diplomatic marriage which fused the two royal lines together.

But she (the princess) brought another heirloom, i.e. her foreign blood. […] But this marriage with a totally foreign princess avenged itself very soon. Already after half a century, all of the proud work of Otto I collapsed under his grandchild, the son of Theophano. (p.16)

And the neglect of race laws became the reason for the sudden downfall of the Saxon dynasty. (p.17)

The concept of ‘pure’ race presented here is almost ridiculous from today’s viewpoint.

The other issue concerns the inflow of Roman culture. The book is hostile to this ‘foreign’ culture:

The homelike German way in language and customs, in science, art, and religion all fell into an inferior position. The German mother tongue was disregarded by the German priests and intellectuals. […] The fall and degeneration of the German language traceable back to the Aryan Time intensified, and a gap between the Latin-speaking aristocracy and the German-speaking people began to open itself sinisterly. (p.17)

Many judgmental and tendentious statements which will also appear often later in the book are seen here. They mostly concern the superiority of the German blood, the preeminence of the German people’s main characteristics (e.g. belligerent, large, audacious), and the importance of a one-man leadership.






2.4 The Pope Prepares to Fight

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This section deals with the introduction of Christian culture into the German society. Starting with a description of the Eastern lands, the narrative illustrates how monasteries and churches were brought into Germany, and how they eventually gained more power, notably through the rise of influence of the Congregation of Cluny.

The first subdivision, “German Way and Foreign Spirit,” presents a prejudicial contrast between Europe and the eastern lands.

In the Asian Orient, there are races other than in Europe. We are pleased with the world, we wander through fields and forests, we laugh with the sun and sing with the birds. […] We say “Yes!” to the world and to fight, which rules in the world. Through happiness we seek power for the life’s struggles. (p.21)

It is different in the mishmash of races in the Orient, left behind by the Roman Empire. For the men there, the world was full of misery. The person who lived and worked in it, who pleased himself in the world, who married and had children, who merely looked at his body – he was the “slave of sin.” The fires and punishments of hell waited for him. However, the one who turned his back on the world, eluded fights and fled to solitude, tortured his body, worked himself with whips or rolled on thorns – he was a “saint”! They shunned the world and its beauty, and feared to fight. This mad spirit came with Oriental Christianity to Europe and also to Germany and left many souls confused. […] (p.21)

The narration depicts the Germans as the epitome of the carefree man roaming in nature. On the other hand, the Orient is where all people are condemned for leading a natural life. Associating the German people’s trait with a propensity for belligerence, the text makes the Asian people seem cowardly, and accentuates the importance of fighting.

In addition to the bias in the depiction of eastern societies, the narration commits a factual error. After the fall of the Roman Empire, monasticism had already spread to most of Latin and Greek parts of the Empire, and later beyond its eastern borders.

As it does not mention any specific dates, exactly which years it describes is not certain.

The next subdivision, titled Monasteries in Germany, is a criticism of the establishment and the inefficiency of German monasteries and their incompatibility with the “German spirit”.

They, who could have given the people millions of German children, went childless to their graves, and ended their family lines with them. (p.22)

Including a description of what buildings a monastery consist of, and the people who live in it, the book describes how the lifestyles of monks and abbots contrasted (the abbot happily went to hunt while monks worked).

In monasteries, there was a colorful blend of Germanic affirmation of life and foreign self-abnegation. […] The monks drove their Germanic blood to creative work. Besides the prescribed praying, they took their plough, cleared forests, and made the ground arable. Thus they created valuable things – this was German. (p.23)

The claim that work was derived from the diligent nature of the German people is unsupported, as under St. Pachomius manual labor was organized as an essential part of the monastic life; and external work of one sort or another has been an inevitable part of the life of the monks ever since[2].

In a monk-like manner, they (monks) suppressed the German language, folklore, culture and customs. The Germanic heroes were for them accursed blackguards, the magnificent idols devils and witches. (p.23)

The monasteries were transmitters of a foreign culture and spirit. (p.23)

About the monks’ documenting of history, the book criticizes:

But they (monks) saw history from their own perspectives, often defalcating what was favorable for Germany and its German lore, and praising all that the church and the pope did. (p.23)

This sentence is ironic since the book itself does not unfold history from a neutral point of view.

The monk’s art is never the art form of the people. (p.24)

Nazi ideology had is support from its vast popularity. Here, by basing German(ic) culture on its people and rendering the monasteries as conflicting with the German people’s natural inclinations toward (re-)productivity and health, the book makes readers dislike the church and the Pope while idealizing the German in his uninhibited state.

The next subdivision begins with:

That which does not live according to its laws, degenerates. (p.24)

The spread of the church in Germany is denounced as “a sick abnegation of the world and life.”

The growing church influence and the growth of the Congregation of Cluny is depicted as a foreign authority intervening in German affairs. Their demands of independence from “not only in spiritual, but also in secular matters,” threatened the power of the Emperor. The struggle between the Emperor and the church over the right to nominate bishops (Investiture) is recorded in the perspective of the Emperor.

Would the Congregation of Cluny win, the existence of the Reich was in danger. (p.25)

The Pope stepped into the fight against the Emperor and thus against Germany. (p.25)

The subdivision titled The Emperor’s Cathedral and Crown – German-Germanic Artistic Creations presents an introduction to the Speyer Cathedral, a building started by Emperor Conrad I. After a descriptive depiction of the cathedral, these sentences follow:

Despite its name, the “Romanesque” architecture is in truth the representative German architecture of the early Middle Ages. The stimulations the early German builders received were, when they approached the new job of building the church, already molded according to the German way. The gigantic buildings of German kings and Emperors were works of the German-Germanic spirit and witnesses of German history. (p.29)

German Romanesque buildings have some original elements in their style because they developed from Ottonian masonry and westwork traditions. However, the Romanesque style, derived from Byzantine and Roman art and architecture, was present in Western Europe including England, Italy, and France – therefore was a more European architectural form than a uniquely German one. (Microsoft Encarta: Romanesque art and architecture)

During the Nazi years, Hitler encouraged traditional German architecture, sponsoring the building of big structures. The conversion of the Romanesque style into a German one can be seen as an effort to ideologically and historically justify the National Socialists’ edifices and impress the German people.

It almost seems that the book attributes a uniquely German characteristic to many significant cultural accomplishments.







2.5 The Jews

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The above is the title of a small division from a chapter about German cities, their formation, and organization. The anti-Semitism famous of the Nazi ideology is revealed in the passage. The following is an excerpt:

The citizens, however, already then wanted nothing with the foreign race. Even the church gave up proselytizing them. […] Following their urge to earn without effort, they dedicated themselves to usury. They leant money with interest, and collected their demands with extreme inconsiderateness. This brought them the hatred of the oppressed. Even so, they seemed corrupt and aroused disgust and indignation through their lifestyles. […] They later succeeded to great power, spoiled and suppressed our people, until Adolf Hitler took measures against them. (p.106)

The portrayal of the Jews is hardly objective. Although it is true that many Jews in the Middle Ages specialized in financial lending, a sweeping generalization is made, endeavoring to create a stereotypical image of Jews as immoral financial giants who earned their status through other’s pains. The condemnation of Jews does not stop at their financial dealings, and the book attacks their lifestyles, declaring them “arousing disgust and indignation.”






3.1 Introduction to Lehrbuch für den Geschichtsunterricht II

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Lehrbuch für den Geschichtsunterricht II (Textbook for History Class II) is a history textbook for the sixth grade student and deals with the history of the German people from the 10th to 18th centuries (p.5). It was published in Berlin, 1952. This first edition of the history textbook was made under the editorship of the responsible employers in the history department of the Publisher People and Knowledge and of the German Pedagogic Central Institution as a teamwork from scientists and teachers. The Ministry of People’s Education of the German Democratic Republic led the management (p.6)

The book is bound with cloth in hardcover and its pages are still in good condition, unlike the pages of Volk und Führer. It also contains a map of Germany in color.






3.2 Henry I and Otto I

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While VuF focused more on the personal biographies of the two monarchs, this book emphasizes the broader situation of Germany. It especially dwells on the class differences existing in the German states at this time:

In Germany the dukes of different tribes were the powerful feudal lords. They ruled in their dukedoms with almost unrestrictedly and constantly tried to expand their power. At the same time, they had to fend themselves against the rebellious vassals in their realms. [...] The master dukes and their feudal lords with the free farmers stood up well against the intruders.  (p.30)

Mention of Henry's coronation or his accomplishments as king is objective and brief:

Shortly before his death, King Conrad delivered the crown to the duke of Saxony, Henry, because Henry had been, beside the duke of Bavaria, the most powerful duke.

In 919, the feudal lords from Saxony and Franconia met in Fritzlar and elevated the duke of Saxony as Henry I (919-936), King of Germany. This year signifies the year of foundation of Germany. (p.31)

Furthermore, the restriction on Henry I’s powers as king is noted.

Henry I practically was merely the leader of the strongest dukedom; he was the “first among equals.” (p.33)

Instead of long narratives about the King, there is a description of the farmers' situation in Saxony.

Here (Saxony) there were still very many free farmers, who possessed big farms and cultivated them with the help of unfree servants and maids. The single farms were in possession of a family for many generations. For a long time, even after in the rest of Germany many farmers had been enslaved, Saxony's farmers defended their possessions and their freedom with the sword in their hand against the feudal nobility. (p.31)

In the passage above, the relationship between farmers and the feudal lords is described from the point of view of the farmers. Moreover, the farmers are seen as the basis of Henry I's power, as the next passage shows:

Henry I could depend on these free farmers of Saxony. He drew up a large army, and succeeded, with the assistance of Franks, in enforcing recognition of royalty from the dukes of Swabia and Bavaria. (p.31)

In contrast to the description of the state of the German states at the formation of Germany in VF, here is a more realistic explanation of the situation of individual states.

In the rest of the states, the dukes ruled very much independently and individually. (p.31)

Depiction of the wars of conquest of the East differs significantly from the one in VF. First, a compassionate description of the Eastern people is provided.

East of Saale and Elbe lived the Elbslavs, e.g. the Sorbs and the Wends. They lived like the German farmers in villages and farmed the land and bred cattle. The largest part of the population consisted of free farmers who still lived in tribal orders. However, there were already market settlements and a nobility that led the individual tribes and clans. (p.32)

In stating that the farmers in the East lived much like the German farmers, the book creates a connection between farmers regardless of a national boundary. Moreover, by emphasizing the existence of a nobility, the narrative also creates a contrast between the different social classes.

Second, the book depicts the war of conquest as a destructive war that caused more harm than benefit.

The heavily armed Saxon riders broke suddenly into the villages and killed the inhabitants and set the farmhouses on fire. Only the strongest men were allowed to survive. Some of them had to work on the farms of Saxon feudal lords as bondsmen. Many, however, were sold as slaves to the Arabic slave states. (p.32)

With this first war of conquest into the Slavic realms under Henry I began the centuries-long extermination campaign by the German feudal lords against the Slavs. (p.33)

The word “extermination[3],” along with the word “exploitation[4]” is frequently used in this book to describe the upper class’s abuses of the lower class in society. Here it is used to describe the Eastern conquest, which VF had lauded as a righteous attack to win land that originally belonged to Germany.






3.3 The Policy of Conquest in the era of the Saxon Emperor

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This section delineates the cause, the course, and the consequences of the policy of conquest of the Saxon Emperors. All of these are seen in a rational perspective, where most emphasis is placed on economic incentives and the situation of farmers.

The motives for conquest as described in this book are strictly economic and involve no patriotic zeal or desire to reconquer German land.

Otto I, with the support of the Church, had strengthened his rule and created a rigorous feudal realm. No duke could dare to invade another duke’s lands and take them for himself. Even the feuds under the smaller feudal lords were interdicted and agitators were penalized. But all feudal lords strived to win new land, so that they could become richer and more powerful. On the border in the South and East of Germany, however, there were weak states. The people who lived there could defend themselves only with difficulty. Thus the German feudal lords under the leadership of King Otto I began to conquer and raid foreign lands, and enslave foreign peoples. (p.35)

The Church’s efforts to convert the newly conquered people are also seen as motivated by strictly economic reasons.

The conversion [of the Slavs] brought high rewards to the Church leaders, since all Christians had to pay the tithe. […] In reality, however, the secular and spiritual feudal lords strived together to rob as much land as possible and to compel the native population into bondage. (p.36)

Otto I’s conquest of Italy is seem similar to his conquest in the East:

The German feudal lords were enticed by the wealth of Italy. […] The city (Rome) was raided by the German feudal lords and devastated. (p.36)

The eventual failure of both conquests is reported without the regret present in VF:

After some successes, his (Otto II) army was annihilated in the battle by Squillace. (p.36)

The wars of conquest are seen as having been profitless and harmful.

Their policy for conquest in southern Italy and in the Slavic lands resulted in big defeats for the German feudal lords. (p.36)






3.4 The Struggle of the Church against Secular Feudal Power

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This section consists of four subsections. The first section, titled Significance[5] of Monasteries, contains a description of the architecture, the inhabitants, and the work done in the monasteries. The second subtitle reads: the Influence of the Church: the Economic Dependency of the Church on Secular Feudal Lords and entails a narrative about the hierarchy inside the church system in Germany, an account of how the Church amassed its wealth through donations made to monasteries and the relationship and the balance of power between the secular feudal lords and the church. The third and fourth subsections deal with the struggle of the Church against secular powers, first against the feudal lords, and the Investiture Conflict that threatened to disrupt the balance of power between the Emperor and the Pope.

The book’s description of the monastery in Germany during the 10th century is very detailed and focuses much on the economic and social significance the monastery had in the German community. After a brief description of the monastery’s buildings (e.g. library, refectory, etc.), and its architecture (The monastery building formed a large square. […] (p.39)), it illustrates the class division in the monastery and how people from different strata of society played respectively different roles in the monastery.

At first, farmers in bondage had hardly any hope of being accepted into monasteries, while free men were admitted in restricted numbers. Only from the second half of the 11th century did the German monasteries open their gates for the poor and those enslaved. However, most of these had to serve as laymen under the noble monks. (p.40)

Mostly, the sons of feudal lords were admitted to the schools in monasteries. They later became clergymen or stayed as monks in the monasteries. (p.40)

Beneath the monks, there were also sculptors, craftsmen, and builders. The actual construction work was done by the laity or by the men bonded to the monastery. (p.41)

Additionally, several parallels are drawn between feudalism and the system of tilling the land possessions of the monastery.

The possessions of the monastery was scattered widely about. In remote villages lived the farmers in bondage, who had to give tribute and dues to the monks in monasteries just like the men in bondage to the secular feudal lords. (p.40)

In the second subsection, the church is described as a power that dominated the thinking and behavior of German farmers, but which also served in justifying the rule of the nobility over the farmers.

The kings and other feudal lords used the Church to assure the people’s obedience, in making it appear that their rule was the will of God. (p.42)

The book paints the Church as a part of the feudal structure that held the farmers in bondage.

Thus, the Church came to possess huge tracks of land. The Church became a potent feudalistic power. The popes, archbishops, bishops, and abbots were feudal lords. (p.44)

After this interpretation, a thorough description of the interdependent relationship and the rivalry between the Church and the state follows.

The feudal lords were dependent on the help of the Church to keep up their reign, and also, in their own beliefs they had to direct themselves to the Church’s teachings. On the other hand, the Church was reliant on the worldly lords, for they needed land and serfs, who tilled it in order to feed all their servants. (p.44)

Each of the two powers sought to gain supremacy over the other. (p.45)

The third subsection introduces the deepening conflict between the Church and the State by explaining the clash point of the two powers’ mutual desire to control one another. There are explanations of reform movements within the Church – notably those of Cluny in Burgundy – that aimed in relieving the Church of secular influence.

The text continues the parallels previously drawn of the feudal hierarchy and the monasteries’ use of farmers in tilling its lands.

The monasteries were at the same time agricultural production units. The abbots were feudal lords. (p.47)

The effect of the conflict between the two powers on the people is not neglected.

The reform movement as well preached to the people compliance with the feudal reign. (p.49)

The fourth subsection, titled the Investiture Conflict, is noteworthy in its introduction of a new class, the citizenry.

However, by the 11th century, there were already not only feudal lords and oppressed farmers in Germany. The large market settlements at the Rhine River had developed into cities. Craftsmen and merchants formed a new class: the middle class[6]. And this young German middle class helped the King; for Henry IV had protected the cities from the encroachments of the feudal lords and ensured safe passage of goods through the country roads. […] Henry IV had, with the help of the cities, asserted himself as king.

Here, an emphasis is placed on the middle class’s role in heightening the German king’s power. In several accounts of the Investiture Conflict[7], there is no mention of the new class as a prominent base of support for the king.

The rest of the narrative about the Investiture Conflict is factually correct and objective.






3.5 The Feudal Lords Oppress the People with the Help of their Ministeriales

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The section following the above title expounds on how the exploitation of the farmers by the nobility was possible after describing the status of farmers in general. Several statements contain words that imply bias in favor of the lower classes:

In the whole of Germany there were only a few thousand feudal lords, but they ruled over the mass of dependent, bonded, and free farmers. (p.55)

Many dependent farmhands fled when they were too much oppressed by the feudal lords, …(p.55)

There is also a comprehensive account of feudalistic society and the complaints of suppressed peasants and workers.

An analysis of the situation of class differences follows when the book asks the question:

How was exploitation of the many dependent as well as the free farmers by a few thousand feudal lords, even possible? (p.56)

As the most important reason, the narrative points out that the feudal lords were more powerful than the farmers.

The ministeriales, the class of unfree knights that had become important as administrators and soldiers on the estates of the church, were used by the Salian kings to administer their demesne as household officers at court and as garrisons for their castles[8]. Here, they are designated helpers of the feudal lords (p.56).

There is also a mention of the disorganization and isolation that worsened the position of the farmers against the feudal lords.

The farmers lived in their separate villages isolated from each other and had not connection to the farmers living in more distant villages. (p.56)

In addition, the spiritual guidance of the Church and farmers’ ignorance is cited as the reason for the farmers’ failure to notice that together they could fight oppression.

Moreover, the clergy preached to the farmers that the feudal lords were put into service by God and that the farmers had to obey. Because the farmers were ignorant, they did not notice, that through a union of all farmers the oppression could be removed. (p.56)






3.6 Class Strife in German Cities

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The subtitles in this section are:

The citizens free themselves from the princes

The strife between patricians and craftsmen

The antagonism between masters and journeymen

The first subsection deals with the struggle of the citizens to gain freedom from the rule of feudal lords. This topic is not as deeply treated in other current history texts (e.g. Encyclopaedia Britannica includes only one short subsection on the conflict between the princes and cities, which is focused on Wencelas (r. 1378-1400) only).

In the struggle, the feudal lords are described as greedy, and opposed to the citizens who were demanding what was their right to self-rule. Only the economic incentives of the feudal lords’ opposition is outlined and emphasized.

These feudal lords promoted the development of cities, because they received huge profits from the cities’ trade, and because they could draw from the market the revenue they would otherwise have gotten from their serfs. (p.99)

[…] ; often, the feudal lord, who had rights over the citizen, merchant, and craftsman, treated them unfairly or even confiscated their property. (p.100)

Moreover, he [the feudal lord] demanded the merchants and craftsmen use the measures, weights, and coins that he had decided on. (p.100)

In fact, the territorial lords had to seek more revenues, since the flight of the rural population from servile tenures on the land to the free air of the cities reduced the labor force and impaired their revenues[9]. Additionally, there had been princes actively interested in good government, and the more enlightened rulers usually issued their ordinances only after consultation with the estates[10].

In addition, there is a descriptive paragraph narrating about a revolt in Köln against the archbishop who ruled there.

The description of the feudal lords as greedy enemies and the extensive narration of a revolt up close all lead to the impression that the book is trying to invoke to the reader a justification for a revolt and the necessity of fight against an oppressive authority.

In the second subsection the guilds in the cities are described.

The guilds contributed much to the development of and helped many craftsmen to fame and wealth. The patricians could only succeed in their struggle against the feudal lords with the help of the craftsmen, but the craftsmen had not received a share of the ruling system of the city.

The guilds’ economic and military functions are described in full detail in this section.

Only from the upper stratum of people, the large-scale merchants, and the city’s landowners came the members of the council, which was amenable to the law and administration. These “best citizens” or “Geschlechter (patrician families)” as they were called, possessed the largest part of the wealth of the city and used their power to exploit the citizens in various ways. They often increased taxes for foodstuffs and semiluxury foods, especially meat, salt, beer, and wine. […] The richer and more powerful they became, the more they wanted to increase their wealth through the pains of other citizens. (p.107-108)

The above quote reveals an account of the city’s hierarchical government in a similar tone as the depiction of the territorial lords’ rule over the peasants. While it is true that the patrician oligarchy excluded the guilds and other citizens, the description of the patrician class is biased as there is blame placed on the patrician class for exploiting the citizens.

The book continues to paint a negative picture of the patricians.

A document from Strassbourg reports how the rich patricians treated the craftsmen. In that document it is told that a craftsman, who demanded wages for his work to a patrician, received no money at all, but was beaten. (p.108)

This text is sufficient to evoke unfavorable emotions against the patricians. Following this is an account of the guilds and the craftsmen rebelling against the patricians.

As a result, the guilds were extremely bitter. “The alderman Rüthger Gryn throws the money of the city up into his hat, beneath into his trousers!” they cried. The weavers’ guild charged the eleven members of the council that they had become “disloyal, dishonorable, and perjured to the city.” The chronics report: “what the weavers took up, be it right or wrong, had to go according to their wills.” So they set it through, so that into the 82-member council not only patricians, but also craftsmen were admitted. Now, the smiths, painters, and others stepped next to the weavers into the government of the city. (p.109)

This is another account where the suppressed unite and rebel against the economically superior oppressors and win. After reading this, the reader is prone to sympathize with the guilds and the craftsmen and smile over their victories. The whole treatment of the previous two topics reflects the communist ideology where suppressed workers rebel against the upper classes (e.g. bourgeoisie) to overturn the existing hierarchy and form a new government.

The third subsection delineates the conflict between masters and their journeymen. In the first paragraph:

A few guilds in the city became richer than the others. They took advantage of their wealth to make other lines of work dependent on them. (p.113)

Here, as in many other parts of the book, money and economic wealth is depicted as a tool to exploit the poorer and form dependencies. This can also be seen in the next few paragraphs when the narration goes on to describe the masters’ exploitation of journeymen.

But, as their products yielded big profits, the masters became affluent; as the rising earnings rushed into their pockets. The master craftsman differentiated themselves from the journeymen in the guilds and made use of the guild’s regulations to exploit the economically weaker journeymen. (p.113)

By listing all the difficult tasks the journeymen had to do, and all the troubles they had to go through, the book establishes – yet again – sympathy for the economically weak and exploited class of men.

However, it is true that the guilds were becoming increasingly oligarchical and exclusive. The ascent of journeymen and apprentices to the rank of master was obstructed by the imposition of excessive fees, and in many guilds membership became virtually hereditary[11]. In this, the book does justice to the inequality which existed in guilds.






3.7 Summary of Analysis

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Throughout the book, the relationship between the rich oppressors and the poor suppressed are highlighted. The oppressors are frequently depicted one-sidedly as greedy and wanting more power and wealth at the expense of the poor. Often, the people’s favorable role as diligent workers or united rebels is delineated. Rather than describing individual rulers and dynasties, the book talks in terms of different class strata, referring to the feudal lords, the peasants, etc.





4.1 Introduction to Geschichte 9

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Geschichte 9, a history textbook for a 9th grade student of the Oberschule (high school) published in 1966, is an edited version of a first edition in 1960. On page 2, two lines of additional information say approved as a school material by the Ministry of People’s Education of the German Democratic Republic.

In 1966, the GDR had existed for 17 years; Walter Ulbricht, as the general secretary of the Socialist Unity Party, and chairperson of the Council of State, still dominated East German politics. The Berlin Wall, a heavily fortified barrier blocking the only escape route to West Germany, was built in 1961. In 1968, Ulbricht imposed new restrictions on travel from West Germany to West Berlin. Ulbricht was determined to transform East Germany into a major Communist power and maintained friendly relations with other Communist states, joining in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, and helping to found the Warsaw Pact. In 1954, USSR granted East Germany diplomatic recognition and in 1964, East Germany and USSR agreed to maintain communism in Eastern Europe (in 1968, Ulbricht sent East German troops to help crush a Czechoslovakian uprising).

With the New Economic System of 1963, economic recovery in East Germany occurred rapidly. Workers’ incomes and benefits improved and many of them were given advanced technological education, reconciling them more to the Communist government. A new, fully socialist constitution was adopted in 1968.

Education in the GDR was marked by a much higher proportion of its population of training for skilled and scientific work than in the West, and a large part of those who received a university education were from the working class.

The textbook covers the sequence of events starting with the February Revolution in Russia (1917) to the end of the Second World War (1945) (cf. table of contents, appendix I).







4.2 The February Revolution in Russia

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The February Revolution in Russia was spontaneous and leaderless. It was fueled by a deep resentment over the strains of fighting a modern war with a premodern political and economic system. Tsar Nicholas’s well-meaning incompetence, and his wife Alexandra’s meddling in government – while encouraging her husband to be a strong tsar, Alexandra sought the advice of Rasputin on matters of state – was combined with the strains of war and caused a great gulf between the monarchy and the rest of the population[12].

The first paragraph of the book only partly succeeds in describing the situation on the eve of the February Revolution.

With the transition to imperialism the incongruities of capitalistic countries were magnified to the outermost extent. The swift development of technology and the resulting increase in mass production enabled the manufacturing of great amounts of material goods. These goods were created by the hands of the workers; however, flowed not to the workers, but into the hands of individuals. The flaws of the social production and the private appropriation of the products urged all nations to a solution. The transition to a new, just social order – the socialistic one – became a historic necessity. (p.3)

This paragraph outlines the situation before the February Revolution in a limited viewpoint – that of a capitalistic economic structure as opposed to a socialistic economic structure. The February Revolution is seen as evidence of the flaws of the capitalistic system, to be solved by a socialistic overturn. In this paragraph, the basic philosophy of socialism is highlighted, rather than the specific situation of Russia in 1917.

In the next paragraphs, the major factors that led to the February Revolution are delineated, but only in terms defined by the previous paragraph:

At the start of the 20th century, Russia became the center of all incongruities of imperialism. The compound of various kinds of oppression – that of workers by the bourgeoisie, farmers by the tsarist regime – made the situation of the people unbearable and gave the discrepancy between classes a particular severity. (p.3)

This paragraph describes the class divisions, but connects it with “imperialism.” The next sentences identify the war as one of the causes leading to the February Revolution. However, it connects the war with the incongruities of the capitalistic system, in addition to an undeveloped industry (of the tsarist regime).

The First World War disrupted the capitalistic system and aggravated its incongruities. The unindustrialized economy of tsarist Russia was severely upset by the effects of the war. (p.3)

The revolution is depicted more as a class struggle fitting the predictions of Marx’s Communist Manifesto, than as an outburst of sentiments among the people of Russia.

The general dissatisfaction of the people with the handling of the war by the tsarist regime broke into an action of the masses. The farmers turned against the estate owners, stopped paying the rent and even took possession of the estate. (p.5)

The next paragraph is a favorable description of the Bolshevik party.

The Bolshevik party directed the way and the goal of the growing mass movement. The party was the leader and organizer of the revolutionary actions by the Russian people against the imperialist war and the tsarist regime. […] Through these demands, the Bolsheviks united all the revolutionary powers of the country. (p.5)

This introduction of the Bolshevik party is akin that of a liberator presenting solutions to the problems presented before. Important to note is that it was only after the October Revolution that Bolsheviks secured power; after the February Revolution, only the tsarist rule was toppled, and a parliamentary government introduced.

The other two political parties, the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, are given little attention, and appear much later in the narrative. The only sentence that introduces them:

Many small businesses, in which former craftsmen and merchants worked during the war, voted for the Mensheviks as deputies in the soviet; the soldiers voted for the Socialist Revolutionaries. (p.7)

In fact, the Socialist Revolutionaries were significant in the fact that they were the main agrarian party. Since more than 80 percent of the population was living in the countryside, they were certain to be the leading party when the Constituent Assembly was elected. (Britannica)

Following a report of events of the February Revolution, an assessment is made of the success of the revolution:

The civil-democratic February Revolution had won. It was the first stage transforming the imperialist war into a civil war. (p.6)

Again, the World War I is dubbed “imperialist,” and the revolution given context in a socialistic process.

The book rightly points out that the provisional government was bourgeois and represented only a tiny segment of the population.

The Provisional Government, on the other hand, was an organ for power of the bourgeoisie and the estate owners. In connection with the foreign imperialists and with the interests of the monopolists, it continued Russia’s participation in war. Supported by the old political apparatus and by the influence of the Socialist Revolutionaries’ and the Mensheviks’ leaders on the masses, the government tried to control the revolution and finally to knock it down. (p.8)

However, the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries were moderate socialists and did not proclaim that it wanted to stifle the revolution. They did not advocate a rush to power and held that Russia had to pass through a capitalist phase before the socialist one could appear.

The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, are presented as the problem solvers of the people:

They solved the problems in supplying the population, the armament of the people, the employment in businesses and in transport, the introduction of the 8-hour work day, etc.

The Bolsheviks, in fact, became popular with the workers and peasants, and began to win local elections.






4.3 The Transition from the Civil-Democratic to the Socialistic Revolution

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In this section, the actions of the Provisional Government, Lenin’s April Theses, and the July Uprising are outlined. The diction and the selection of material both point to a bias against the Provisional Government and for the Bolshevik Party.

They were, for example, for the continuation of the imperialist war and stood for the erroneous view that they were thus defending the fatherland. (p.8)

On the 4th of April, he (Lenin) announced to the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets his renowned April Theses. [...] It was necessary to expose the imperialistic politics of the Provisional Government and the placatory policies of the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, to take the people away from their influence, and through the removal of the placatory parties from leadership, to make the Soviets the true revolutionary organs of power. (p.8)

The selection of historical material also points to a bias. On pages 9 and 10, an excerpt from Lenin’s April Theses is presented along with a picture of Lenin announcing his theses. Under the subtitles of the picture, a quote reads:

“One had to see what power and calmness his person, his whole figure emanated … He stood like a helmsman in midst of a furious hurricane, calm, clear, simple, and sublime, because he knew and saw where the ship was heading.” (p.9)

The above is an obviously heroic description of Lenin cloaked in quotation marks.

Another table presents a chronological list of actions undertaken by the Provisional Government, titled “Terrorist Measures of the Provisional Government after the 4th of July, 1917.” It is questionable whether the Provisional Government is worthy of the condemnation “terrorist”, even though it was somewhat inept.





4.4 The Fight over Soviet Power

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From the memoir of a participant in the fight for the Winter Palace

“It was a heroic moment of the Revolution, marvelous and unforgettable. In the darkness of the night, through a pale, misty smoke, only illuminated by the light of the street lanterns and the fiery lightning of shots, there came from every adjacent street and from behind the nearest corners a line of red soldiers and sailors, like a terrible, disaster-foreboding shadow, stumbling, dropping and rising again, …

“The Palace was conquered. The only piece of land that during these days still remained in the hands of the ‘Provisional Government of all of Russia’ was, with the hands of the people, snatched away. The palace of the tsar – a symbol of boundless arbitrariness and hopeless enslavement, in which one had for throughout hundreds of years ignored and laughed over the miseries and tears of the millions of slaves – was not in the hands of these slaves, those without rights, in the hands of the proletariat, which from this moment on was the sole sovereign of his fate. (p.17)

The revolution had awakened the creative power of the people. (p.22)






4.5 Special Note: Stalin

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In the entire book, Stalin had been mentioned only three times (in pages 13, 247, and 285) – and all three times mentioned as a minor character. Three times is very few compared to contemporary history books covering the same era (e.g. such and such history book mentioned Stalin how many times). Stalin played a major role in the formation of the communist structure after Lenin’s death – earning three sections titled “Joseph Stalin”, “Russia under Stalin”, and “Stalin’s Nationality Policy” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica article about Russia[13] – but his reputation as a ruthless dictator might be thought to undermine the ideal picture of socialism. As in many other parts of the book, this omission of a crucial fact is frequently used to portray a favorable picture of socialism.




5.1 Comparison of Two Books: introduction

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In this section, I will compare the first two books which cover the same era in history. Although they were written in the same century, they tell two hugely different histories.






5.2 Selection of Material in Text


The major difference between the two books lies in the selection of contents (cf. Appendix I, Table of Contents for Volk and Führer, and Table of Contents for Lehrbuch für den Geschichtsunterricht).

In the book published under the Nazi regime, the focus is on the kings and emperors, and other figures who ruled over the German lands. Individual chapters are dedicated to German kings and emperors (e.g. Henry the Great founds the German People’s State p.1, etc.) and there are many accounts narrating the personal aspects of their lives – e.g. what Henry the Great said to his successor on his deathbed. There is even a poem on the death of the king Barbarossa:

He has taken with him

The Reich’s Splendor

And will come again

With it in his time. (p.51)

The names of individual dukes and lords and their accomplishments appear frequently in this book. For example:

His best assistants were Count Hermann Billung

[ …]. Hermann Billung won in Mecklenburg land for the Germans and was promoted as Duke of Saxony. (p.12)

[Referring to the Crusades] The wild lot was followed by an organized group of knights, the blossom of the northern force of France and Germany, under the leadership of the brave Duke Gottfried of Lotharingia. (p.64)

In Lehrbuch für den Geschichtsunterricht, the focus is on the people, social structure, and the economy. The leaders are rarely mentioned personally, and only as a symbol of the social hierarchy they belonged to. Members of the nobility are mostly referred to as a group.

[Referring to the Crusades] The knights of the order departed again and again to new conquests. (p.76)

                                                                       VuF                                 LBfdGU

Total number of titles and subtitles:              165                                  108

Titles containing reference to a leader             29                                    2

Titles containing the word “economy”[14]:      0                                    5

Titles containing the word “people”[15]:          7                                    3

Titles containing the word “peasants”[16]:       7                                  13

Titles containing the word “German”[17]:      38                                  19

Titles containing the word “Reich”[18]:          13                                    1


The above table shows some differences in the selection of historical material between the two books. The word “economy” is used five times in the table of contents in LBfdGU while it is never used in VuF – which shows that LBfdGU puts more attention to economic descriptions.

While 29 out of 165 titles and subtitles contain names that refer to specific kings and leaders of the nobility in VuF, only2 out of 108 titles and subtitles in LbfdGU refer to a specific individual in the nobility or royal positions. This shows a higher focus on leaders in VuF than in LBfdGU.

VuF also uses the words “German” and “Reich” much more frequently, which shows a comparatively stronger emphasis and focus on nationalistic ideals.

The word “people” is much more frequently used in VuF, while the word “peasants” is more frequently used in LBfdGU. This implies the treatment of the common people as a national symbol in VuF, and as a class of farmers in LBfdGU.

Through the analysis and comparison of the selection of material in both books, it can be concluded that VuF puts a more personal emphasis on individual leaders and a greater attention to nationalistic ideals. LBfdGU is deals more extensively with changing social structure (social classes as a whole) and the economy.







5.3 Treatment of Selected Topics

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-> The Peasants


In VuF, the common folk is often referred to as “the people” (Volk) rather than “the peasants” or “the farmers”. Although VuF extols the accomplishments of the German people, it does not describe extensively their style of living or the common farmer’s burdens. While VuF romanticizes the attributes, the culture, and the spirit of the German people, it puts more attention to describing the knightly life, the life inside the castles, and personal accounts of royal personalities rather than the everyday life of the peasant.

In LBfdGU, much attention is given to the farmers and the workers and their hard lives under the oppressive reign of feudal lords and other rich upper classes. The consequences of being a peasant – their dues to the feudal lord, and restrictions in the society – are elaborated on, and their rebels closely followed. While there is little attention on the culture and lifestyle of peasants, there is much focus on economic affairs and roles.


-> Investiture Conflict


The strong influence of ideology on the two books’ interpretation of history becomes visible in their contrasting treatment of the Investiture Conflict. In VuF, the church is designated the spoiled foreign influence that endangers the safety of the realm. The request of the church for independent nomination of their bishops can never be justified in narrative of VuF. Their demands were a threat to the emperor, who was the symbol of the German Reich’s unity.

The pioneers did not stop at the reform of monastery life. They went on to attack against the state and demanded independence not only in spiritual things, but also in secular decisions. […] Their demands threatened the power of the emperor to the utmost extent. […] Would the Congregation of Cluny win, the existence of the Reich was in danger. (p.25)

The Pope stepped into the fight against the Emperor and thus against Germany. (p.25)

On the other hand, LBfdGU treats the two powers, the emperor and the church, equally, and depicts both as seeking greedily for the supremacy over the other. The details of the conflict are all narrated correctly. The conflict is only an outlet for a new class to be introduced, the citizenry.

And this young German middle class helped the King; for Henry IV had protected the cities from the encroachments of the feudal lords and ensured safe passage of goods through the country roads. […] Henry IV had, with the help of the cities, asserted himself as king.


-> The Cathedral at Speyer


In both books, the Kaiserdom in Speyer is interpreted differently.

In VuF:

Firmly the wide and strong walls stretched on the ground, overtowered by countless towers, which often appear stubborn as a donjon, as if they wanted to guard the country. Despite the name “Romanesque” style, the style is in fact the true German architecture of the early middle ages. That which once the German builders acquired from the incitement received by the Romans, was long ago transformed accordingly into the German fashion as they went about the new task of building a church. The great buildings of German kings and emperors are works of German-Germanic spirit and witnesses of German history. (p.29)

In LBfdGU:

The magnificent Emperor Cathedral in Speyer […] was built in the Romanesque style.

This style of architecture relates closely to the simple construction of the people, especially the buildings of peasants. (p.46)

In VuF, the style of the Emperor’s cathedral in Speyer is defined as truly German, while in LBfdGU, it is designated the style of the people. Here we see the vulnerable aspect in the process of interpreting art works and their styles. The cathedral in Speyer – a famous and impressive work that remained visible to many students at that time – was a target for re-interpretation and distortion.

The encyclopaedia Britannica has a short article about the cathedral at Speyer:

The Romanesque cathedral, founded in 1030 by the Holy Roman emperor Conrad II, contains a unique crypt and the tombs of eight German emperors and kings and three empresses. (p.91)[19]

The above paragraph shows how much distortion of material was allowed in both history books, compared to current historic texts. However, while VuF denies the validity of the term “Romanesque,” LBfdGU stops at assigning the style of architecture to the people.


->The Holy Roman Empire


The Holy Roman Empire, which in German is called Heiliges Römisches Reich, refers to the varying complex of lands ruled first by Frankish and then by German kings for 10 centuries from Charlemagne in 800 until the renunciation of the imperial title in 1806.[20] Both books employ the term “das Deutsche Reich” (German Reich) instead of the “Holy Roman Empire.” The Holy Roman Empire did not only included German lands, but other constituent kingdoms such as the Italian lands. While the “Roman” in Holy Roman Empire does not indicate strictly Roman origins, and rather refers to the imperial title of previous Roman emperors, designating the empire as “German,” after the name “Holy Roman Empire” has existed for a millennium can be considered a conscious distortion of historical facts.

The usage of the term points to strong nationalism in the Nazi regime, and the GDR’s continued adoption of the nationalistic ideology in its history textbooks.






5.4 Literary Style

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The language of Volk und Führer is often flowery and lyrical. Direct bias and judgmental phrases strikes the eye, especially in broadly-spaced sentences at the end of a paragraph. The book openly praises selected German attributes, such as the knightly life and the fertility of German lifestyle, and just as openly denounces foreign influence and its – what it calls unhealthy and degenerative – attributes. The paragraphs are easy to read and almost devoid of factual information; instead, they are filled with accounts of selected persons (such as kings), judgmental statements, and general descriptions.

An exemplary paragraph of VuF follows:


Luther did not recognize the full significance of the great people’s tasks and movements, which were aroused through his bold actions, and betrayed them of a leader. Thus Germany’s political split and weakness was not overcome, merely exacerbated. To the old disputes the contest in belief was added; the century of the Wars of Religions started, of which the scene of action was Germany, which shed too much blood in the conflict. The European ascendancy of Germany was, in midst of the bloody confusion of the Wars of Religions, fully lost. The border powers, however, strengthened, and took the world in possession. (p.172)


In contrast, the narrative of LfdGU is more objective and rather dry remains focused on facts. Much material is dedicated to the economic situation and the class distinctions of the society. There also is much factual information (e.g. dates come up much more frequently in LBfdGU, as well as frequent reference to specific places). Vocabulary such as economy, development, trade, and exploitation comes up notably more frequently in LBfdGU than in VuF. Whereas VuF uses the word “German people” (Volk) to differentiate the Germans from the foreigners, LBfdGU uses “the feudal lords”, “the peasants”, and “the citizens” to differentiate classes in the society.

Here is an exemplary paragraph of LBfdGU of comparable content to the one of VuF before:


The peasants’ war failed because the citizens did not aid in the fight against the feudal lords and the princes – who were their enemies also – and even fought together with the princes after they had grown stronger against the peasants. The peasants often saw only the benefit to their own villages, and there was no united movement of all peasants. They were gullible and were easily deceived by the feudal lords. Many peasants had signed contracts with their feudal lords, which ameliorated their situation somewhat. As a result, they refused to continue to fight together with those, who had not achieved their goals. The leaders of the peasants were often knights, who frequently betrayed them. The poor population of the cities was still to weak to aid the peasants effectively. (p.198)



6 Conclusion

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Education in history has almost always been a policy of the enlightened, a way to elevate the public’s intellectual status to a higher level. High literacy meant superior civilization. Long years of mandatory schooling represented a learned, critical society.

What we often fail to realize is that education can be a weapon – a weapon of the learned to indoctrinate the unlearned, a tool for the strong to completely control the weak. Although many past incidents point to the fact that education has, in fact, been so used as to control the public, many of us still take education for granted: the mother tells her children to study their materials from school; to the parent, success equals doing well in school, and becoming the ideal citizen the state wants.

In Nazi Germany, education in the schools was directly intended to capture the youth (“the repository of the national future”). The ideals were simple: boys were to be efficient soldiers; girls, diligent mothers for the sake of Hitler and Germany.

Coordination of the teaching profession was undertaken at an early date to ensure political reliability and commitment to National Socialist ideology. The Nazi regime exercised further control over the schools by determining the content of the curriculum. In the late 1930s and 1940s the regime issued new guidelines and new textbooks based on Hitler’s general ideas on education. The rearing of healthy bodies was more important than the learning of pure knowledge.

The main impact of the changes in curriculum was seen in three subjects – German, history, and biology. History classes focused on the Nazi revolution and Hitler’s role in it. The whole of history was reinterpreted in the light of racial principles, especially the significance to world history of the “Aryan race”.

The quality of education suffered greatly during the Third Reich. Teachers’ energies were overtaxed by extracurricular responsibilities and a noticeable increase in the pupil-teacher ratio. The Hitler Youth activities were both physically exhausting, and made settling into a regular school routine difficult. Hitler Youth leaders resented being subordinated to the authority of teachers in school while exercising authority themselves out of school.

In the German Democratic Republic, the Communist ideology also influenced the educational system. The GDR affected the young students so that they would fight for the goals of socialism. The law decreed that the goal of the educational system was to form socialistic individuals identifying themselves with Marxist-Leninistic philosophy. The education system in the GDR was completely centralized, and teacher-centered, politically required, and strongly controlled. State organized youth work remained primarily imposed by the program of the one-party state.

Germany in the Nazi Regime and German Democratic Republic period provides a good example of how education can be used to indoctrinate the people using the right methods. In this paper, I have analyzed, compared, and contrasted two history books published in Germany in these two periods of the 20th century: Nazi regime, and the German Democratic Republic, and found that the ideology of the respective periods in German history influenced much of the historical narrative in textbooks.




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A-I Contents of Volk und Führer


Table of Contents – Volk und Führer

First Half:

German Emperors Lead Europe

(The German Age Begins)

First Part: Saxons establish the realm of the Germans

I.                    Henry the Great creates the German People’s Reich

The Saxon way to the crown

King Henry

II.                 Otto the Great, the first German emperor

On the ways of Emperor Charles

Fight for the unity of the realm

A German emperor

III.               The realm in danger

Strokes of fate

Degeneration and fall

Resurgence through healthy strength


Second Part: The Salians maintain the realm against the Pope

I.                    The papacy prepares for the fight

German style and foreign spirit

Monasteries in Germany

Fanatic monks as opponents of the realm

II.                 Conrad II strengthens the power of the emperor

A German people’s election

A German people’s king

Emperor cathedral and emperor crown – German art creations

III.               Henry III does not recognize the opponent

An emperor renews the church

The arbitrator of Europe

IV.              Henry IV struggles with the Pope

The realm without leaders

Against Papal will to power and Germany’s mental confusion

Ascendancy through struggle

Tragic end

V.                 Stalemate between emperors and the Pope

The last Salian makes peace

Lothar of Saxony turns east


Third Part: The Hohenstaufen struggle for world power

I.                    Frederick Barbarossa renews the power of the emperor

Here Welf (Guelph) – here Waibling!

Frederick I ends the discord between brothers

The Redbeard in italy

Fight with the Pope

Frederick Barbarossa[21] and Henry the Lion

In the shine of the emperor’s power

Barbarossa’s crusade and his death

II.                 Henry VI wants the world realm

Battles in the north and in the south

Steep rise

Sudden collapse

III.               Decay of the realm and decline of the dynasty

Innocent III, the worldly ruler of Popes

Indications of the decline of the Church

IV.              The crusades

The northerners’ determination to fight in the service of the Church

The Pope as a warlord

The first crusade

The Pope’s fiefdom Palestine

The reputation of the papacy is shaken

How do we stand to the Crusades?


Fourth Part: Decline of the power of the emperor and the Papacy, and the ascendancy of the princes

I.                    The realm falls apart

The law of the jungle rules

Emperor without power – people without protection

II.                 Decline of the church

Election and coronation of kings without the Pope

An announcing of German beliefs

The Schism

The Council of Constance

The Hussite wars

III.               Renewal of the empire fails

The last knights

An upheaval in war material

Reform of the Reich on paper

Habsburg inherits the Weltreich

IV.              Countries on the border grow stronger

The new France

England strengthens its power of the king

Spain united and free


Second Half: Great Deeds of the German People


First Part: The People and the Social Structure

I.                    The knighthood, a class of warriors and lords

Mountains and castles

Defense becomes a habit

Inside the castle

Well-fortified upbringing

Knightly life

The knight as a poet and singer

II.                 German cities – German art

Origin of cities

The picture of a city

The citizenry

The Jews

The cities and their art

III.               The German Hanseatic League and its commercial empire

German work conquers foreign markets

German merchants found the commercial power of the Hanse

The German Hanse become a political power of the north

The decline of the Hanse

IV.              The German peasant and his fate

Defenseless – without rights

Cultural accomplishments of the peasantry

The blood heritage of the nation

Germanic cultural inheritance in the peasantry


Second part: Germans penetrated to the east

I.                    The fickle fate of the east

II.                 Predecessor of Germany’s Eastern Policy

King Henry

Count Gero

Lothar of Saxony

Albrecht the Bear

Henry the Lion

The Babenberg Dynasty and Austria Proper

III.               German peasants and citizens secure the country

The plaice calls

City and country hand in hand

IV.              Foreigners call Germans






The Baltic Lands

V.                 Prussia, the State of the [Teutonic] Order

The Christian task of Germany’s knightly orders

The German task of the orders

The Marienburg

The order on its apex of power

The decline begins

The fall of the order

The bordering nation, Poland, become a great power

Lebensraum in the east[22] – a work of the German people


Third Part: A greater world is opened

I.                    Survey and conquest of the earth

Northern seafarer arrives at America

Coumbus’s discovery of America

New sea routes and the circumnavigation of the globe

Parts of the Earth become colonies

Upheaval of the power structure in Europe

Self-help of German merchants fails

II.                 Invention and research

A German invents the printing press

Other inventions

Discovery of old cultures

Early German historians

The new worldview is of a German origin

Fourth Part: For freedom of life and belief

I.                    Martin Luther, the struggler for the freedom of belief

Tough youth

The fight begins

Luther against the Emperor and the Pope

Fate and significance of the Reformation

Luther as a German fighter for belief

II.                 Men and powers of the age of Reformation

Charles V and the Weltreich of the Habsburg family

France and the Pope against Habsburg

The Emperor wins against the Turks

III.               Peasants’ struggle for freedom and the Reich

Germany’s downfall

The hardship of the peasants

Peasants fight for their freedom, rights, and realm

Knights as protagonists of Germany unity

IV.              The Princes’ fight against Habsburg and Rome

V.                 Wars of Religions in other countries of Europe

VI.              Amidst the Wars of Religion, the Reich collapses

Rome prepares for fight

The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648)




A-II Contents of Lehrbuch für den Geschichtsunterricht

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Lehrbuch für den Geschichtsunterricht II


A.     The History of the German People in the Full Development of Feudalism


I.                    Germany in 10th and 11th centuries

1.      The rural economy

2.      The free peasants

3.      The agricultural production unit

4.      The first market settlements emerge

5.      The feudal lords make free peasants dependent and exploit them

6.      The feudal lords fight each other

II.                 The Founding of the German Reich

1.      Henry I and Otto I

2.      The politics of conquest in the era of the Saxon emperor

III.               The Fight of the Church against the Secular Feudal Power

1.      The implication of monasteries

2.      The influence of the church. The economic dependency on the church of the secular feudal lords

3.      The fight of the church against secular feudal lords

4.      The investiture conflict

IV.              The feudal split of Germany, the development of Knighthood

1.      The feudal lords suppress the people with the help of their ministries

2.      The lesser nobles

3.      The crusades in the eastern Mediterranean area

4.      The moves for military conquest in the east

5.      The struggle among princes and the emperor, and the feudal splitting of Germany

B.      The German Cities in the Middle Ages

V.                 The rise of German cities

1.      Arrangement and administration of the cities

2.      Development of trade

3.      Commodity economy undermines the feudal order in the country

VI.              The class conflict in German cities

1.      The citizens free themselves from the town masters

2.      The struggle between patricians and the craftsmen

3.      The contrast between the masters and the journeymen

VII.            Alliance of cities in Germany

1.      The Rhine union of cities. the Swabic union of cities

2.      The Hanseatic League

VIII.         the city as the carrier of economic and spiritual progress

1.      traders acquire great wealth

2.      traders become publishers

3.      the first manufactures arise

4.      the development of science and the arts

C.     The Fight of the German Peasants against their Feudal Lords

IX.               the class contrast in the decline of feudalism

1.      contrasts in feudal aristocracy

2.      grievances in the church

3.      the aggravation of class contrast in the city

4.      the situation of the peasants

5.      political helplessness of the German emperor

X.                  peasants revolt under reformation

1.      the peasants’ revolts in France

2.      peasants’ revolts in England

3.      The Hussites

4.      peasants’ revolts in Germany

XI.               the reformation and the Great Peasants’ War in Germany

1.      Luther’s Reformation

2.      The Life and Works of Thomas Münzer

3.      The Great German Peasants’ War

4.      The demands of the peasants

5.      the defeat of the peasants

6.      The princes extend their power

XII.             From the history of the European people


1.      Russia

2.      Poland

3.      France

4.      England

XIII.          Calvinism: the strengthening of the catholic church

1.      Calvinism

2.      Strengthening of the Roman Catholic Church

D.    The Geographic Discoveries, the large Colonies and the Development in Europe to the mid-17th century

XIV.          the geographic discoveries and the emergence of large colonial empires

1.      Causes and Conditions of the Voyages for discovery

2.      Voyages for discovery of the Portuguese and the Spanish

3.      The discovered areas become colonies

4.      the consequences of the geographic discoveries

XV.            the development in western European countries

1.      Spain in the 16th century

2.      The Struggle for Independence in the Netherlands

3.      The economic and political boom of England

XVI.          India and China

1.      India from the 13th to the 16th century

2.      China from the 13th to the 16th century

E.      Germany in the 16th and the early 17th centuries

XVII.       Germany after the Great Peasants’ War

XVIII.     Thirty Years’ War in Germany

1.      The course of the War

2.      The grief of the population and the consequences of the Thirty Years’ War

F.      Absolutism

XIX.           Absolutism in France

1.      The formation of absolute states

2.      economic policy of absolutism in France

3.      wars for conquest by Louis XIV

4.      Pomp and Luxury as the Expression of power of the Absolute King

XX.             Germany after the Thirty Years’ War

1.      Absolutism in Brandenburg-Prussia

a.       How Prussia emerged

b.      Prussia as Military and Officer’s State

c.       Policy of conquest of Frederick II

d.      From the life of the population in the Prussian Military and Officer’s state

2.      Mismanagement by the Princes of the German small states during the times of Absolutism

XXI.           Absolutism in Austria and Russia

1.      Austria’s defense against the Turks and their conquests in the Balkan peninsula

2.      Absolutism in Austria

3.      Russia in the 17th and 18th centuries






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Some of the translations I have made in this paper do not fully capture the meaning of the original word. Other words may seem confusing to the reader at first glance. The following words are most frequent words that have significance beyond the English word I have used in this paper. I have included explanations of each word and its significance.


Ausbeutung: (exploitation) This term is frequently used in both LBfdGU and Geschichte 9 to describe the richer ruling class’s treatment of the poorer classes.

Ausrottung: (extermination) Used like the previous word, LbfdGU frequently employs this term in contexts where the ruling class abuses the working class.

Bedeutung: (meaning, importance) The term “Bedeutung” is used in titles of LBfdGU and Geschichte 9 when judgments about a specific historic event or institution made. “Bedeutung” in this context implies both importance and meaning in the historical context.

Bürger: (public, citizen) In LBfdGU and Geschichte 9, this term was used to describe the citizenry excluding the rich patricians. Thus, in this context, this class would include workers and members of the guilds, but not the upper class.

Deutsch: (German) VuF uses this word very frequently – even for objects and references that are not directly German, and in places where the word is superfluous. Especially, Deutsche Kaiser (German Emperor) or Das Deutsche Reich was used to stand for the Holy Roman Empire, in both VuF and LBfdGU.

Feudalherr: (feudal lord; seigneur) I used “feudal lord” for the translation. In LBfdGU, this word refers to the secular ruling class of people in a feudalistic society – e.g. dukes and princes.

Fronhof: (agricultural production unit) This word refers to the feudal lord’s grounds where he lets his dependent farmers work and receives their produce.

Grossdeutschland: originated in the 19th century as a political idea of unified Germany, as opposed to Kleindeutschland (Small Germany), the Prussian-led alternative. In 1938, with the annexation of Austria, the German Reich was renamed Grossdeutschland (Great Germany).

Hie Welf, Hie Waibling!: a war cry that first appeared in 1140 during a battle in Weinsberg where Welv VI fought against Conrad III. The House of Welf (also the House of Guelph – still extant) is a dynasty that generally opposed the Hohenstaufen emperors. Waibling is the Italian name of the Hohenstaufen castle.

Hörig: (dependent) This term is used to describe the class of farmers who had no freedom and were bonded to the feudal lords. They were serfs.

Kampf: (fight) VuF frequently uses this word to describe conflicts between powers as well as battles. This shows the clear belligerent nature of the VuF narrative, as LBfdGU and Geschichte 9 use words such as Gegensätze (contrast, antagonism) or Streit (dispute).

Ministeriales: once the class of unfree knights that became important as administrators and soldiers on the estates of the church, later used by the Salian kings to administer their demesne as household officers at court and as garrisons for their castles. They eventually became the governing class of the territorial principalities, the standing councilors of their masters, whose household offices and local justice they monopolized and held in fee for many generations.[23]

Reich: (realm) While the denotation of the words is just “realm”, its connotation is the German realm in particular. This word is used frequently in all three books (but more frequently in VuF) when referring to the German states in all, and also implies a pride in the German heritage.

Stadtherr: (ruler of the city) I have used the word prince, because most rulers of the city (before independent councils took power) were princes. This word refers to the rulers of the city

Volk: (people) The word encompasses all the Germans in general in VuF. The term is an abstract concept – there is emphasis on the ethnicity (in VuF) rather than reference to specific classes of people.

Voksstaat: (People’s State) Besides the literal meaning of the state of the people, this term also stood for the central organ of the German Social-Democratic Workers' Party, and was frequently used by Hitler as an euphemism for his dictatorship.

Weltreich: (world realm) This word is symbolic of the territorial interests of the rulers. While this term does not refer literally to the whole world, it implies an ideal of a huge expanse of German lands stretching from one end of Europe to another.

Zunft: (guild) I have used the word guild for Zunft. However, another word Gilde also translates to “guild.” Gilde refers to another, higher organization of craftsmen than Zunft.





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Enloe, Tim. "Emperor Henry IV." Societas Chrstiana Encyclopedia. 2004. 31 May 2005 <>.

"Germany." Microsoft Encarta. Microsoft. CD-ROM.

"Germany." The New Encyclopaedia Britannica Macropaedia. 15th ed. Volume 20 Chicago 1998.

“Holy Roman Empire.” The New Encyclopaedia Britannica Macropaedia. 15th ed. Volume 20 Chicago 1998.

"Investiture Conflict." Wikipedia. Nov. 2002. 21 May 2005 <>.

"Investiture Contests." End of Europe’s Middle Ages. 1997. The Applied History Research Group, University of Calgary. 12 June 2005.

Jander, Eckhard, ed. Lehrbuch fur Geschichte 9. 2nd ed. Berlin: Volk und Wissen Volkseigener Verlag, 1966.

Klagges, Dietrich. Volk und Fuhrer Deutsche Geschichte fur Schulen. Ed. Gustav Markish. Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Moritz Diesterweg, 1942.

Knowles, Elizabeth, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. 2nd ed. Oxford UP, 2003.

Lehrbuch fur den Geschichtsunterricht II. 1st ed. Berlin: Volk und Wissen Volkseigener Verlag, 1952

Huddleston, G. roger “Monasticism” The Catholic Encyclopaedia. 24 June 2005 ” <>.

Spielvogel, Jackson J. Hitler an Nazi Germany a History 4th Edition Upper Saddle River, New Jersey Prentice-Hall Inc. 2001

“Russia” The New Encyclopaedia Britannica Macropaedia. 15th ed. Volume 26 Chicago 1998

"Speyer." The New Encyclopaedia Britannica Micropaedia. 15th ed. Volume 11 Chicago 1998.



[1] Oxford Book of Modern Quotations

[2] Catholic Encyclopedia “Monasticism”

[3] Ausrottung

[4] Ausbeutung

[5] Bedeutung

[6] Bürgertum


[8] Britannica

[9] Encyclopaedia Britannica p.81

[10] Encyclopaedia Britannica p.84

[11] Encyclopaedia Britannica p.86

[12] Encyclopaedia Britannica

[13] Encyclopaedia Britannica

[14] “Wirtschaft”

[15] “Volk”

[16] “Bauern”

[17] “Deutsch”

[18] Realm; excluding “weltreich”

[19] The New Encyclopaedia Britannica Volume 11 Micropaedia 15th edition

[20] Encyclopaedia Britannica Holy Roman Empire

[21] Refers to Frederick Barbarossa (Rotbart)

[22] Term coined by Hitler in his Mein Kampf

[23] Encyclopaedia Britannica Germany




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