We believe it will be of interest to provide an account of some new Germanic initiatives, designed to take over in a particular political form the tasks of “qualitative” education, which in the preceding era were mainly entrusted to a few private institutions. We will begin with an outline of the so-called “Napolas.”
Napolas is an abbreviation of Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten, i.e., in translation, “institutes of national-political education.” They came into being in the following way. After the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to abolish some schools of cadets; they were then transformed by the post-war German government into so-called “Staatliche Bildungsanstalten,” i.e., into state educational institutions used to house young people in need, or who were neglected by their families. They were standardized middle schools, providing an education mainly according to liberal and apolitical criteria, complemented by fairly advanced sports training.
When National Socialism came to power, these institutions were again transformed and became the Napolas. The purpose of the Napolas, which are controlled by the new state, is strictly political-selective. They admit particularly gifted youths and develop in them the qualities that will make them capable of exercising executive functions, not necessarily only in the Army or in the party, but in any area of life. The concept, then, is totalitarian, with particular concern that the strengthening of virile qualities is accompanied by a “social sense,” a habit of considering one’s actions in relation to a community.
The statements made personally to us by one of the general inspectors of these institutes — during one of our visits — are characteristic. He stressed the separation that must exist between private family education and political education. He denied that political education can be considered as a further development of the “natural” education that a youth may receive within the family. Instead, it is a separate phase with other presuppositions, following other principles, mainly that of the soldatische Gemeinschaft, the community and solidarity that can exist within a group of soldiers. It is in this way that the Napolas are to function: not as copies of, or continuations of the family. The young person is to feel that they belong to a different and larger order, an order with its own law and its own morality.
While admission to the Staatliche Bildungsanstalten, the previous, liberal form of the same institutions, was open to anyone wishing to attend them, the Napolas only admit those youths who have been selected in elementary schools and by youth organization leaders for their special and exceptional potential. Admission can take place at the ages of either 10 or 14, and in the case of the former, the full course lasts eight years, in the case of the latter six.
There is no fixed fee to be paid for admission to these boarding-schools. There is a donation, depending on the financial situation of the family of the youth who has been recognized as worthy of being admitted. Courses may not be repeated. If, in his studies or in any other aspect of education, the youth shows himself to be inadequate, he is definitively expelled.
Even in the Napolas, with regard to physical training and the strengthening of character, there are those “tests of courage” which we have already mentioned in reference to similar institutions in Germany. For example, even the youngest students, 10-year-olds, are asked to jump into water from a certain height, even if they do not know how to swim, and older students are, for example, asked to mount a spirited horse without a saddle; their behavior is carefully observed during “fighting practice,” and so on. This is for the individual side of such tests. With regard to the individual in his relations to the group, special attention is payed to qualities of camaraderie, both his capacity of command his companions and to a corresponding sense of responsibility. To facilitate the development of such qualities, the Napolas leave ample space for the principle of self-discipline, that is, the order entrusted to the young people themselves, who are given, according to their qualities, authority over a certain group of companions.
It is also according to these qualities that the youth is judged to be worthy or not of remaining in the institutions in question. Admission is first confirmed after a year of probation. But the youth is subjected to a succession of tests and must be aware that he can be expelled at any moment, should he fail to prove himself to be up to the ideals of the Napolas.
As for technical teaching, it must not be less demanding than what is imparted in other schools. In accordance with the idea of a totalitarian education, the aesthetic element is also not neglected, and instruction not only in drawing and painting, but also in singing, occupies, in this domain, an important place. Furthermore, there is the principle of entrusting the students to young teachers, so that, athletically, the latter are also able to be their teachers, or competitors, or leaders in sports and the tactical exercises which take place at regular intervals, and, once a year, together with the students of all the Napolas (about twenty) that exist in the Reich.
In terms of political education, the so-called “casuistic” method is used. Abstract concepts are avoided, and instead, the youths are confronted with concrete cases, and their judgment is evaluated. Thus, one tends to activate and refine a certain sensibility, rather than inculcating general schemes of political or social ideas.
One unusual and bold initiative of the Napolas consists of sending students to live with the families of workers for a period from six to eight weeks, in the case younger students with farming families, in the case of older students with the families of industrial workers. During this period, the youth is hired by those families as a paid laborer, lives with them, and must live only on his wages, since he is not allowed to receive money or parcels from his own family. Through this communal life, the youth is meant to develop his social feeling and directly learn to understand the problems of the workers’ existence. He should even be capable of serving as a model, through his conduct, for the families and the workers he finds himself with, and must not neglect to enlighten them on political issues and what he has learned through experience about the ideas of National Socialism.
All of this is organized through an agreement between the Napolas and the Arbeitsfront, i.e., with the so-called “German Labor Front,” a Party organization which controls the national work force, and in this case is charged with distributing individual students to environments appropriate for this new internship. In recent years of the institutes, educational trips abroad have also been organized.
Once the course has been completed, contrary to what might be expected, the youth does not receive any specially advantaged diploma. He finds himself in the same conditions as he would have had he attended an ordinary school, and his career is in no way facilitated. The reason for this is that it is thought that the youth must be capable of bringing to fruition, on his own, in the struggle for life, the superior qualities that this special, complex, and rigorous elite education has tested, confirmed, and developed. These qualities on their own must be capable of asserting themselves, in a virile and realistic way, through their very nature, without the slightest assistance, and lead the young man to the commanding position which they, in principle, make him worthy of.
It is not without importance that the principal elements that govern the education of youths in the Napolas, and that control these institutions, themselves belong to the SS (Schutz-Staffeln), that is, from the Germanic “black” corps, which has the ambition of being a guard and almost an Order — in the ancient sense of an organization of ascetic warriors — of the National Socialist revolution.
Regime fascista, 1941