Paul Geheeb and Nazi Germany: Progressive Education in the Age of Fascism

  • Ashley Curtis


On March 7, 1933, Nazi paramilitary troops raided a progressive school in Oberhambach, Germany, ostensibly seeking Communist party literature. The Nazis’ ultimate goal was a greater one, however. Co-opting the Odenwald School, at the time world-famous in educational circles, along with its charismatic founder and director, Paul Geheeb, would have been a propaganda coup, placing the National Socialists at the vanguard of a reformist movement that had up until then been fundamentally opposed to Nazi principles. Geheeb—pacifist, feminist, and anti-authoritarian—faced a choice between maintaining his school and maintaining his principles. When he was ordered not to resign or shut down the school, on pain of seeing himself and the Jewish family he had married into sent off to concentration camps, the dilemma was complete. That he was able to finesse this seemingly impossible situation, eventually landing in Switzerland with a group of students and teachers to continue his life’s mission, was in large measure due to his success in instilling anti-authoritarian values in the children with whom he worked. This case study tells of a leader who despised obedience getting the better of a regime that saw obedience to the Führer (Leader) as the supreme virtue.


New Education Nazi resistance Odenwaldschule Paul Geheeb Switzerland and World War Two 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashley Curtis
    • 1
  1. 1.Freelance Writer and EditorPiemonteItaly

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