Children of the volk: children's literature as an ideological tool in National Socialist Germany

2017-02-24T01:43:21Z (GMT) by Robertson, Stephanie Kate
Between 1933 and 1945, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, the National Socialist Party was able to establish a totalitarian government in Germany and its occupied territories. A primary aim of this fascist regime was the implementation of measures which would allow for complete control over Germany’s cultural sector. The regulation of the cultural sphere was designed to create a new ‘ideal’ society, which aligned with the goals of the National Socialist Party. The National Socialist regime systematically regulated and controlled the administration of literature, a medium which was perceived as a powerful means of bringing about a change in attitudes and the belief systems of both adults and children. Particular attention was paid to the restructuring of the children’s literature sector. Therefore, guidelines were produced for authors and educational institutions to mandate what was ‘acceptable’ children’s reading material. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the National Socialist agenda of restructuring and controlling the children’s literature market, the degree to which this was successfully implemented, and most importantly, how National Socialist ideals and objectives were reflected in the children’s books produced between 1933 and 1945. This is investigated in reference to a number of exemplary texts. Additionally, how the National Socialist’s propagandist agenda correlated with the children’s literature produced during this time is also addressed. In this context, it is also important to closely compare European children’s literature produced prior to the National Socialist period, to establish how the literary focus might have shifted. This thesis identifies specific beliefs of the National Socialist regime, such as the racial superiority of the Germanic or Nordic people, anti-Semitic sentiment, devotion to the Führer and the fatherland, and the National Socialist understanding of gender roles, in order to explore how these beliefs and ideas are reflected in the literature for children. A critical review of the children’s literature produced during this period sets out to establish whether these themes are apparent and in which ways they are communicated to the child reader, in relation to both boys and girls. This thesis also explores the ways in which National Socialist authors adapted complex adult themes, such as racial hygiene, for the comprehension of child readers. The children’s literature examined in this thesis is divided into three periods; the literature published in the early period (1933–1936), the middle period or the years shortly before the war (1936–1939), and the late period or war period (1939–1945). This accounts for the different ‘generations’ of child readers who had more or less extensive exposure to the ideology of National Socialism.