Waldorf in the Nazi era

Posted to the waldorf-critics discussion list by Peter Staudenmaier (pstaud@hotmail.com)


Walden (awaldenpond@shaw.ca) wrote:

>I have bumped into this quote a few times now at Waldorf sites:
>"With the rise to power of Hitler's government, a life and death struggle
>began for the German Waldorf Schools. There was continuous harassment, and
>finally they were closed with the simple explanation that there was no place
>in Nazi Germany for any school that educated individuals to think for
>Does anyone have information regarding the source of this type of quote?
>Was this "simple explanation" ever documented?

It's probably taken from one of the reports filed by the
anti-anthroposophist faction of the Nazis. That faction did indeed
denounce Waldorf education as excessively individualistic. I'd like to
say that this is only half the story, but in fact it's more like one
sixteenth of the story. For starters, the Waldorf leadership themselves
routinely trumpeted Waldorf's non-individualist orientation and boasted
about how well the schools prepared pupils for joining the
Volksgemeinschaft, the Nazis' term for the German national community.
And the anti-anthroposophist faction within the party faced a powerful
lobby of pro-anthroposophist Nazis, who supported and promoted Waldorf
education along with biodynamic farming and other anthroposophist
endeavors. The anti-anthroposophist faction didn't gain the upper hand
until the middle of 1941, more than eight years into the Nazis'
twelve-year reign, and the last Waldorf school in Germany wasn't shut
down until then (while several Waldorf schools continued to operate in
other countries under Nazi occupation). Above all...there was a
significant measure of pro-Nazi sentiment among leading anthroposophists
during the Third Reich, and the Waldorf movement was no exception in
this regard. Within active Waldorf circles, the two chief tendencies
were an enthusiastically Nazi grouping, who saw Waldorf pedagogy as
especially compatible with the goals of the Third Reich, and a larger
accomodationist grouping that attempted to convince Nazi educational
authorities (who looked askance at all private schools) that Waldorf was
an acceptable alternative to state schooling. Interestingly, the main
Waldorf journal at the time was somewhat more forthright in its
appreciative comments about various aspects of National Socialism than
other German anthroposophist periodicals were (though they were outdone,
of course, by the chief biodynamics journal, which praised Hitler even
after the start of the war). Also, a large proportion of Waldorf faculty
joined the Nazi teachers' association at a relatively early stage. As
usual, the passage above reveals that anthroposophically derived
projects still have a long way to go in coming to terms with their own

Peter S.