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Robin Smith

History, University of Leicester

Thesis title:

'The crucifixion of the mind of youth': the responses of British teachers to education in the Third Reich

My project explores the responses of the British teaching profession to the development of German school Education under the Nazi dictatorship. The radical changes brought about by the Nazi regime as it warped the German education system to become a tool in the dissemination of Nazi ideology were viewed with alarm internationally, where the German education system had been held in high regard prior to the Nazi seizure of power. Analysing the responses of teaching organisations, individuals and émigré networks will enable an assessment of the sources of information about Nazi schooling that reached Britain, an evaluation of British teachers’ diagnoses of the impact of Nazified schooling on German teachers and pupils, and an examination of how British teachers’ own preoccupations with militarism, propaganda and the politicisation of classroom education informed their responses to the situation in Germany. 

The thesis will also examine the variety of practical responses undertaken by these actors to the situation in Germany, ranging from raising public awareness to providing practical support for teachers suffering persecution in Nazi Germany or arriving as refugees in Britain. These activities will be placed in the context of wider transnational antifascist activism and pre-existing professional networking, and the sometimes-mixed motives and conflicting agendas involved in mobilising British teachers to respond to the situation in German schools will be explored. Through these responses, the thesis will ask how far the view from Britain of German schooling influenced wartime discussion and decisions regarding post-war educational reconstruction in the face of what one academic described as ‘the crucifixion of the mind of youth by ruthless and ingenious tyranny’ (Lascelles Abercrombie, 1935). 

Research Area

  • History


Robin Smith, The Third Reich’s Elite Schools: A History of the Napolas, by Helen Roche, German History, 2023;, ghad028, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerhis/ghad028


GHIL 27th Postgraduate Student Conference 12-13th January 2023: "Educating Nazi Germany: resistance and conformity in the teaching profession under the Third Reich."

Other Research Interests

  • Modern European History
  • Military History
  • Imperial and Colonial History
  • History of Education


Society for Education and Training - Member with QTLS status

Royal Historical Society – Early Career Membership