The Nazi Origins of Germany’s Ban on Homeschooling

Given that we are caught up in terms of the history of homeschooling (see here), there is one notable historical anecdote we have left out: the case of Germany, one of few western European countries with a complete ban on homeschooling.

There is an irritating and pervasive habit to treat the passing of a law elsewhere as an argument in favor of passing it in your own country. For Americans, this commonly manifests as “Europe has laws on this or that, so we should, too.” This bad habit is one still one unbroken by anti-homeschoolers.

The fact that many European countries have stronger regulation and even outright bans on homeschooling is supposed to represent some kind of moral consensus on the matter that should inform American law. This kind of argument is ridiculous even by its own methods, because I can also find several other countries where homeschooling is legal and use it as a cheap argument to keep homeschooling legal worldwide.

Interestingly, homeschooling has resurged most strongly in countries with ties to the British Empire: the U.K., the U.S., Australia, South Africa, and India, most notably. The map below shows the legal status of homeschooling around the world, showing this “British-skew” in homeschooling freedoms, though other areas such as western South America enjoy similar freedoms. The countries where homeschooling is illegal or severely restricted include virtually all of eastern Asia, Spain, Germany, much of eastern Europe and half of South America.

Map of legality of homeschooling [1]. BLUE = legal without known restrictions. GREEN = Lax restrictions. YELLOW = Restrictive regulations, ORANGE = Legal in limited circumstances, RED = illegal with virtually no exceptions, GRAY = unknown/unclear status

The very idea of looking to Germany for policy is ridiculous for even more sinister reasons, and a brief delve into some of Germany’s history with the matter will prove telling of the anti-homeschool ideology in Germany.

First, as we noted in the previous post, modern day Germany may have implemented some of the first public schools in Europe in the 1500s with prominent support from Martin Luther. Nonetheless, homeschooling continued well into the 1900s. Though homeschooling declined with the passing of mandatory schooling laws in 1918 and the subsequent rebranding of the country as the Weimar Republic, homeschooling was still legal and practiced particularly by the upper class until 1938, when a new political party was in full control of German affairs: the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, also known infamously as the Nazis [2].

The Nazis outlawed homeschooling upon implementation of the Reichsschulpflichtgesetz (Law on Compulsory Education in the German Reich) in the very first section, which translates to the following [3]:

1. Compulsory general education. In the German Reich there is compulsory education. It secures the education and instruction of German youth in the spirit of National Socialism. It is subject to all children and adolescents of German nationality who are domiciled or habitually resident in the country. Compulsory education must be fulfilled by attending a German school. Exceptions are decided by the school inspectorate.

The first two Reichsschulpflichtgesetz’s signees are household names: Hitler and Göring. This is not to argue on the basis that laws passed by tyrants are inherently bad, however one should examine such laws with a heightened sense of caution.

Signees to the Reichsschulpflichtgesetz, which banned homeschooling in Nazi Germany.

The Nazi Party viewed homeschooling as anti-nationalistic, counter to the identity of the state and a conduit to less loyal citizens. Moreover, Hitler recognized the power of state-controlled education, saying “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” Our children are not tools to be used by a self-serving government. Education is too central to a good society to be controlled by mere men, for if we believe politicians are corruptible, why leave our children’s education and hence their future in their hands?

Germany’s bans on homeschooling are still enforced to this day and have resulted in several criminal prosecutions of parents, resulting in fines, removal of children from parents, and jail [4]. Prayers to all those German families suffering such persecution.

For more articles on homeschooling, follow a continuing series of posts on “The Case for Homeschooling” starting here.







Published by Christian Poole

Catholic | Father | Husband | Founder of ThinkingWest .com

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