A School of Democracy? The Staff of the Bavarian Ministry of Education, Their Pasts in the National Socialist System, and the Democratization of Bavarian Education Policy, 1945-1975

Employees (IfZ):  Dr. des. Felix Lieb

This research project focuses on the Bavarian Ministry of Education’s reckoning with the past, continuities and discontinuities in its personnel policy, and the direction of its schools policy in the context of democratization and liberalization after 1945. These processes will be examined at three different levels: first, continuities and discontinuities with regard to the ministerial staff, the particular Nazi-related pasts of higher ministerial officials (in the ministry’s two schooling departments and in its administrative department) as well as their guiding principles and political ideas; second, the specific personnel policies within the ministry and in schools after 1945 and how the perception and definition of Nazi-tinged pasts influenced personnel decisions; and third, how individual personal influences dating back the National Socialist era and the discourse regarding people’s Nazi-tinged pasts affected the administrative actions within the new democratic structures (or failed to do so). This can be demonstrated using the example of the negotiation processes on the formation of history and social studies curricula as well as the role of politics in the school, the different forms of democracy pursued within schools, and the relationship between demands for democratization and equal opportunity within the hierarchically structured school system.

Education policy is chiefly carried out in a vertical and strongly differentiated power structure, which raises the question of the motivation and effect of actions regarding school policy at all three levels being examined. The project is therefore geared more towards a multidimensional approach, including the levels of state district governments, school districts, and individual schools. The aim here is to examine in further detail who exactly was responsible for the impetus to revise school policy in the context of democratization and how much power the ministry in fact held to act in this process. The examination of the various spatial levels furthermore allows for a more precise evaluation of the relationship between Bavarian, West German, and local identities, and hence the definition of the intended “subject” of democratization.

The project, lastly, is anchored in following overarching questions:

First, the way the Bavarian Ministry Education dealt with the National Socialist past is to serve as an example for the contribution that education policy, along with actors within the ministry offices, made towards the democratization of politics and society, and the relationship those processes of change had with the individual Nazi-related pasts of those involved. In return, the effects are to be examined that the actors’ efforts towards bringing about the “democratic school” had on the actors themselves. Was the post-war shift in education policy in fact a “school of democracy” not only for the students but for the ministerial staff as well?