I'm currently working on a research paper for my World War II class and I've decided that I wanted to pursue the topic of education in Nazi occupied Europe during WWII.

However, after doing loads of research, I'm having a very hard time coming up with resources pertaining to my topic. I either need to refine or switch countries. Nonetheless, my question is about sources. Do any of you know good sources that speak of education in Europe during the Second World War? Are there good books, scholarly articles, interviews out there?

Any guidance and feedback would be greatly appreciated!

  • 5
    No idea for good sources, but FWIW you're almost certainly going to need to narrow this down to a single country, and you might need to do part or all of the research in that country's language. If you speak French, googling "education sous vichy" yields a couple of interesting looking results. (And they technically weren't occupied yet then.) Feb 23, 2018 at 17:56
  • 1
    @DenisdeBernardy Thank you for the tips! I definitely know I need to narrow this down. The Vichy France example is a really good start and I might try and focus on occupied France in that case, since I speak French and it would probably be a well researched case study. Feb 23, 2018 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


My father and aunt were respectively 15 and 13 in May 1940, living in Schiedam (a suburb of Rotterdam) in the Netherlands. Schooling for both of them continued until early September 1944 when my father, with a friend as well as two Mexican students on a tennis-club exchange, were inducted into forced (ie slave) labour and marched towards Germany. As I recall the fragments of the story:

Marching along the dyke at sunset near Oosterbeek, the four of us worked our way towards the end of the train (not railway, the original meaning) where we knew the guard was getting careless and occasionally got ahead of the prisoners. We agreed that the two Mexican kids would roll off the dyke first, to the south, and if no alarm was raised Rob and I would then do the same to the North.

When our turn came we rolled off the dyke and lay at the base for a few minutes in the dusk, to be sure no alarm had been raised. Then we raced as silently as we could across the field. About half way across we saw a farmer by an open barn door, waving his lantern gently. As we approached he quickly rushed us into the barn and hid us in the hay loft.

Details are very fragmentary here - all I recall is that for several weeks Rob and my Dad were passed by the Resistance north towards Appledorn and then Staphorst. For a couple of weeks they were put up separately in Staphorst with two farming families. In 1969 my parents, brother and I had an opportunity to visit, and personally thank, the family that my father stayed with in Staphorst. Several weeks on they were then moved west and finally south again to Schiedam.

Upon finally returning to Schiedam, Rob and I were given a post card that had arrived at the tennis club from Mexico City a few days before - completely blank except for the tennis club address.

Following his return to my grandparents house my father then was required to stay in the attic for the next six months, until the liberation of Schiedam. A cubby hole was opened under the attic eave with a sliding panel. I had the opportunity to see this entire setup in 1969: a small space about 16" high by 7' long by 18" deep.

Note that unlike cramped attics common in North America with its cold
winters and hot summers, this attic was semi-finished, and easily high
enough for adults to comfortably stand and play *Schulbach*. Two gymnastic
rings were mounted from the rafters where my father liked to work out as
cross-fit for his tennis game. It was accessed through a almost ladder-like
staircase that descended from a trap door in the second floor ceiling.

For six months only one of my Oma, Opa, and Aunt could leave the house at a time, so that if there was a knock on the door one person could answer it while the other raced up to the attic, to close the sliding panel on the cubby. One person besides my father had to remain awake at all times, in case of a midnight raid, to close the cubby. Of course my father had to sleep in the cubby as well.

At some point during the war my Opa (who had a managerial position in a spice factory of some sort) managed to swap out 1/2 a box car of sugar destined for the Eastern Front with cement powder. He traded this for other supplies as well as several cases of expensive Bols gin. This Bols gin was now available as a bribe in case my father was discovered - but fortunately it never came to that.

My Aunt proudly recalled, to my brother and I, being instructed:

If they discover Foeke, tell them they can have either the boy or the gin but not both.


Note the timing of being marched through Oosterbeek towards Germany in September 1944. It seems likely that the very convoluted path back to Schiedam was influenced by the military activities happening to the south.

After my father's death I discovered in his library a copy of I was a Stranger by General Sir John Hackett, who was hidden by the Dutch resistance after the Operation Market Garden in much the same as as my father was.

  • 1
    This is a fascinating story, but it has very little to do with the question and isn't an answer.
    – user2848
    Feb 25, 2018 at 17:51
  • @BenCrowell: "Education is what is left once you forget everything you were taught in school" - Albert Einstein. Education in countries occupied by the Nazis was about survival until May 7, 1945 - everything else was ephemeral and of little relevance. Education was learning the street-smarts of knowing who you could trust and who you couldn't. Who would betray you and who woudn't. Feb 25, 2018 at 21:11

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