Training and Education in Sparta vs. WWII Germanyby Rit Nosotro
Compare the education system and training of children in Sparta with the education and training of children in Germany before and during WWII.
Rows of cruel brazen warriors stood immaculate like one massive war machine. Their goal was to obliterate the enemy. Across trembled their adversaries aware that they were approaching certain death and humiliation, by military masterminds of their time- the Spartans. Thousands of years later Europe would tremble at another war machine. But this time it would be a generation of callused and brainwashed Hitler Youth. Intent on annihilating all inferior races, millions died at their hands.
In Sparta as well as Germany the state was all-powerful; life rotated around the state. Both were governments intent on military success. With this in mind, their education and training of youth were similar in many ways.
The training of both civilizations cannot be understood without a basic understanding of their ideologies. In both nations training was began at a young age by weeding out the youth who should die from those who deserved to live and would be profitable to keep.
In Germany around the time of World War II, Hitler indoctrinated the people, especially the youth, with the idea that the nation was surpreme. Hitler stated this idea when he proclaimed, “It is thus necessary that the individual should slowly come to realize that his own ego is unimportant compared to the existence of the whole people, that therefore the position of the single ego is exclusively determined by the interests of the people as a whole.” Hitler aimed to indoctrinate the youth with this idea to the point that, “hail Germany (sprang) from their lips”.
In Sparta too, the nation was supreme over individuals. As Plutarch described it, “no one was allowed to live after his own fancy; but the city was a sort of camp, in which every man… looked upon himself not so much born to serve his own ends but the ends of his country.”
Both nations upheld statism- the idea that the state determined ethics and human value. While they mutually considered their own race as elites, each civilization slaughtered numerous amounts of their own people. In Germany during the time one magazine read, “Only a pure member of the German race can have such an understanding of his people, crowning with the willingness to sacrifice all for the people. He must know that without his people he is a miserable nothing, and that it is better that he himself die that that his people and fatherland perish.”
Anyone who could not help with the war effort or was a nuisance was put to death. Non-Aryans were sterilized so they could not breed and destroy or weaken the Aryan race and any physically imperfect person was eliminated. In Germany a “health” department was instituted for this very reason. At first infants who were deaf or had some form of birth defect or illness were examined and then slowly poisoned with luminal, which was feed to them as medicine or mixed in food. However soon the department was taking infants through adults. Children were even being poisoned for having “badly molded ears” and wetting the bed.
Death was also a major consequence of statism in Sparta. When a baby was born the father took the child in front of the council where they determined whether it was fit for life. If they examined it and found it weak or with defect, they baby was taken to a nearby cliff off Mt. Taygetos and thrown over the edge. The cries of these babies rose up until they suddenly stopped as they were killed on impact. But the wails fell on callused hearts and minds.
In contrast to Sparta, whose people had upheld statism for centuries, the indoctrination of Germans was a big part of the Nazi agenda. Hitler looked to start with the youth proclaiming, “He alone who owns the youth gains the future!” In order to this he aimed to train the youth to follow him blindly. Once they had done so, they would be prepared for physical training and fighting. Calling for absolute obedience Hitler stated, “A youth being trained for such important national duties must accept the idea of following the Fuehrer absolutely without unhealthy, carping criticism, without selfishness or opposition.” People were told that they could not trust their own judgment but that only the Fuehrer only was fit for leadership. Claiming only Germany had “created values for the entire world that no other people was capable of.” the Nazis appealed to the Germans’ pride, patriotism and emotions. His end goal was to warp the youth’s minds to his purpose though the Hitler Youth program.
Neither civilization’s education system was elaborate. Both taught basic reading and writing skills, but believed that education was unimportant and detrimental to the army. However, what they did teach was given a slant. In Germany history textbooks portrayed Hitler as a glorious, kind and honorable man who struggled his way to the top. This story was a lie. Furthermore in biology textbooks, chapter concerning genetics were used to propagate Hitler’s view on the superiority of Germans and purity of the Aryan Race.
In Spartan education we see similar tactics. Boys memorized war poetry, war songs, and quotes of Homer. In both, key training took place in the Hitler Youth or under the watch of elder warriors.
While the Hitler Youth encompassed boys and girls from ages 6-18, Spartan training was mainly aimed at males ages 7-60 and was more rugged. In the Hitler Youth, children were subtly indoctrinated with German beliefs, while being taught war strategies, to build up strength, and how to use weapons. Hitler’s training plan included intense physical conditioning. We see this when he stated, “Their bodies must be steeled, made hard and strong, so that the youth may become capable soldiers who are healthy, strong, trained energetic and able to bear hardships.” This conditioning encompassed: gymnastics, sports, hiking, swimming, and military exercise. The boys were trained to be a group of, “victorious, active, daring youth, immune to pain.”
During their training each child received a performance book, which recorded their progress. At age ten they were required to take tests on athletics, camping and Nazified history. If they passed they graduated into more advanced group and were required to take an oath stating, “In the presence of this blood banner, which represents our Fuehrer, I swear to devote all my energies and my strength to the savior of our country Adolf Hitler. I am willing and ready to give my life for him, so help me God.”
As they were taught physical strength and war related tasks, they were also indoctrinated. Leaders instructed the children that the Bible was wrong and people were unequal. They encouraged children to rebel against the church and their parents and solely obey the Nazis. In this training they raised a generation of youth responsible for the holocaust of millions of human beings.
While Hitler’s training could be described as intense, many historians describe Spartan training as hellish. At age seven males were taken from their parents to live in army barracks under supervision of the state. Throughout the training period the boys underwent severe discipline, with silent forbearance, training in gymnastics, running, jumping, throwing of spears and discuss and being forced to endure pain, hardship, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and lack of sleep. Boys were encouraged to steal food and if caught were flogged- not for stealing, but for getting caught. Furthermore, throughout their training, they were sexually harassed and courted by older men in order to strengthen bonds between warriors.
At twelve boys were forced to sleep out in the open air and were given one garment for the whole year and were expected to go barefoot. Between thirteen and twenty, men were annually tested in a rigorous game in which many died. The survivors were then crowned. At thirty men were allowed to take public office and get married so they could work to produce more strong healthy children. From thirty to sixty men lived in the barracks eating their daily rations in the public dining area and working to fight off any threatening nations. Their country viewed them as part of a deadly machine and in that laid their only human value.
Sadly, not only Sparta but also Germany under Hitler wasted their time chasing false ideas, and building physical strength. They allowed their countries to determine morals and human value. However, the Bible states that God has authored truth and that human value is because “God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:26). Furthermore they viewed appearance and strength as more important than human character yet as I Sam. 16:7 states, “Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Finally, both nations eventually fell in defeat, thought they had trained thousands of youths and conquered many lands they fell to ruin. They forgot one thing- victory comes through God not by strength. “It is not by strength that one prevails” (I Sam. 2:9) God ensures the victory as Samuel testifies to in II Samuel 22:39-41, “I crushed them completely, and they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet. You made my enemy turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes.” No nation can overturn the will of God. How sad that whole generations of people spent their lives striving toward one insignificant purpose. How tragic that millions died due to the false beliefs as they allowed themselves to be deceived by their leaders
1. True or False:
Hitler Youth were trained to trust the Bible.
2. In Sparta unwanted babies were thrown over a cliff on
a. Mt. Sinai
b. Mt. St. Helens
c. Mt. Taygetos
d. The Nile River
3. This occurred in which nation: children were poisoned with luminal for wetting the bed
c. None of the above
4. What is statism?
a. The belief that the state determines ethics and human worth.
b. The practice of eating your state food, owning your state animal, protecting your state tree, carrying your state’s flag around and singing your state’s anthem.
c. A New Age religion that says that purity is a state of mind.
d. The article doesn’t say.
Answers: (1) False, (2) c, (3) b, (4) a
Overman, Christian. Assumptions That Affect Our Lives. Louisiana, Missouri: Micah Publishing, 1996
Bible, NIV Translation
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