Memories of My Youth in National Socialist Germany by Dirk G. van der Walle (full name Dirk Gerard Maria Joseph van de Walle) is the English translation (February 2018) of his German language memoir Von der NAPOLA zur Nibelungen: Die Erinnerungen eines Flamen which was published by Traditionsbuchreihe in Wanzleben in 2016.
Born on July 24th 1925 “in Iseghem, near Antwerp in the Flemish part of Belgium. He came from a prosperous family of factory owners and grew up in a large herenhuis (mansion) in Transvaalstraat 30, Berchem, a suburb of Antwerp. His father, Maurits van de Walle, was a prominent member of the Algemeene-SS Vlaanderen, and from May 1941 onwards was editor of the Flemish newspaper, De SS-Man. It was his father’s decision that his son, Dirk, should complete his school education at an elite Napola School in Germany. . . Mr. van de Walle’s memoirs cover three different periods – his education at two Napola Schools, his military training and his internment by the Americans.”
In 2018 and 2019 the memoir was serialised in three parts in English in Heritage & Destiny magazine:
* Part I, Heritage and Destiny, Issue 87, November-December 2018. (PDF)
* Part II, Heritage & Destiny, Issue 88, January-February 2019.
* Part III, Heritage & Destiny, Issue 89, March-April 2019
Dirk Gerard Maria Joseph van de Walle was born on 24 July 1925 in Iseghem, near Antwerp in the Flemish part of Belgium. He came from a prosperous family of factory owners and grew up in a large herenhuis (mansion) in Transvaalstraat 30, Berchem, a suburb of Antwerp. His father, Maurits van de Walle, was a prominent member of the Algemeene-SS Vlaanderen, and from May 1941 onwards was editor of the Flemish newspaper, De SS-Man. It was his father’s decision that his son, Dirk, should complete his school education at an elite Napola School in Germany.
The Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten (National Political Educational Institutions) were founded by Reichserziehungsminister (Minister of Education), Bernard Rust, as a birthday gift for Adolf Hitler on 20 April 1934. Pupils, who were aged between 11 and 18 years, had to be of Aryan descent, physically fit and of above average intelligence. Children with poor eyesight or hearing were not accepted. Entrance was strictly regulated by a pre-inspection, which was followed by an eight day entrance examination. Once accepted, a pupil was placed on probation for six months.
Napola Schools were inspired by Sparta and included some of the traditions of Prussian cadet schools and English public boarding schools (an English public school is a private school), such as Eton and Harrow. One of the aims of these schools, whose pupils were drawn from all sectors of society, was to outperform English public schools, whose pupils were derived largely from the aristocracy and landed gentry. One of the more egregious Anglo-Saxon traditions incorporated into these schools was bullying, which is also euphemistically known as initiation. This often brutal regime resulted in one fifth of all pupils being sent home as a result of exhaustion, as well as from injuries sustained and training accidents. (An uncle of the writer of this introduction, John Francis Lovegrove, who attended Marlborough College in Wiltshire, England from 1927-1930 had his nose smashed in. While studying at the University of Stellenbosch in the 1970s, one of the initiation rites a new student had to undergo was a swim in a “mud bath”. One of the students broke his back and has been confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Since that incident initiation has been banned at the university in perpetuity.)
A military environment was followed and school classes were called platoons. There was a strong emphasis on physical training and sports, such as boxing, gliding, riding, rowing, sailing, skiing and shooting, which in the case of the last mentioned activity included weapons training during the war years. Military marches, field exercises and war games also formed part of the curriculum. Facilities usually included a gymnastics hall, swimming pool, boat house and stables. During the summer months pupils had to spend six to eight weeks working on a farm.
The Napola Schools adopted and advocated the National Socialist Weltanschauung. They were designed to give a complete and formative education, which included not only intellectual knowledge. There was a strong emphasis on racial awareness and pupils were later expected to give exemplary service to the Volksgemeinschaft. They were intended to become part of a Herrenvolk, who would provide Germany’s future administrative, military and political leaders. During the pre-war years exchange visits took place with schools in Great Britain, the United States and the former German colony of South West Africa. Participants on these exchange visits were called “cultural ambassadors”.
The first three schools were founded in Plön, Potsdam and Köslin. On 9 November 1936 the schools were placed under the control of August Heißmeyer, who was appointed Inspector of Napola Schools and promoted to the rank of SS-Obergruppenfuhrer. With the outbreak of war in September 1939, Heißmeyer set up his own bureau, Dienststelle SS-Obergruppenführer Heißmeyer, which was responsible for the Napola pupils’ military training. The percentage of pupils who later enlisted with the Waffen-SS was 13%.
By 1941 there were 30 Napola Schools with 6,000 pupils. In 1942 there were 30 schools for boys and three for girls, in 1944 there were 37 schools and by 1945, 43 schools were in existence, somewhat short of the original target of 100 schools. The schools for girls were run on less militaristic lines, with more attention being given to domestic science subjects, in order to prepare the girls for motherhood rather than leadership roles.
Mr. van de Walle’s memoirs cover three different periods – his education at two Napola Schools, his military training and his internment by the Americans. With the exception of minor amendments to grammar and style, these memoirs are as Mr. van de Walle has written them.
Stephen Mitford Goodson
The below (click to enlarge) is the Preface by Richard Landwehr