Education Under Enemy Occupation: Experiences of Selected Dutch Students During World War II

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies

Major Advisor

Rosemary Palmer, Ph.D.


History has often focused on objective facts and happenings or examined a time period or event in the context of the life of an individual. Perhaps more unusual is the integration of objective and subjective information in the study of an event. This study examined education in the Netherlands during World War II from both objective and subjective viewpoints. As a basis for understanding educational changes imposed from 1940 to 1945, German education during the Nazi rise to power was explored. In this study, regulations and orders handed down by the German occupational government in the Netherlands were followed chronologically through the occupational period, 1940-1945. In order to contextualize the document review, 24 participants who attended school in the Netherlands at the time of the German occupation were interviewed about their experiences. Wartime diaries of Rebecca Hotke and her younger sister Greet as well as more than 200 letters and postcards written during the war were examined for information that could add to the document review and interview findings. For the most part, in spite of attempts by Germany to Nazify Dutch education, participants held that the influence of Germany on their education was negligible. Of greater impact on the education of participants during the occupational years were the physical and psychological effects of war. Differences of experience were noted between rural and urban dwellers and between younger and older participants. German propaganda and force strengthened resistance among the Dutch rather than reshaped education in the Nazi image. The Dutch tradition of freedom of choice in education may have provided the strength to resist the enemy's agenda.

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