Elite schools in Nazi Germany held exchange and sports tournaments with people like Eton, Harrow, and Winchester in the 1930s, the historian has revealed.
The first in-depth history of these top Nazi schools, established to train future Third World leaders, reveals connections with English top schools before World War II.
Dr. Helen Roche of the University of Durham has written a book based on research from 80 archives in six countries and the testimony of more than 100 former students.
He found that between 1934 and 1939, pupils at the National Socialist Elite School, Napolas, took part in a series of exchange and sporting tournaments with boys from British public schools, including Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Westminster, Rugby and Leys School in Cambridge.
The Napola students who participated in these exchanges were considered to be caring for the cultural ambassadors of the “new Germany.”
Dr Roche’s research showed that British public schools were an important model for Napolas, which the Nazis studied and hoped to eventually imitate and heal.
Archives show that a German education inspector often praised British public schools for their characteristic qualities.
Dr Roche said: “In the early days of the exchange program, English boys and masters often felt that what they saw in Nazi Germany and Naples was somehow better than the situation in England.
“There was a feeling that found its way into the wider British attitudes towards Germany that it would be good for Britain to emulate the racial confidence of Germany, and the strength and physical development of the German boys were admired.”
He added: “We can see the exchange program offering a microcosm of more general attitudes towards the Nazi regime on behalf of the British middle and upper class public – not fully convinced of the goals and ideals of the Third Reich, but nonetheless. “
Elite Schools of the Third Reich – History of Napolas, published by Oxford University Press.