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Complaint about Declining Enrollment at Heidelberg University

Heidelberg Students
Bundesarchiv Berlin
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tags: children & youth education propaganda

type: Letter

As the Nazi Party sought to reestablish Germany as a great military power,1 they stressed the rigorous physical training of the nation's youth. During their first three semesters, students at the prestigious University of Heidelberg were required to complete a cycle of basic physical training and political education. The Student Union divided students into academic working groups according to their majors in order to "carry out communal work alongside the National Socialist instructors." That work included a heavy focus on Germanic culture, history, politics, and—for female students—the role of women in German society. In 1934, the Heidelberg Student Union required groups of male students to hold ideological training sessions for workers in a nearby factory, whereas female students were enlisted to care for local children and the elderly.  

Although Nazi student leaders at Heidelberg bragged about the success of their efforts in promoting Nazi priorities on campus, they actually achieved mixed results. This 1937 letter written to Reich Student Leader G.A. Scheel by Ernst Kreuzer, the leader of the Heidelberg Student Union, reports that Heidelberg's administration was dissatisfied with the number of students leaving the university before completing their degrees.2 Kreuzer's letter notes that a "remarkably large number" of freshmen were dropping out of Heidelberg after their first semester because they were not able "to find time for their studies." 

The complaint from the university's administration was made in response to plummeting enrollment numbers in the early years of Nazi rule. Whereas 3,687 students had enrolled at Heidelberg University in 1933, that number had fallen to 1,844 in 1938. This trend reflected an overall drop in student enrollment in the Nazi era. Many male students sought quicker paths to success in the Nazi Party and the military, while the enrollment of female students was capped at 10 percent in 1933.3 Although these students may have expressed displeasure about the demands of Nazi policy in their daily lives, it did not necessarily imply opposition to Nazi ideology.

At the end of World War I, a peace settlement forbade Germany from re-militarizing. 

The Reich Student Union leader, Dr. G.A. Scheel, had himself been a student leader in Heidelberg in 1933–35. After being appointed the inaugural Reich Student Leader, his career experienced a rapid rise through the ranks of the SS. On Scheel's career in Heidelberg, see Geoffrey J. Giles, Students and National Socialism in Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), Chapter 6. For more on Scheel, see the item Request for the Investigation of Professor Hans Peters in this collection.

The 10-percent limit was not strictly enforced, and Heidelberg had a relatively high number of female students; those numbers were 21 percent in 1933 and 24 percent in 1938. The demographics of German universities shifted radically with military conscription for men during World War II. By 1944, the percentage of female students in Heidelberg reached 55 percent. For more details, see Eike Wolgast, "Die Studierenden," in Die Universität Heidelberg im Nationalsozialismus, ed. Wolfgang Eckart, Volker Sellin, and Eike Wolgast (Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, 2006): 57–94.

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The Students' Union of the University of Heidelberg


Office premises: Old University / Telephone connections: 5984, 5981  Extension 77 / Cable address: Students' Union Heidelberg

Post office giro account: Karlsruhe Office (Baden) 260 43 / Bank account: Deutsche Bank und Disconto-Gesellschaft A/G/, Heidelberg Branch


The Leader of the Students' Union Heidelberg, February 18, 1937

Log no. 757/38/37. [Stamp of the Leadership of the Reich Students' Union; received on Feb. 19, 1937, No. 10768; to be filed]

To the Leader of the Reich Students' Union

Dr. G. A. Scheel


16 Karlstrasse

The Rector of the University of Heidelberg, Professor Dr, Krieck, informed me that at the moment a remarkably large number of freshmen are leaving the university. The reason is said to be that they cannot find sufficient time for their studies in Heidelberg. According to all accounts, the freshmen who have left the university are going primarily to Würzburg and Königsberg, because the demands made on their time by the Students Union are supposedly not so great, in their opinion.

I am hereby bringing this to your attention.

Heil Hitler!

Ernst Kreuzer [Signature]

Leader of the Students' Union of the University of Heidelberg

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Bundesarchiv Berlin
Accession Number NS38/3637
Date Created
February 18, 1937
Author / Creator
Ernst Kreuzer
Heidelberg, Germany
Document Type Letter
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