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I was watching Europa Europa (1990). 66 minute into the film, there is a scene which depicts how German students were indoctrinated with phrenology – which is an abhorrent pseudoscience, in my opinion.

Was phrenology taught in schools in Nazi Germany as part of the official curriculum?

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  • I'm not so sure this movie is supposed to be historically accurate. They seem to have taken some liberties with the source material.
    – pipe
    Mar 21 at 19:25
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    @q-l-p: Please specify whether you are looking for proof that phrenology was part of an official curriculum, or for anecdotal evidence that some teacher at some German school taught phrenology.
    – DevSolar
    Mar 23 at 12:25
  • As this is the skeptics site it would take some form of actual evidence. I would guess that it is probable that in at least one school it was on the curriculum. We know that race theory, especially about the so called jewish race, which we know is pseudo science was written into law. There is a connection between phrenology and race theory as it was practiced by the same people. You might look up the Swedish state institute for racial biology to see what kind of pseudo science was done.
    – ghellquist
    Mar 24 at 22:09
  • While it certainly wasn't still mainstream, there were still departments/societies of phrenology in the US and Britain at the time so it should hardly be a surprise that Nazi Germany would be teaching it.
    – eps
    Mar 26 at 17:33
  • Gall pioneered a lot of neurophysiological thought, some bundled into phrenology. Craniometry was (and is) a tool in bullshit and true sciences, just as the measure of electrical resistance is used in both bullshit and true science. Nazi school curriculum contained a lot about races (i.e. bullshit about the soul of a person being predetermined by stuff that also correlates to gross features, which are detectable, amongst others, in the shape of the skull, but to be Phrenology, this would need to be an exact match to Galls teachings (this bump on that skull means the person is religious, etc)
    – bukwyrm
    Mar 29 at 10:01

1 Answer 1

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There is plenty of general material to be found on the racial policies of Nazi Germany in education, such as in Facing History and Ourselves

Schooling for the National Community

History and science were the subjects most influenced by Nazi ideology. Soon after Hitler took power, a new course in “race science” was added to the curriculum in every German school. The Nazi minister of education outlined the objectives of the course...

Racial instruction was not limited to a single course. It was included in all classes, even arithmetic.


More specific to phrenology are these references:

Spartacus Educational states in

Education in Nazi Germany

Changes to the School Curriculum

Hitler immediately made changes to the school curriculum. Education in "racial awareness" began at school and children were constantly reminded of their racial duties to the "national community". Biology, along with political education, became compulsory. Children learnt about "worthy" and "unworthy" races, about breeding and hereditary disease. "They measured their heads with tape measures, checked the colour of their eyes and texture of their hair against charts of Aryan or Nordic types, and constructed their own family trees to establish their biological, not historical, ancestry.... They also expanded on the racial inferiority of the Jews".

This is footnoted to the book Nazi Women by By Cate Haste page 101.

Further in:

In his autobiography, A Childhood under the Nazis (1998), Tomi Ungerer commented that one of the textbooks that he was forced to use was the anti-Semitic book, The Jewish Question in Education, which contained guidelines for the "identification" of Jews (13). Written by Fritz Fink, with an introduction by Julius Streicher it included passages such as the "Jews have different noses, ears, lips, chins and different faces than Germans" and "they walk differently, have flat feet... their arms are longer and they speak differently."

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  • Your 1st source defines the Holocaust as "the systematic murder of six million Jews" – which makes me skeptical of its integrity.
    – q-l-p
    Mar 26 at 21:49
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    Which part? The 'systematic', the 'murder' or the 'six million'? My first link does not contain any of those words except 'Jews'. Please see previous SE question Has the Holocaust been exaggerated? Mar 26 at 22:07
  • @WeatherVane Maybe he's found fault with the exclusion of the other ~5 million victims, who weren't Jews.
    – Ryan_L
    Mar 27 at 5:55
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    @Ryan_L The original source doesn't: "the systematic murder of six million Jews and millions of other innocent victims". facinghistory.org/topics/holocaust
    – richardb
    Mar 28 at 6:03
  • @Ryan_L: Also, still a not-really-invalid one-line summary of what the Holocaust was, even from the Nazi's perspective themselves. It was termed "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" for a reason. As soon as you go beyond that one-liner you need to expand a bit, but as a one-liner it doesn't disqualify a source.
    – DevSolar
    Mar 28 at 6:11

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