Bernhard Rust was born in Germany in 1883. After studying philosophy at Berlin and Munich he became a secondary schoolteacher.
Rust joined the German Army in the First World War and won the Iron Cross for bravery. He reached the rank of lieutenant before he received a bad head wound that it was later claimed affected his mental stability.
In 1922 Rust joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). He made good progress in the party and in 1925 was appointed Gauleiter of Hanover-Braunschweig.
Rust lost his job as a schoolteacher in 1930 after being accused of interfering with a schoolgirl. He was not charged with the offence because of his "instability of mind". However, this did not stop him being elected to the Reichstag later that year.
Rust's task was to change the education system so that resistance to fascist ideas were kept to a minimum. Teachers who were known to be critical of the Nazi Party were dismissed and the rest were sent away to be trained in National Socialist principles. As a further precaution schools could only use textbooks that have been approved by the party. On one occasion he remarked that "the whole function of education is to create Nazis."
Rust also purged the universities of Jews and those with left-wing views. Over a thousand people lost their jobs including Albert Einstein, James Franck, Fritz Haber and Otto Meyerhof. Rust justified his actions by claiming that: "We must have a new Aryan generation at the universities, or else we will lose the future."
Bernhard Rust committed suicide when in May 1945, it became clear that Germany had lost the Second World War.
The systematic reform of Germany's education system was started immediately after the coming into power of National Socialism. If these far-reaching changes were to materialize, teachers had first to be made capable of introducing them. Numerous courses, camps and working communities have been arranged to provide the necessary instruction, which includes the teaching of the philosophy of National Socialism in addition to the strictly educational subjects.
There is, indeed, twofold evidence to show that something was wrong with education. In the first place, the high level of popular enlightenment had failed to protect the German people against the poisonous effects of Marxist teaching and other false doctrines. Large masses of people had fallen victims to them, whilst other sections - more especially those of higher education - had been unable to take up an effective stand against the spread of the poison. If they had, the events of 1918 and the succeeding period of national disintegration and deterioration would have been prevented.
In the second place, a careful study of the situation shows that the German people are sound to the core and are gifted with just as much national sentiment as any other. Hence, the temporary lowering of their previous high standards could not have been the result of any innate inferiority, but the reason must be sought in a faulty system of education, which - notwithstanding its high intellectual achievements - tended to impair the healthy spirit of the nation, men's energies and their soundness of judgment, and to produce selfishness and a deficient sense of national solidarity.
The attainment of high intellectual standards will certainly continue to be urged upon the young people; but they will be taught at the same time that their achievements must be of benefit to the national community to which they belong. As a consequence of the demand thus clearly formulated by the Nuremberg Laws, Jewish teachers and Jewish pupils have had to quit German schools, and schools of their own have been provided by and for them as far as possible. In this way, the natural race instincts of German boys and girls are preserved; and the young people are made aware of their duty to maintain their racial purity and to bequeath it to succeeding generations. As the mere teaching of these principles is not enough, it is constantly supplemented, in the National Socialist State, by opportunities for what may be called "community life". By this term we mean school journeys, school camps, school "homes" in rural neighbourhoods, and similar applications of the corporate principle to the life of schools and scholars.
History insists that every biological race deterioration coincides with the growth of big towns, that these latter exercise a paralysing effect upon community life, and that a nation's strength is rooted in its rural elements. Our National Socialist system of education pays due regard to these important considerations, and makes every effort, to take the young people from the towns to the country, whilst impressing upon them the inseparable connection between racial strength and a healthy open-air life.
I am trying through the teaching of geography to do everything in my power to give the boys knowledge and I hope later on, judgment, so that when, as they grow older, the Nazi fever dies down and it again becomes possible to offer some opposition they may be prepared. There are four or five masters who are non-Nazis left in our school now, and we all work on the same plan. If we leave, Nazis will come in and there will be no honest teaching in the whole school. But if I went to America and left others to do it, would that be honest, or are the only honest people those in prison cells? If only there could be some collective action amongst teachers. But we cannot meet in conference, we cannot have a newspaper.
In the schools it is not the teacher, but the pupils, who exercise authority. Party functionaries train their children to be spies and agent provocateurs. The youth organizations, particularly the Hitler Youth, have been accorded powers of control which enable every boy and girl to exercise authority backed up by threats. Children have been deliberately taken away from parents who refused to acknowledge their belief in National Socialism. The refusal of parents to "allow their children to join the youth organization" is regarded as an adequate reason for taking the children away.