Krössinsee (Pomerania), August 1939
In a kind of immense field opening up in the dense and unbroken mass of the Nordic forest, against the backdrop of the metallic colors of two large lakes, under a sky made particularly lofty by this constant horizontality and straightness, which, so to speak, constitutes the style of this Pomeranian landscape, stands a group of buildings. They are a singular mixture of the primordial, the archaic, and the modern. They, too, are linear, smooth, devoid of any ornamental superfluities, at once hard and clear. Large towers, fences and large huts with colonnades, a large semi-circular amphitheater, buildings with high trapezoidal roofs, long parallellepipeds, great slopes and arenas sharply set off by their particularly violent colors — blood-red and black — against the dark green of the surrounding grass, large squares and paths cut into the lawn and paved with irregularly shaped stones like ancient Roman roads, bleachers, antennas. Over it all ripples a long, red flame, emblazoned with the swastika.
This is Krössinsee, the first “Ordensburg,” the first “Castle of the Order” of the Germanic National Socialist movement.
The Castles of the Order are one of the most characteristic and significant initiatives of Nazism. They are an expression of an exigency of utmost importance for the new anti-Marxist movements: the systematic formation of the future political, governing class, of the men who tomorrow will command.
The ordeals of the beginnings of those movements were already a form of selection. The struggle itself differentiated the best elements, setting them apart from the rest and investing them with a natural legitimacy and authority. But for the coming generation, other criteria of selection are needed, given the different circumstances. The question arises if a special education system can breed a stock from which to draw the elements most qualified to assume the leading positions in the party, as they gradually become vacant.
In response to this problem, in Germany, several initiatives have been undertaken. There are so-called “Institutes for social and political education” (Napolas), there are political schools for the leaders of the S.S. (“Schutzstaffeln,” the black corps, the “guard” and “order” of the Nazi revolution). Finally, there are the “Castles of the Order” and the “Adolf Hitler Schools” which are preparatory for the former: both are part of the “German Labor Front” directed by Ley and specifically concerned with the education of party elements.
The principle that informs these institutions is indicated by their name [“Ordensburg,” “Castle of the Order”]: i.e., the idea of an “Order,” on the basis of the ideal of an “elite” that combines a military vocation with special moral qualities. At least in principle, the education imparted by these institutions should be total, encompassing the body, the soul and the spirit in an indissoluble unity. There are, first of all, racial conditions that must be fulfilled: applicants must be perfectly “in order” with regard to race and physical type, and not only in the sense of being well-built — “Nordic,” if possible — and of perfect physical health. Any bodily defect is enough to preclude admission to the Ordensburgen. This institution has no intention of producing leaders who wear glasses, are missing a finger, or have flat feet — to the point of not even making exceptions for those whose physical defect is a consequence of having fought for the Nazi revolution.
The athletic and physical training at this school of future political leaders must not be less demanding than everything pertaining to education and knowledge. Candidates must all learn to ride, swim, box, fence and perform light athletics, row and sail small boats, play tennis, and so on — few varieties of sport are omitted. In addition to this, there is of course properly military training. A characteristic point are the so-called “tests of courage.” Already the Adolf Hitler Schulen, which admit the future cadets of the Ordensburgen when they are still children, demand certain tests: leaping into water from a certain height, even without knowing how to swim, mounting a horse without a saddle, dangerous climbs, and so on. Aspiring cadets of the Ordensburgen are sometimes asked to readily jump out of an airplane with a parachute. The principle in this regard is that physical courage and strength of inner resoluteness are closely related. In general, they want to get rid of the nineteenth-century bureaucratic-parliamentary, bourgeois, or romantic-humanitarian type of leader. Soldierly qualities are given a leading role.
As for the course work, it is characterized by the close connection of special disciplines with the National Socialist “worldview.” These special disciplines are racial theory, prehistory, ancient history, geopolitics and biology. An extensive library is available to cadets: at Krössinsee there is also a special center for study and information regarding the problems and legislation of racism. The general guidelines in terms of worldview are essentially based on the theories of Alfred Rosenberg — which is not without certain dangers, given the various simplifications and contingent adaptations that his theories present. But the institution of the Castles is, after all, very recent, and hence still open to further development even in this regard.
To provide a picture of the entire education system, we should mention that normally, as a preliminary condition for admission to the Ordensburgen, candidates must have attended one of the Adolf Hitler Schulen, to which they are admitted on the basis of special selection by the leaders of the Party youth organizations. The Adolf Hitler Schulen are attended at no cost by youths aged from 10 to 18, for studies combining political and athletic components up to the level of secondary school. After that, the youths must spend six months in the so-called “labor service,” and following that, two years in military service. After this, a period of freedom follows, in which each youth on his own may take up specialized higher studies or dedicate himself to some activity. After a period of about 5 years, i.e., at an age of between 25 and 27 years old, there are the “calls” for admission to Ordensburgen. and an initial selection is made from among those who apply. Three Castles of the Order are planned, along with an initial set of courses, each lasting a year, to be completed one after the other, first in Krössinsee — i.e., the castle we visited — then at Vogelsang, and finally in Sonthofen. For those wishing to become administrators or instructors at the Castles of the Order in their turn, a fourth center is being planned, to be established in Chiemsee, for even more specialized instruction.
As an interesting detail, we will mention that for each year of the normal courses, every cadet is sent for a certain period of time to the region he comes from, to temporarily take on a political office of the party, substituting whoever normally occupies it, in order to gain direct experience of its problems, tasks and responsibilities. This occurs three times, once per year, as an interlude between the courses in the three Castles.
Naturally, during these courses a further selection takes place. Whoever shows themselves to be inadequate in any respect, anyone who falls behind, is not allowed to catch up and is immediately sent back to ordinary life. Like the Adolf Hitler Schulen, the Castles are completely free, candidates are provided for as guests of the state. Needless to say, qualities of character are a decisive factor here, and are put to the test by every possible means. One does not neglect to provide candidates with an orientation in the field of social and even legal problems. For example, civil cases where problems arise that are particularly relevant to the ideas of honor, responsibility, etc. are summoned to the Castles: they take place in the presence of all candidates, who then have to express and discuss their point of view. Once the three courses have been completed, each student of the Castles is presented to the Party, so as to be assigned to responsibilities in conformity with the qualities and the special dispositions which he has demonstrated.
The students at these political schools are called “Junker,” not without a certain tendentiousness. “Junker” is in fact a term that refers to youths from noble German families who have begun a military career, and the “Junkertum” represented a kind of caste, the old aristocratic and military caste, which in the second Reich Germany had an importance that is well known. In giving the same name to the students of the Castles of the Order, who are recruited from all walks of life under the German Labor Front, one is clearly declaring the intention to replace one “elite” with another “elite,” formed on quite different premises, and, in particular, not on the basis of family tradition and caste, but on what is supposed to correspond to a given physical racial type, along with a declared faith in National Socialism.
As already mentioned, the establishment of the Ordensburgen is quite recent. Therefore, only time will tell to what extent this attempt to methodically, we would almost say rationally, create a nursery of future political leaders, a “seminary” of the future German ruling class, has positive potential and constitutes an example worthy of imitation.
Originally published in Corriere Padano, August 22, 1939