698 THE ENFANT TERRIBLE AT SCHOOL masters was handed on from class to class and from generation to generation. In the third form we had a physics master named Koenig. Each form knew that at the beginning of the new scholastic year, the pupils would be divided into two groups—why, I still have no idea. Koenig would give the following order: "The pupils on the side nearest the window will gather near the window; those on the stove side of the room will gather in the vicinity of the stove !" Immediately the pupils rushed to do the reverse. The wretched man danced with indignation, exclaiming that the students became more stupid with every year; it never entered his head that the real fool was he himself! The priest who taught us divinity was a very tubby, portly little man. Before his entry, we used to slant the forms inwards along the gangway through which he had to pass, making it narrower and narrower. Never did the stupid man realise the trick; solemnly he would walk on until finally, half-way to his desk, he found himself stuck between the benches! Before the lesson in natural science, we used to strew the floor of the classroom with grass and nutshells, and explain innocently that we had been studying botany. We had a methodical plan, according to the season of the year, for fomenting riot and chaos in the classroom. In the spring a very successful trick was to release a swarm of cockchafers in class and then exclaim in unison: "O-Oh, sir! how can we study with all these cockchafers in the room!" As you may imagine, I was in particularly bad odour with the teachers. I showed not the slightest aptitude for foreign languages—though I might have done, had not the teacher been a congenital idiot. In addition, I could not bear the sight of him, and in honesty I must confess that the feeling was reciprocated. Behind a frowsty beard one caught a glimpse of a collar, greasy and yellow with dirt, and he was in every way a most repellent creature; he was furious because I learnt not a word of French. A bright youngster of thirteen or fourteen can always get the better of a teacher dulled by the grind of years of teaching. Our teachers were absolute tyrants. They had no sympathy with youth; their one object was to stuff our brains and to turn
SCHOOLMASTER IN THE SS 699 us into erudite apes like themselves. If any pupil showed the slightest trace of originality, they persecuted him relentlessly, and the only model pupils whom I ever got to know have all been failures in after-life. Good teaching should recognise and develop the personality of the individual pupil. In this respect the foundation of a corps of teachers and the revision of educational methods have brought a very great improvement in modern times. Among our teachers there was only one who dressed decently; and it is an interesting fact that, when I once visited Klagenfurt, I found him—in the SS ! The old gentleman, who was then already on pension, had^ it seems, been a member of the illegal SS before the Anschluss. I was very much moved to meet him again. I can readily understand why the youth of ancient Greece sometimes went far afield, in order to study under the teacher of their choice. And it was grouped around their teachers, by the way, that the youth of ancient days went into battle. There is no enthusiasm greater than that of a young man of thirteen to seventeen years of age. They will gladly let themselves be cut to pieces for the sake of their teacher, if he is a real man. I should very much like to see our youth led into battle by their teachers !