The website "Learning from History" is a publication platform
for educational projects (realized in schools
and in out-of-school, youth education)
dedicated to the history of Poland and its neighbors in the 20th century and human rights
Investigating a School's Name (Ein Name verpflichtet)
Location / Region: Thuringia
Institution: Wilhelm-Hammann Schule
Patron / Project supervision: Hannelore Lutze
Project authors: Hannelore Lutze
Age group: Primary school
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Hannelore Lutze
Wilhelm-Hammann Schule


Introductory remarks

After the unification of Germany, the Wilhelm Hammann School in Thuringia was directed to change its name. Students and teachers conducted a research project and discovered that Hammann, a political prisoner in Buchenwald, saved the lives of 904 children there. As a result of the study, the school decided to keep its name. Students are continuing the research by trying to find people whom Hammann rescued. Project derived from partner website "Lernen aus der Geschichte".

Honorary Name of the School

After German unification, the state of Thuringia stripped all public schools of the honorary names after public figures they had been given in the German Democratic Republic. It can be debated whether this was an arbitrary political action, or whether it should be considered a catalyst to rethink history. It also raises the question of whether the boundaries of geographically based moral and ethical values were violated. As a response, Regelschule 2, in cooperation with the Erfurt city government, decided to do some research in order to retain the name Wilhelm Hammann for their school.

Wilhelm Hammann

Wilhelm Hammann was born in 1897 in the district of Gross-Gerau in the state of Hesse. In 1935, he was arrested by the Nazis because of his active membership in the Communist party. In 1938 he was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.

Exhibition mounted by students from the Wilhelm Hammann School in Erfurt, as part of a project week, 1997.

During his seven-year imprisonment there, Hammann helped save the lives of 904 children, including 159 Jewish children. He was killed in an accident in 1955. In 1984, Wilhelm Hammann was among three Germans who were acknowledged as "Righteous Gentiles" by Israel.

Researching the Life of Hammann

Students of Regelschule 2 began the project by researching the life of Hammann, a former educator and first district president [Landrat] after the war in Hesse. They created an impressive commemorative program that was presented in honor of the ceremonial "naming" of their school on November 7, 1993.

Student exhibition panel from the Wilhelm Hammann School in Erfurt, created as part of a project week in the Buchenwald Memorial, 1997.

The success of this occasion provided the impetus for teachers and students to continue their school-wide project about Wilhelm Hammann. The project subsequently expanded to include the fate of the children imprisoned in Barracke [Block] 8 in Buchenwald concentration camp.

Yad Vashem provided the names and addresses of three children who had survived Buchenwald. The students wrote many letters to the survivors. While the letters initially remained unanswered, they eventually received a reply from Zoltan Blau, now living in New York. He contacted the school, and expressed a willingness to talk with the students. When he visited Germany to participate in a commemoration of the self-liberation of Buchenwald in 1995, students and teachers were able to meet Blau and his family.

During a tour of the war front by allied radio commentators, concentration camp survivors wait to re-enter Buchenwald, April 18, 1945. Photograph: Lowell Thomas, USHMM Photo Archives

Continuation of the Project

The continuation of this school project allows ninth grade students to engage in "looking for evidence" for a week. This enables them to work through the past and to study individual lives showing how an individual retains humanity despite a world of terror.

This project is the introduction to the mandatory ninth grade school curriculum about the Nazi period.

Student drawing of the crematoria in Buchenwald concentration camp.

The teacher may use the results of the student project as part of classroom learning. It is an advantage that the school is located close to the Buchenwald memorial. Both the physical site and the students' emotional involvement facilitate learning.

Markings and colors categorizing prisoners in Buchenwald Concentration Camp, Erfurt 1998.

Didactic text

Reconstructing of a biography
Encoutering eyewitness
Researching local history
Working with archives




Encountering eyewitnesses (oral history)
Researching local history
Interpreting historical documents
Interpreting photographs
Working with archives
Persecution of Jews
Nazi repressions against civilians
Nazi concentration camps
Death camps