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Verena Stürmer

The ban on almost all previously approved textbooks in occupied Germany in 1945 brought about a turning point in the history of reading primers in this country. This article examines the requirements that textbooks had to fulfill in order to be approved by the authorities of the various occupation zones. In spite of differing sociopolitical and pedagogical attitudes and conditions, reading primersin all occupied zones shared the theme of children’s play and harmonious everyday life. However, a comparative analysis of the primers reveals significant differences that cannot be explained exclusively as a consequence of influence exerted by occupying powers. Rather, these differences resulted from the context in which each primer appeared.

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The Postwar Schoolbook as a Material Artifact

Two Greek Reading Textbooks from 1944

Niki Sioki

In contrast to the countries of Western Europe, the end of the Second World War did not bring political restoration, economic recovery, or the emergence of a new social order to Greece. Subscribing to the view that the material form of books and their typography convey meaning, this article presents a comparative study of the design and production of a reading primer and a third-year reading textbook, both of which were published in a climate of political and social disorder. Drawing on surviving copies of the books, educational laws, teachers’ recollections, and archival material, this article examines the ways in which the sociopolitical environment and technological conditions of a publication affect the ways in which texts are shaped into book form.

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Militarization via Education

A 1945 Primer from Socialist Macedonia

Darko Leitner-Stojanov

This article examines the textual and visual content of the first postwar primer in socialist Yugoslav Macedonia in order to understand the messages that it contains relating to techniques of militarization. After outlining the historical context in which this primer was developed, with reference to teachers’ memories and archival sources, the article analyzes the role of teaching materials in connection with the experience of the Second World War and the politics of the new communist state. This content analysis identifies six militaristic messages and values communicated to the pupils, who are addressed as future soldiers.

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Introduction

Reading Primers and Political Change in European Countries around 1945

Wendelin Sroka and Simona Szakács-Behling

This introduction addresses the origins, general assumptions and intentions of the special issue. The guest editors show how reading primers published and used around the end of the Second World War in several European countries may serve as an object of study in different disciplinary contexts. They present a broad working definition of the reading primer as an educational medium that lends itself to interdisciplinary research which takes into account aspects such as visual and textual content, materiality, and societal contexts of production, distribution and usage. The editors further highlight characteristics of current research into primers and argue in favor of more comparative approaches that reveal transnational dimensions of textbooks designed to teach children how to read and write.

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Nurturing Romanian Socialists

Reading Primers Before, During and After the Second World War

Simona Szakács-Behling and Mihai Stelian Rusu

Drawing on a sample of children’s reading primers published between 1938 and 1953 in Romania, this article explores ways in which both the monarchic and the communist regimes used primary education to fashion political subjects before, during, and after the Second World War. Theoretically grounded in a sociological approach and empirically grounded in textual and visual thematic content analysis, the findings reveal significant semantic shifts in understandings of the “nation” in relation to internal and external anchors, including religion, monarchy, and work, but they also indicate important continuities relating to an ethos of political submission (toward God and king, or the party and the Soviet Union) and patriotic solidarity (with the Romanian Orthodox nation or the workers’ proletarian nation).

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Between the Old and the New World in Poland

Marian Falski’s Elementarz

Joanna Wojdon

Marian Falski’s “Reading Primer” (Elementarz) was the first textbook to be published in Warsaw in 1945 by the newly established State School Publishing House (Państwowe Zakłady Wydawnictw Szkolnych). It was officially approved by the Ministry of Education and by the Censorship Office, but nevertheless had an interim character, unlike other editions published before, during and after the war, both in Poland and abroad. The core of the book was reprinted from the prewar edition. However, in his depictions of war trauma and postwar circumstances the author was apparently trying to comply with the propaganda model developed during the Stalinist period. These findings are empirically grounded in a content analysis of the primers following archival research conducted in the files of the Ministry of Education and the Censorship Office, both of which are housed in the Modern Records Archive (Archiwum Akt Nowych) in Warsaw.