School Decides to Change Name, No Longer Wants to be Named After Inventor

School Decides to Change Name, No Longer Wants to be Named After Inventor

Otfried Preußler, a much-loved children’s book author who passed away at the age of 89, has touched millions of children’s hearts around the globe with his charming stories. His works, including “Robber Hotzenplotz”, “The Little Ghost”, “The Little Witch” and “Krabat”, have sold a remarkable total of 55 million copies. However, a controversy has recently erupted concerning Preußler, causing disputes and disagreements.

This controversy primarily revolves around the “Otfried-Preußler-Gymnasium”, a school located in Pullach, near Munich. The school is currently considering a name change to “Staatliches Gymnasium Pullach”. This decision was reached by a working group of students and teachers, confirmed by the headmaster, Benno Fischbach, in an interview with BILD.

It’s not just the school administration who are in favor of the name change. Pullach’s mayor, Susanna Opferfreund (60, The Greens), has also lent her support to the proposed change. The story first came to light when the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported on the case.

The reason behind the proposed name change is rooted in Preußler’s past affiliations with the Nazi regime. It has been revealed that Preußler was a part of the Hitler Youth (HJ) and joined the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) shortly before his 18th birthday. However, the controversy doesn’t just revolve around his political affiliations, but also involves an analysis of his youthful work.

Mayor’s Viewpoint: “He doesn’t serve as a role model”

Particularly, the focus is on Preußler’s lesser-known novel “Harvest Camp Geyer”, written when he was 17 or 18 years old during the 3rd Reich. The novel, according to Fischbach, idealizes the use of harvest helpers by a HJ unit in the countryside and glorifies Nazi ideologies.

As Fischbach points out, there was no confession or subsequent distancing from this book by the author, leading teachers, parents, and students to start an initiative for a name change.

Preußler’s Daughter’s Response

Preußler’s daughter and estate administrator, Dr. Susanne Preußler-Bitsch (65), has expressed disappointment at the controversy. She states, “Of course the whole thing affects me. Scandalizing him like this today and trying to delegitimize him is absolutely out of the question.” She maintains that her father, Otfried, had spoken about his Nazi past on several occasions, including in published works.

She further adds, “He was a ‘bridge builder’, a humanist and a pacifist by conviction. He processed his youth in the Third Reich in his novel “Krabat,” which is about abuse of power and seduction.”

She believes that a specific group of teachers is aggressively pushing the topic and feels sympathy for the students who are caught in the middle of this controversy.

In defense of Preußler, his publishing house Thienemann continues to support him. The publisher, Bärbel Dorweiler, told BILD: “The novel from his youth exists, but the question is whether one should see Otfried Preußler’s entire life from this perspective. In his youth he was very fond of National Socialism and, like so many others, he was easily seduced. There is no reason for us to move away from our author.”

The final decision on the name change rests with the Bavarian Ministry of Culture, who must approve it.