HISTORY OF Internat Solling
If Internat Solling were to have been founded in current times, it would have called a parents’ initiative. Thanks to the dedication and seed money from a group of mothers and fathers, our school was founded more than 100 years ago. This group was lead by Dr. Hermann Schmilinsky, a medical doctor from Hamburg, who encouraged four teachers to found their own school..
These four educators hat previously taught at Germany’s first rural boarding school in Ilsenburg that offered new approaches in contrast to the typically authoritarian, militaristic approach of other schools during the Wilhelmine era. Following a dispute with this school’s founder Hermann Lietz, they were dismissed but nonetheless remained dedicated to their educational reform concept wherein daily life is to be unified with learning and children are to be taught through the head, heart and hands. At the same time, they also sought a holistic approach to education within the larger context of man and nature. The creation of the first rural boarding schools (Landerziehungsheime) represented a break from urban living to what was then understood to be the healing forces of nature.
On 11 November 1908, the four teachers met for a goose dinner on St. Martin’s day in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt and decided to actually start their own school. It was no accident that they distinguished themselves from other rural boarding schools by founding a school more closely focussed on education. To this day, we still celebrate this occasion with a large goose dinner.
During the initial phase, they moved into a former hotel where they started as Oberharzer Landschulheim Hohegeiß while still looking for their ultimate location. This was soon found close to the city of Holzminden that showed interest right from the beginning. The city installed the requisite service infrastructure and oversaw construction of the new school. Civic authorities were immediately and thoroughly convinced about the group’s new educational concepts—ideas, that despite many highs and lows, have survived to the present day.
In May 1909, the cornerstone was laid for the first building (Unterhaus) and by January 1910 the first pupils and teachers have moved in. From the beginning until today, the teachers were responsible not only for educating but also raising the pupils – not only do they live, learn and work together, they also spend their leisure time with them collectively. Sports, crafts, arts, music and theatre have always played a central role since the school’s inception.
Up until the First World War, Landschulheim am Solling (or LSH as it was known then and for many years thereafter) grew steadily as increasing numbers of pupils enrolled to the school. New buildings were constructed and all signs pointed to a rosy future. But the First World War put an abrupt stop to proceedings. Many teachers and older pupils went to war and the Oberhaus served as a military hospital. Hunger, poverty and a rapidly rotating cast of teachers lead to a steady decline of the school. After the school’s first chancellor Alfred Kramer died, the board of trustees seriously considered shutting the school down.
Fortuitously, the three founding members returned unscathed from the war. In fact one of them, Theophil Lehmann, was ready to head the school. With great energy and clear educational goals, he guided the school through the years of hyperinflation following the war and onward to great heights in the 1920s and 30s. This was the first period where the school began to accept girls.
The school underwent a period of adaptation after Hitler became German chancellor. Just as the German public was generally susceptible to extreme nationalist tendencies and sloganeering, Theophil Lehmann was certainly open towards certain aspects of Nazi ideology. Lehmann died in 1943 and was replaced by an SS officer who headed the school until the end of the war.
After Germany’s collapse, a small group of former employees reopened the school in fall 1945. Children and teachers once again took up residence in some of the buildings. Once West Germany’s post-war economy started to boom, Internat Solling also began to blossom. By the end of the 1950s, the school had become larger than ever with more than 300 pupils enrolled.
During the 1960s and 70s, our school was a pioneer of many secondary school reforms. The educational concepts developed here served as models for other schools. As at other schools during this period, many of our traditions were scrutinised and some of them were abolished. Furthermore, increased educational options throughout Germany lead to a further decline in enrolment at boarding schools. Many were forced to close.
In 1985, the boarding school sold a few buildings but also built the Tannenhaus for junior pupils. Since this time, the school has maintained a yearly capacity of approx. 210 pupils. Even more buildings have been built in the meantime—the education centre, fitness room, music house and riding arena. And this brings us to the present day.