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Although the early history of progressive education is often associated with John Dewey in America, the author argues convincingly that the pedagogues in the elementary schools in the big cities of Imperial Germany were in the avant garde of this movement on the European Continent. Far more than a history of ideas, this study provides the first comprehensive analysis of the culture wars over the schools in Germany in the 1920s. Going up to the Nazi seizure of power, the author's narrative sheds new light on the courageous defense of the republican state by the progressive educators in the 1930s and the relationship between the traditionalists' opposition to school reform and the attraction of certain sections of the teaching profession to the Nazi movement.