"Upon his mother's death, fifteen-year-old Johannes von Redel returns to his father's rural estate in Prussia. Johannes has been living with his mother in Argentina for the past ten years, and he has grown up as an urban, decadent, and fastidious Auslandsdeutscher (German living abroad), alienated from his German roots. He does not take to German life and finds himself in constant conflict with his father and with the local boys. His father decides to send him to the National Political Institute of Education Oranienstein, one of a number of elite Nazi boarding schools, where it is hoped that Johannes will learn about comradeship from the other students. These schools were designed to train the next generation of German leaders; they were administered by the Reich Education Minister (and later by the SS), and a boy had to be a member of the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) to attend.
Johannes begins poorly at the school, where fellow students ridicule his alien customs and behavior. It is only after accomplishing a heroic deed during a military autumn drill that he gains the comradeship of the elite pupils and is incorporated back into the Volksgemeinschaft (ethnic-racial community), fully reconciling with his father.
Kopf Hoch, Johannes! is compelling in its authenticity. It was shot on location at Prussia’s Oranienstein, a real National Political Academy—or NAPOLA, as these select schools were called, where Scores of students appeared as extras. Although Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels found the picture too blatantly propagandistic, preferring more subliminal messages, the film proved enormously popular with young German audiences and confirmed the merits of such youth-oriented productions. Three more soon followed: Jakko (1941) and two that are forthcoming from International Historic Films, Hände hoch! (Hands Up!, 1942) and Junge Adler (Young Eagles, 1944)."