Schule Schloss Salem was founded in April 1920 by Prince Max von Baden and the educationalist Kurt Hahn in Salem. From the beginning the founders gave the school a decidedly reformist profile, which still determines its character today, despite some essential modernising of educational principles and teaching methods. Since its foundation Salem has been co-educational. Experiential education, the idea of service to the community and the participation of the pupils in the running of the school were for Hahn necessary conditions for an education for responsibility. Parts of the school were founded near Salem Castle and these still influence the structure of Salem education and provide now, as they did then, the opportunity for an education appropriate to the age and individual needs of the pupils.
In the time of the Nazi regime Salem went through a difficult phase in its history. Kurt Hahn, who was a Jew, was arrested in March 1933 and in the July of the same year he had to emigrate to England. There he founded the renowned Gordonstoun School. Under the prudent direction of Dr. Heinrich Blendinger, Salem was able to avoid coming under the influence of the Nazis at first. It was not until August 1941 that the Salem schools came under the supervision of the inspectorate of German boarding schools, and the SS took over the schools. In July 1945 the Schule Schloss Salem was closed down.
In November 1945 Salem was reopened under the headship of Marina Ewald. Salem was able to take up its work where it had left off in 1941, under various heads: Prince Georg Wilhelm von Hannover, Axel Freiherr von dem Bussche, Horst Freiherr von Gersdorff and Hartwig Graf von Bernstorff, and consolidate its position in the German educational landscape. In 1950 the Altsalemer Vereinigung (ASV) was re-established - the Old Pupils' Association. In 1962, Kurt Hahn founded the first United World College, the UWC of the Atlantic. In turn, this College drafted the extra-curricular teaching methods of the IB in 1968 under the influence of Kurt Hahn when the International Baccalaureate (IB) was initiated. During Kurt Hahn's 80th birthday celebrations in June 1966 "Round Square" – named after a building in Gordonstoun – was founded in Salem by Jocelin Winthrop-Young. This association of boarding schools all over the world laid an important foundation stone for the internationality which today finds expression in Salem in the form of the International Baccalaureate, a school with pupils and teachers from many nations and a well organised system of worldwide pupil exchanges.
1970 – 2000
In the early seventies under the headship of Prof. Ilse Lichtenstein-Rother and from 1974 under Dr. Bernhard Bueb, Salem was able to develop further. More scholarships were awarded and the number of pupils steadily increased. In the mid-eighties Salem's future was threatened because the right of use of Salem castle was terminated. In 1996 the family of the Margrave of Baden and the school agreed a long term right of use. In 1992 the International Baccalaureate was introduced. In September 2000 the school opened Salem International College. At a cost of around 70 million DM the College has brought new life to the educational principles of the founding fathers and the idea of internationality since then. With the support of the Old Pupils' Association and the governing body of the school this great investment in the future is proving a success.
2000 – 2011
At the end of the academic year 2004/05, Dr Bernhard Bueb steps down after 30 years as Principal of Schule Schloss Salem, together with another long-serving colleague, Director of Studies and Deputy Head Dieter Plate. The occasion is marked by a grand farewell ceremony organised by the board of trustees and Alumni Association (ASV).
Ingrid Sund, Director of Studies of the Deutsche Schule Paris, assumes the overall headship of the Salem schools up to the end of the academic year 2005/06.
As of 1 January 2007, this post is taken up by Principal Prof. Dr. Dr. Eva Marie Haberfellner whose incumbency ended by 31 August 2011.
Since 01 August 2012 Bernd Westermeyer helds the position of Headmaster of Schule Schloss Salem.
In recent years, Salem has seen an exceptional period of growth. Following the expansion of the Salem International College campus near Überlingen, the intake reached a historic high.