This week sees the recognition of Holocaust Memorial Day, a mark of one of the most horrific crimes committed in the last century. However, a new study has found that one fifth of young Germans have never heard of Auschwitz and are ignorant of the war crimes of the Nazis.
The German government is concerned about a rise in neo-Nazi violence in the country. The government is likely alarmed by the results of this survey, whereby twenty one per cent of young people had not heard of the notorious extermination camp Auschwitz.
Almost half of all the young people aged 18 to 30 surveyed by the Forsa research institute said they had never visited a concentration camp, writes Allan Hall at the Daily Mail.
German government officials would surely have to be reassessing how the country teaches the period, as less than 70 per cent could name the country Auschwitz lies in.
Berlin is said to be dismayed by the survey, particularly as ignorant youth in particular are vulnerable to far-right propaganda that claims the Holocaust is a myth, writes Hall.
A worrying trend of a lack of informed, educated citizenry is thought to be spreading across Europe and the Western world, especially with the success of films such as Saving Private Ryan and video games including Call of Duty: World at War, which doesn’t portray war, and particularly the Second World War, in a realistic light.
The Second World War is a mainstay of satellite channels such as UKTV History and the History Channel, where recent programs have included Hitler’s Bodyguard, Hitler’s Women, Nazi America and Nazi Guerrillas.
And last summer a leading UK-born, German-based headmaster spoke out against sensationalist films and television programs, saying that they are undermining pupils’ understanding of the war.
Graham Lacey, headmaster of the Berlin British School, a private international school in the German capital, said schools had a moral duty to “rescue” the subject by focusing on more challenging topics such as the Nazi’s exploitation of democracy and the state’s treatment of minorities.
Mr. Lacey said:
Schools “must be careful not to downplay the significance of a period when the world almost fell off its moral axis”.
“Students have been too easily distracted by its more prurient and commercial elements, whether it be the sex lives of its leaders or the pop memorabilia of the SS, for example.”