Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Holocaust Education: A German Reflects

There is an interesting discussion, which, in fact, was prompted by a posting on this blog about education on the Holocaust in Germany. Elke, who attended school in the 1970s, contends that the notion that German students were inundated with teachings about the Holocaust and with pictures of corpses etc. is a myth., i.e. not true.

This confirms my recollections of trips to Germany where I visited schools and spoke with school officials. In fact, early in the 1980s I visited the school in Dachau [the town of] and learned about their aggressive Holocaust education program.

In contrast, we visited other areas where there were virtually no such programs and had conversations with former students who felt that they had really learned little about it.


Unknown said...

I am French, and I was in the primary school in the 70s. In the 5th grade my teacher was bold in many ways : she included sex education in the program, she had her guitar always with her, sang nicely and gave music lessons after school, and she would transform herself into a fire breather at the school festival. She would have been bold enough to include holocaust education if that idea had come to her mind. Actually she didn't. Her grand historical narrative was the French revolution which she taught by using LP records of the "La Révolution française" rock opera (1). A few years later, I heard my classmates talking about a television series they were watching at home, which had that strange name "holocaust"(2), left untranslated. I don't think I could catch much more than the global idea that it was about some horrible things that happened in the past. Another strange word I learnt from my classmates at that time (or was it earlier ?) was "Hiroshima".

The Holocaust was taught as a part of WWII lessons in highschool. I don't remember what I was taught in junior-high, though there were some lessons on WWII too. Anyway it is probably in junior-high that I understood in more depth the meaning of the holocaust, when I was given as a christmas gift the short story "Reunion" from Fred Ullmann (3).

(1) http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_R%C3%A9volution_fran%C3%A7aise_(com%C3%A9die_musicale)

(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_%28TV_miniseries%29

(3) http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27Ami_retrouv%C3%A9


In England in the 1940-50s, the Holocaust was not taught, mostly because the term "Holocaust" had not come into general use, there was no real interest in the subject of genocide [another term that had not been heard of]the Nazis had been forgotten about and WW2 was rarely discussed. Once a year on November 11 we had the Remembrance Services but the turn out was poor, only an handful of stalwarts attended. If it wasn't for the local British Legion Branches [a workmans type social club for ex-soldiers]the war would have been completely forgotten about. The Sunday Newspapers now and then did run stories about Auschwitz and Belsen, Himmler, Joseph Kramer and Irma Grice. Hitler was described sympathetically, and General Rommel was a great hero to the Brits.

All this changed in 1960 with the capture of Eichman, followed by his trial in Jerusalem, this really brought the subject 'to life'. About this time you had the film the Exodus, then Fidler on the Roof, then the USA TV series on the Holocaust, grinding away in the background you had great interest created in Jews as people by the film 'The Jolson Story', followed by 'Jolson Sings again'. In my home town we had theatres offering programmes based on finding the best local Jolson imitators. Jolson songs dominated the radio and even today you know that Swanee, Mammy, Sonny Boy, or The April Showers, can only mean one man - Jolson. You then had snide remarls being muttered along the lines of "he's a Jew, and thats why he's so good" - how being Jewish can make you sing better was never explained?.

Suffice to say the Holocaust is not really taught in the UK, if its mentioned its part of a race-relations talk. But people do not relate to it, and 40% of Brits have never heard of Auschwitz, in the libraries they stock and lend very few books on the Holocaust, most people say its a subject best avoided? An evil eye subject. They shudder when they say this. Its a taboo subject in groups and in private converation, raise it and you create the impression that your a weirdo. These are my thoughts, others might differ and say otherwise.

Unknown said...

I have to correct the spelling mistakes I made when I wrote the name of writer Fred Uhlman (only one "l", one "n", and an "h"). I am sorry for this disturbance.

hockey hound said...

"Once a year on November 11 we had the Remembrance Services but the turn out was poor, only an handful of stalwarts attended."

Remembrance Day is a big event here (Canada). Everyone observes two minutes of silence wherever they are, whether in the middle of shopping, work, etc... Children at school draw pictures commemorating the World Wars 1, 2, and the Korean. The Holocaust is taught in High School (that will probably change in time-- as soon as the academia assent to the wishes of the pro-jihadists of the land who protest that it's unfair to the Muslims, whose clerics teach in many places that the Holocaust is just the Jewish excuse for the establishment of the State of Israel).

I find it hard to believe that the British don't observe this sombre day in such a broad fashion. This is the same all over England? But hey, I just read that the British Government refused Moishe Feiglin, an Israeli Jew, entry into their country yet, contrariwise, they recently allowed senior Hizbullah leader Ibrahim Mousawwi to visit their country. This is the same country that refused to bomb the rail lines leading to Auschwitz; this is the same country that allowed how many of my father's and mother's descendants to starve to death in Ireland (my grandmother of that generation died on a coffin-ship in Canada's Kingston harbour). And now they refuse to allow an Israeli Jew entrance into their country, yet they allow a filthy Muslim terrorist into their midst. What a freakin' joke. Shame on England.

Nothing surprises me anymore. The world is dominated by an inverse morality: kindness is shown to the cruel, and cruelty is shown to the kind. Cowardice rules supreme.

"So, is the past prologue? Are we doomed to remain perpetually prisoners of the same errors? Certainly, if we do not know the past." -Bat Ye'or


Hockey, with respect:

My post related to the Remembrance observances in small towns and villages in the North of England. In London, we do have a massive military parade with full TV coverage and Royal patronage but this is un-representative of the UK. The annual National "Poppy Appeal" in aid of disabled Soldiers gets well supported [it's an appeal based on the poem; 'In Flanders fields the Poppies grew' -written by a Canadian Dr] but overall its not so popular today.

Maybe thats because people are beginning to realise that wars are nothing to be proud about and are soon forgotten? You mention the bombing of the rail tracks leading to Auchwitz, first of all there was no such thing as precision bombing in those days, an *hit* was anywhere within 5 miles square of the target, railway lines are robust and almost impossible to destroy and impossible to hit from an aircraft and to replace a damaged section of rail line takes about *30 minutes*. If the tracks were bombed, then the Germans would have simply taken the J-detainees of the train and marched them to the camp, or would have machine gunned them to death in the nearest ditch.

I have not heard about Moishe Fiegelin, the Israeli refused entry to the UK, and take it from me our MI5 Govt Intelligence dept are not fools, and if they want to allow this Hezbollah guy into the country they will have some hidden motive or agenda.

You mention I presume, the Potato Famine. England was not repsonsible for this and 'starved no one', especially the Irish, its an hoary tale. No one appreciates today how serious the famine was throughout Europe. You need to bear in mind that food shortages were common in Europe, food distribution rail and road transport networks was primitive, there was no commercial fridges, meaning ships with fridges for the import of cheap meat from Australia and the Argentines had not been invented, and there was no supermarkets [or purchase money] You then had a Govt Policy of 'The Workers earn and let the jobless starve', non existant Social Security, laws and NO JOBS TO BE HAD, by modern standards a formulae for disaster. The average life expectancy was poor, 24 - 34, and an very old man was just 40 - 42 years of age. Bad health was the norm. May I sugest you read the Working Class History of the British Isles 1801-1901, including Ireland. Taking a guess your grandmother was in poor health, the journey was ill-advised for this reason, she might have died of TB or heart-trouble and not starvation. Lets be honest their arrival in the USA was not exactly a bed-of-roses, and there lifestyle had not improved that much. What they achieved is therefore all the more remarkable.

hockey hound said...

"first of all there was no such thing as precision bombing in those days"

Excuse me? Please read Martin Gilbert's 'Auschwitz and the Allies'. In one line you obfuscate volumes of aviation development and evolution during the 2nd World War.

"England was not repsonsible for this and 'starved no one', especially the Irish, its an hoary tale."

Your confusing take on history tastes much like the corn meal your ancestors give mine during the Potatoe Famine. Ever heard of a man by the name of Trevelyan, mate?

"No one appreciates today how serious the famine was throughout Europe. You need to bear in mind that food shortages were common in Europe, food distribution rail and road transport networks was primitive..."

And this "food shortage" and "famine" you reference is the same Potatoe Famine as was experienced in Ireland? Now you're pitying me, Fairplay. Your post is pure cavil, nothing else. How can you, with good conscience, write this stuff? It's almost insulting. You're sounding sciolistic. You mean to tell me that I've told my children fairy tales all these years? Please direct me to this pandemic "food shortage" you mention that expanded beyond the shores of Ireland, of which, according to you, the Irish Famine was merely segmental.

"...its an hoary tale"

I can't believe you write these things on a site dedicated to fighting Holocaust denial. Did you even preview your statements before you submitted them? An hoary tale? Please.

Have a happy Shabbos, Prof. Lipstadt. I'm sorry about what happened to the Jewish kids at the Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

hockey hound said...

"and take it from me our MI5 Govt Intelligence dept are not fools"

I'm sure they're not, Fairplay. But MI5 needs a government to act upon the intelligence it renders to those politicians in office. We have a problem here in Canada: CSIS (Canadian Security and Intelligence Service) passes on intelligence to the Federal Judiciary about suspected terrorists, but the Judiciary refuses to accept and act upon CSIS' interpretation of that same intelligence. So we have overtly anti-Jewish Muslim clerics and their "disciples" perpetuating their malefic ideology unperturbed by the constraints of prudence. Perhaps MI5 is running into the same wall...