I’m stunned every now and then when I see a story like this. By the way this isn’t an indictment of Germany, necessarily, its not the only country in which you’ll find such knowledge gaps. Japan has hidden its atrocities during WWII as well. In fact, most countries would prefer not to discuss such behavior.
But it sure makes it hard to say “Never again” and have it mean anything if part of the population doesn’t know what it refers too.
One in five young Germans has no idea that Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp, a poll released Wednesday showed, two days ahead of Holocaust memorial day.
Although 90 percent of those asked did know it was a concentration camp, the poll for Thursday’s edition of Stern news magazine revealed that Auschwitz meant nothing to 21 percent of 18-29 year olds.
And nearly a third of the 1,002 people questioned last Thursday and Friday for the poll were unaware that Auschwitz was in today’s Poland.
Maybe it’s not significant that 21% didn’t recognize a name that is so identified with concentration camps that it could be a synonym. Perhaps it is good enough that 90% of the total knew it was a concentration camp. Or does it signal that the shame and the knowledge of the shame brought to Germany by the Nazis is beginning to fade (of course my guess is if you asked the question of the same demographic here in the US, the percentage to which the name would mean nothing would probably be higher)?
Or, does it perhaps point to a demographic in which a portion is so self-absorbed that history like that represented by Auschwitz simply doesn’t register?
I wonder at times, as I watch the WWII era dim as veterans die off, whether things like D-Day and its import or Pearl Harbor will even get a mention in a few years.
But back to the poll. If ever there is something every German school kid should know about it is the Nazi era. If ever there was a subject to which they should be exposed, to include all of the atrocities by that regime, it is the subject of Germany and Nazism.
I can’t help but believe, and I don’t know it for sure, that the subject gets taught but it isn’t something that is lingered over by schools. And I wonder how sanitized it has become now days.
The fact that a fifth of the young demographic said the name “Auschwitz” had no meaning for them has thinking it is both short and sanitized when presented.
Wonder if they knew the name “Dachau” (10 mines northwest of Munich).