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January 25, 2012

More Holocaust education needed: one in five young Germans has never heard of Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:20 am

Today, the British newspaper Mail Online is reporting this startling news:

ONE-FIFTH of young Germans have never heard of Auschwitz, survey reveals

Does this mean one-fifth of young “ethnic Germans” (Volksdeutsche) have never heard of Auschwitz, or does it mean one-fifth of all young citizens of Germany have never heard of Auschwitz?

It is hard for me to believe that anyone in Germany has never heard of Auschwitz  — unless they are recent immigrants from Africa or the Middle East.  Did the people asking the survey question pronounce the word Auschwitz correctly? If the surveyers used the British or the American pronunciation of the word, the ethnic Germans might not have known what they were talking about.

According to the article in the Mail Online, “Twenty one per cent of people aged between 18 and 30 quizzed about the most notorious Nazi extermination camp had not heard of it, the survey revealed.”   How was the question posed:  Did the survey people ask “What was the most notorious Nazi extermination camp?”

This quote is from the article:

The Nazis built six extermination camps – Auschwitz, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek – all of them in occupied Poland.The murder of prisoners, most of them Jewish, began in 1941 when Nazi officials enacted Hitler’s ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’.

The “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was enacted in 1941?  Does that mean “enacted into law?”  NO, NO, NO! There was no German law in which the murder of the Jews was ordered. The murder of the Jews did, in fact, begin in 1941, but the Wannsee conference where the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was discussed did not begin until January 20, 1942.  So the murder of the Jews was not ordered at the Wannsee conference.

Auschwitz was not in occupied Poland when the camp was in operation, as stated in the Mail Online article.  It was in the Greater German Reich.  So was Chelmno.

Chelmno was located in the Warthegau, a district in the part of Poland that had been annexed into the Greater German Reich after the joint conquest of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.

This quote is also from the article in the Mail Online:

The survey, published in Stern magazine, showed that of people over 30, 95 per cent had heard of Auschwitz and the crimes committed there.

But less than 70 per cent could name the country it lies in.

Auschwitz is in Silesia which was also annexed into the Greater German Reich in 1939.  Silesia was given to Poland after World War I, in the Treaty of Versailles.  After the conquest of Poland in 1939, Germany took back Silesia.  Maybe 70 per cent of the Germans who were surveyed do not believe that Silesia should belong to Poland.  Or maybe they were answering the question with the name of the country that Auschwitz was in when the camp was in operation.

I’m guessing that the reason the survey found that one out of five young Germans had never heard of Auschwitz is because one out of five Germans are afraid to speak about the Holocaust, for fear that they will get a notice in the mail that they have to pay a fine for breaking the German law against Holocaust denial.  It has been my experience, in visiting Germany many times, that Germans of all ages are afraid to speak about the Holocaust.

I think that this survey might have been flawed by the survey takers not asking the questions in the right way.

I have found that, when talking to German people, one must be very precise.  For example, if you ask for a ticket to Frankfurt, you will hear “Which one?”  Don’t go to Berlin unless you know how to pronounce the name of the city.  If you want to go to Rothenburg, you must specify Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  There are special places in Germany where Americans, who can’t pronounce Dachau correctly, can buy their tickets without being frowned upon for not knowing how to speak properly.

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