Teach the Holocaust Separately, Germans Told

Report Says Students Don’t See Connection to Anti-Semitism

Getty Images

By Donald Snyder

Published October 26, 2012, issue of November 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Teaching about the Holocaust has not kept the old wounds of Jew hatred from reopening in Germany.

This is the reality that the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, implicitly acknowledged October 17 when it debated the state of anti-Semitism in the country following a disturbing government-commissioned report delivered to it last January. The report, written by a commission of nine academics that reviewed data from a large body of recent research, found that one-fifth of German citizens harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.

Lawmakers attending the debate, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, agreed across party lines on the need to act on the study’s recommendations. It was a consensus that included Bundestag Vice President Petra Pau, a member of the Left Party, which is staunchly critical of Israel. The legislators hope to have an action plan to vote on in the coming weeks.

But one of the report’s most important recommendations may prove to be among the most difficult to implement. The study calls for education about anti-Semitism in Germany to be separated from the study of the Holocaust.

“Contemporary anti-Semitism often revolves around issues that are linked to events that have occurred since 1945,” Julian Wetzel, a co-author of the report, told the Forward. She cited the ongoing Middle East conflict as but one example.

Wetzel said that curricula in Germany focus on the Holocaust, but teachers in Germany lack broader knowledge about anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic stereotypes. Among other things, she said, they have little understanding of the conflicts in the Middle East that can also animate anti-Semitism today. She questioned the assumption that traditional teaching about the Holocaust is an antidote to anti-Semitism.

Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin, shares this concern.

“There is a belief that if you teach young Germans about the Holocaust and the Nazi period, they won’t become anti-Semitic,” Berger said. “But this is frequently not true.” Holocaust teaching is losing its effectiveness in the fight against anti-Semitism, she said, particularly with younger Germans several generations removed from the event.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.