British Youth: Outfit Not a Problem

Published January 21, 2005, issue of January 21, 2005.
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LONDON — The publication of pictures showing Prince Harry wearing a Nazi uniform at a costume party caused outrage around the world.

But it seems that most of his British peers can’t see what all the fuss is about.

In the days following the furor, a poll published by the Sunday Mirror newspaper showed that although 71% of those interviewed thought that Harry was wrong to wear the costume, which featured a swastika armband, more than half of those between 18 and 24 said the choice of outfit was acceptable.

The results were particularly dispiriting to some because they followed a recent BBC survey in which 60% of those younger than 35 claimed never to have even heard of Auschwitz — despite the subject having been a compulsory part of the national curriculum for 11- to 14-year-olds since 1991.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement expressing sadness over the incident, arguing that it demonstrated the need for increased Holocaust education. But it was the Simon Wiesenthal Center that grabbed headlines with its call for Prince Harry to join the British delegation to Auschwitz on the 60th anniversary of its liberation.

Others worried that such a trip would detract from the Auschwitz ceremony.

“Harry shouldn’t be the center of attention on Holocaust Memorial Day,” said James Smith, chief executive of Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire, Europe’s largest permanent exhibition on the Holocaust.

Although unanimously condemning Harry’s actions, Jewish groups and Holocaust educators generally accepted the brief apology that the prince, third in line to the throne, issued through the palace soon after the story broke.

Anglo-Jewish groups are hoping that the country’s Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls on January 27, the same day as the ceremony at Auschwitz, can help to remedy the public’s apparent lack of awareness regarding events during World War II. Prince Harry’s grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, will be at the ceremony, set for London’s Westminster Hall, and so will Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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