German People Reveal How They Learned About The Holocaust In School
_The Holocaust and WWII is one of the touchiest topics once can broach. The Holocaust is up there with racism and homophobia... so think twice before you speak. The main perpetrators of the Holocaust are the German people. Haven't you always wondered what modern day Germany thinks about that part of history. _
Redditor _\kelhamh _**reached out asking.... **\Germans of Reddit, how were you taught the holocaust in school?
I am actually doing this in my history class now (again, because you basically talk about it yearly at least from 8th grade upwards).
I'd say that we are taught about the holocaust in very truthful ways. We read texts, that were written by victims, as well as Nazis and 'normal' People, political opponents... Thus we get a very detailed description of the holocaust, acknowledging a variety of perspectives and experiences. Of course we also study texts and essays written by historians - also covering a lot of topics here.
It is quite common to visit a former Concentration Camp during a field trip.
We also discuss in length and depth the claim of a lot of people: 'To have not known about the holocaust or at least not to it's real horrible extent'. Most of the people my age would say that this is some real bs.
Summarizing I'd say that the holocaust is a huge part of our education. Also it's a very common topic on TV - there really is the drive to never forget and to understand how this could happen, to really understand the 'mechanism' and social construct of the whole NS period.
THE GERMAN STRUGGLE...
Over and over again, in my school time we had it three times. We learned everything, you will struggle to find a german who isn't able to explain to you why the nazis had the power, how they got it, how many people died exactly, how the industrialized killing was planned etc. My class for example made a trip to the House of the Wannsee conference where the nazis planned the industrialized mass murder, this house is now a museum with alot of facts around the nazis. But to your question how it's taught I can just say the right way, the teachers tell you it was one of the most tragic and gruel capitals in the german history and that we all have to fight fascism so it may never occur again, and can't ever again take our families and hope
Desperation played a key factor in this. When faced with very few options, you begin to start considering things you would normally consider outlandish. If you are trapped, alone with nothing but your dog, as you begin to get hungrier and hungrier, Fido begins to look a lot tastier. The German people were facing a collapse of their civilization, their money was worthless, making a decent living was nearly impossible, and they had no where to turn to. Hitler was the loudest voice and the only option they saw as viable. Normally the people wouldn't have gone along with it, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Of course, none of them fully realized what they were doing. Hitlers propaganda kept the people blissfully ignorant while he took power and used it for his terrible crimes
THE POLITICAL SYSTEM IS FAILING...
Don't forget about the fragmentation of political parties to serve niche interests. this allows for groups that specifically serve more extreme ideologies. without this fragmentation a party like the nazi party could not have existed and certainly wouldn't have come to power. this is part of the beauty and the pain of the american two party system. it never satisfies anyone completely but the mere fact that there are only two main parties means that neither can be too extreme or risk losing a majority of voters. obviously this only holds when the promises of candidates are something they adhere to when in office and not mere talking points aimed at getting elected.
IT IS WHAT IT IS...
We learned it just like normal history. We went through the time line and got to WW2. We learned how it was possible that a regime like that could form and how Hitler got to the position of "Der Führer."
We learned all the political implications and the progress of the war. Also some important battles and some mistakes that were made.
The Holocaust was part of the whole political mess, how ghettos were formed, the "Reichsbrand" and the tactics of the NSDAP and SS.
After we learned everything there was in classes, we visited the concentration camp in Dachau and saw the horrible stuff that took place in the past right were we stood.
And thats about it.
HANDS ON APPROACH..
We went to concentration camp Bergen-Belsen for history class, which started out as a prison camp, but then became one of the last camps that was freed by the Allied forces. While it wasn't intended as a _"death camp" _what happened there at the end of the war was just horrifying. There are hardly any buildings left anymore because when the Allied soldiers arrived there were over 10,000 unburied corpses and the rest of the prisoners were on the verge of starving to death, and in order to prevent diseases from spreading they had to burn down the buildings.
We watched a video footage that was filmed by a soldier/camera man, and I have to tell you that it was one of the most disturbing thing I had ever seen. The entire class was silent. It was said that the one who had taken the footage never watched the video he had taken in the concentration camp ever again.
It's also the same concentration camp where Anne Frank and her sister died in. Just really heavy stuff. I will never forget what I had seen that day.
TAKE A TOUR...
It is a big part of history class and you usually go visit a place where things took place like former concentration camps etc. They try to explain to you how something like that could have happened and that it's not so certain that it will not happen again. We watched some movies about the topics or went to exhibitions and so on. It wasn't until those history lessons that I really became aware of how those events might have shaped the way that we Germans are seen by other countries.
I NEVER LIKED MUSEUMS...
Everyone in my school did a school trip to the mauthausen concentration camp in 8th grade, its just a thing since its only like half an hour away.
it still haunts me. there a museum where they show you photos and survivors' stories, but the worst thing is how most of the original buildings still stand. the prisoners barracks with the tiny beds, the cremation oven, the cooler they used to store bodies, the hook that people were hung from, the quarry where thousands of people plummeted to death. the original walls too. theres a ton of monuments and art installations too, but going inside the gas chambers is just... a lot. still, i think its an experience you have to make. my friend whose a bit more sensitive called in sick the next day, i don't blame her.
There also an insane asylum turned extermination facility (dunno how to call it) where sick and disabled people were gassed and burned. did two school trios there. you can go into the gas chambers too, but its mostly a museum documenting disabled peoples rights over the centuries. honestly quite interesting, though the huge wall of names of people who were murdered there i still remember.
JUST FACE IT...
Don't remember thoroughly anymore, but it is taught in middle school and high school at least. Usually, classes also visit concentration camps. I think you are supposed to visit at least once during your time in school. However, for my classes, I think during my school career, it was planned like two or three times and always cancelled.
Anyways, we get taught in steps, thus there are classes in middle school and high school. Cause the older you are, the more complex issues can be comprehened. Actually, I think even in elementary school we are confronted with it. I think it is dealt with in all details. Where the hate against Jews comes from, the historic circumstances, the growth of the NSDAP, the plans of the nazis etc. How the NSDAP started assassinations against leftist politicians and Jews, how they used Jews as symbol for everything bad. Iirc, originally, the Nazis did not plan to necessarily kill them, just get them of from German ground. Over the time, they got more and more radical and planned to eradicate the Jewish race. Initially, it was even planned that soldiers kill Jews on sight. However, many soldiers expressed concern about killing unweaponized people. Thus, the plan was made with the Concentration Camps to "industrialize" killing and take away responsibility from the soldiers and the population. Officially, inside Germany, the media never reported the truth about the concentration camps. Thus, many people that supported the NSDAP and trusted them did not know that they were killed there. However, especially in the Southern part of Germany, the NSDAP did not receive as many votes as in the North. So, after they were elected, the nazis came and placed their SA everywhere. If the elected politicians of other parties did something the NSDAP did not agree to, they were fetched by the SA overnight and never came back. Since this happened in some places and the fetched people were well-respected personalities in these regions, I think many people in the Southern part knew what the nazis did to them and the Jews. My grandpa always told me how about the mayor of my town how the nazis got him and that he knew who the snitch was and how everyone suddenly was careful what to say and what to do. He said he always believed the nazi would not reeducate people but kill them.
Well, there are many things to say about it, but I guess it is better to have someone who is actually in school right now... Cause I went kinda off-topic.
We were taught about it every year since 6th grade but I knew about it since I can remember because it's nothing you can avoid. There are just so many traces of it and museums everywhere. You can even see the aftermath just walking around the city. Newer buildings between old buildings because of bombings and we also have golden stones embedded into the streets, called _"Stolpersteine" _(stumbling stone) that show you where murdered jews used to live.
As for school: we get taught about it extremely rational, there is a lot of material on that topic and as far as I can remember we were given everything uncensored and as soon as possible. So every movie about concentration camp, euthanasia, brutal photos were shown to us when we were about 12. It was pretty traumatizing but I think it's the right way. Also every class will go to a concentration camp at least once, some even go to Berlin and there are still a lot of survivors here in Germany so some classes get the opportunity to visit them and ask them questions.
I like the way this topic is handled here now. I'm thankful to have the opportunity to educate myself about something as horrible and unfortunate as this and not to hide it and pretend nothing happened.
THE NEW AGE...
A little bit off topic, but interesting nonetheless: In addition to all comments about how often and detailed we learn that period of time at school, our current minister of justice plans to make the nazi era part of the obligatory curriculum for law school. So what legal steps and ideas made it possible, what part did the constitution and judicial organs play etc.
History class from like 6th grade or something. To understand how Hitler got in that position we first had some lessons about different forms of politic (democracy, communism) as well as the positions (Reichskanzler, Reichspräsident). Then we got to Hitler himself and how he planned to get both of those positions (which historically proven should never be occupied by only 1 person).
After that came the war plans that were made as well as the circumstances that led to WW2. And since that wasn't the tip of the iceberg we then moved on to the holocaust. By that time everyone was aware of how bad stuffwent back then so only a few were joking about it. I guess that's the idea behind all that: Make them understand that it's no topic to joke about and then move on to the nationalism, holocaust, genocide.
Also we had a trip to a nearby concentration camp as well as a guide there who had some stories about the most striking fates. Needless to mention that this trip had a immense impact on what you think about the circumstances that prevailed there at that time.
It wasn't just taught / touched up in History classes, but was a topic in others as well.
For example, we read Anne Frank's Diary in my 5th grade Religion / Ethics class and discussed it at length. Later on in 12th grade Religion class we talked about the resistance to the Nazis or lack there of in the Protestant and Catholic church.
Politics class covered how the state functioned before, during and after WW2. And in 10th grade we had a trip to our local former police station where they detained countless Jews, subjecting them to terrible living conditions, torture etc.
In German class we read several works by prominent authors that were writing against the Nazis whether it was to discuss how to write a speech, how to do poetry etc and this happened several times during my time at school.
Even in English class we talked about it since _"The Wave" _was on our reading list.
BLAME IT ON HOLLYWOOD...
As many others have posted already: It's been taught multiple times, of course not every time in full detail, in history alone. Many other subjects also touch on the topic.
Moreover, we watched many documentaries showing the horror of what happened in concentration camps. Pretty horrifying stuff...
Maybe this is also important: at no point was germany not portrayed as the one accountable for the war or the Holocaust.
As I just finished my final exams and had one in history I'm open to try and answer as many questions as possible.
MAKE ME A WITNESS...
We have this subject in history class at the moment (I'm 15 years old.). In the last couple lessons we visited so-called "Stolpersteine," which are stones embedded into the pavement together with the normal padding. They're shiny golden and are located in front of houses from which jews were deported by the nazis. Personally, I think this is a very good way of reminding people of our history. Otherwise we are studying how hitler came to power. This is not the first time this subject was touched in school, but mostly not very in-depth and only certain aspects of it (For example, we did this subject in R.E. under religious aspects). So this is the first time we are studying it really in-depth and from beginning to end. We are mostly analyzing it without being emotionally involved in it. Oh, and something very important which I forgot: Our school invites every year "time witnesses" people who either have lived in the WW2 or the generation after that. They often come from Israel or from America and tell us how they experienced it, which is very informative, but often emotional, too. Generally speaking, we never really get the feeling that we personally have something to do with it differently than people from other countries.
LEAVE ME OUT OF IT....
Friends of mine;
1, absolutely hates the perpetual guilt trip. Every single comment about the war is a massive blame game in Germany. They accept responsibility, which is commendable, but they forget that other nations are culpable too. This friend gets very tired everytime she has to hear about how she, personally, has to carry the burden of something that ended 50 years before she was born. Academically, she doesn't mind discussing it. But when people start preaching about German guilt, she'll walk out.
2, another friend finds it so funny when non-Germans get shy about talking about the war in front of her. We were working as a tour guide and both she and I were shadowing a colleague. Colleague completely skipped over the WWII aspect of the tour. I asked her why at the end and she said that she didn't want to mention it in front of a German. God knows why.
SO MANY OPTIONS...
It was taught in a lot of different ways.
We discussed this in multiple German language classes - from poetry to speech analysis.
We discussed this in History lessons - fairly comprehensive overview of what happened
We discussed this in English classes - what was the propaganda and response in Britain? Speech analysis etc.
We looked at artwork in art class.
We talked about it in Roman-Catholic Religion class.
We did a school trip to Buchenwald and Auschwitz.
We saw Schindler's List a few times.
For me - the holocaust was the center of many subjects for a substantial amount of time. They tied it to certain aspects (like analysis of text and art) but if you think about it - talking about this over the course of 4-5 years from different angles drives the point across really well. There was also a dude in class that took this whole thing in a bad way - he was way too fascinated with it and I suspect he took a right turn along the way.
THINK OF LIVED PAST...
i [ a jew] was for years a 'host' of young adults from Germany in a program that served jews. they all knew a lot, and learned more from their clients. some of them were quite literally atoning for their grandparents' sins. i cannot imagine how they felt.
SAVE A GENERATION!!!
We had a German exchange student at my school and one time he said something along the lines of that he hates what Nazis have done to his country. He wants to be proud of being German but it can come off that he is a Nazi. He talked about visiting concentration camps in school from elementary school onward.
Prerequisite I am not a German citizen, however I've asked this very question to a friend of mine who grew up in Germany, perhaps its changed since he was a kid but boiled down they're taught about it in a way that almost expects them to feel guilty and apparently German culture as a whole works this way always feeling like the mistakes of their fathers are theirs and trying to make amends, I think it's an extremely unhealthy way to think about it. I don't know if it's still that way but that's what it was for him as a kid.