A report issued by a German Foreign Ministry delegation that deals with teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to German school children said that many children in the country are becoming weary of this subject, even to the point that they may be suffering from what is now being called “Holocaust fatigue”. The report was given by Dr. Benedikt Haller, a Foreign ministry official who is involved in relations with Jewish organizations in respect to issues involving the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.
The gist of the problem, according to Haller, revolves around a new generation of educators who believe that German children “must know the truth about what happened in their country before and during WWII”. Previously, not all the actual details had been conveyed to schoolchildren, perhaps for the reason that their parents and others of the same age group were embarrassed by what had happened during the Holocaust. This new idea of literally “bombarding” German children with literature dealing with this subject has now worked in reverse of what it was intended to do.
An example of this feeling was expressed in a recent cartoon in Der Speigel, one of Germany’s top newspapers. In this cartoon, a young, bewildered German student is standing in a bookstore that is literally crammed with books and other literature dealing with the Holocaust. This cartoon ironically came out on the 60th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
A specially designed comic book, entitled “The Search”, has recently been introduced into German school curriculum, and deals with Jewish children of about the same age who became victims of the Holocaust. German schoolchildren are required to read the book and afterwards discuss it in class. German kids then give their ideas of what they would have done if in the same situation.
These issues come on the eve of German’s Chancellor Angela Merkel’s planned visit to Israel in which she addressed the Knesset in her native language – German. This has already been criticized by some officials in Israel, while others do not have a problem with it as German is, after all, Merkel’s native tongue. The German Chancellor visited Israel not long after she took up her post, and visited the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem. Her uncomfortable feelings regarding her country’s past were very evident during this visit.
A new Holocaust remembrance and memorial office is soon to be opened in Berlin, which Haller is very proper since Berlin was the city where the Holocaust actually began during the1930’s and where acts of genocide against were later planned.
If German children are taught less about their country’s darker past, it could later reflect on how they feel about Israel and Jews in general, and could result in a rise in antisemitism in Germany. And as the well said saying goes: “he who forgets the lessons of history is doomed to repeat them”.