How are German school children taught about the World Wars?

your answer already tells me you do understand my point. he and his generals and ministers counted on an unsurpassable military advantage in just 3 years. it didn’t happen. as the war situation deteriorated, he became maniacal as some people who start out with good or benign ideas do. we know his final solution for the jews within occupied territories was never even thought of before the shooting started.

Are you saying he didn’t plan the Holocaust in advance? Maybe all the pieces were not in place by the time he invaded Poland, but by 1941 when the so-called final solution was proposed, the war effort was still going in favor of Germany, so it’s not like that was some random maniac idea after he saw the war couldn’t be won. The Jews were systematically disenfranchised, persecuted and murdered, starting the day he won the election. Losing the war had nothing to do with wanting to kill all the Jews.

The Nasty Girl is a wonderful 1990 movie about this very subject. A high school girl in Germany decides to do a school project about how her town conducted itself in WWII, having heard many wonderful stories about resistance to the Nazis and Jewish families kept safely hidden in attics, etc. The more she pokes around, the more nervous the older townsfolk (who, after all, were there during the war) get. Kind of a heavy-handed ending (which cribbed heavily from Spike Lee’s School Daze), but a truly fine, satirical movie.

Are you trying to say that Robespierre’s regime, and Hitler’s were Christian??? If so, that is mucho, mucho wrong.

Best wishes,

First an addendum to my previous post:
The German school system differs considerably from the American one; we have three, well, four branches of schools after elementary school: Hauptschule, which is nowadays more basic education than the training for craft and trade that it once was, Realschule, which offers more and longer education, Gymnasium, the requirement for tertiary education, and Gesamtschule, a blend of Realschule and Gymnasium.

I’ve only experienced the curriculum of the Gymnasium, so I can’t tell you anything with certainty about the other schools.

Back to Hitler’s antics:
The war isn’t the start of Hitler’s crimes, it’s just the point, when the people in Europe began to suffer for all the failures of the German opposition and the international appeasement.

The SA, the Gestapo and the compliant police had already arrested, tortured and imprisoned many men and women who had been identified as dissidents, enemies or potentially dangerous insurgents and the German Jews had already lost their rights and were treated publicly so viciously that anyone who was witness to those events and later said they had no idea that the Nazis were turning the country into a death trap, is nothing but a liar.

I have heard even historians say that Hitler would be applauded as one of Germany’s most successful politicians if he had stopped 1938 or had died that year.

I call this bs. At that time, many of the best we had to offer had already gone into exile if they were not in prison or dead. At that time, the country was already firm in the grip of a suppressive and murderous regime that poisoned society by turning the people into accomplices. At that time, the international success had already been too blinding to find a foundation for a wide-spread resistance. At that time, the “economic recovery”, built upon crazy government spending, was already cracking. At that time, democracy had already been damaged beyond repair.

We would have needed to rebuilt society anyway - and any later democracy would have to fight the glorified first years of the dictator.

Of course, so many people would not have died and so much would not have been destroyed without the war, that any potential internal struggles are trivial in comparison.

So, I’d still prefer a Third Reich without a war - or with a later civil war - than what we got. But Hitler’s Reich was an abomination from the start; and Germany would have always been marred by it for decades to come.

So what about the (possible myth) that talking about the Nazis is forbidden in Germany? That the symbols are illegal?

I am sure you know this, but I want to point out to those that don’t that Germany has had a tradition of producing very fine historians since at least the late 19th C: even today, if you want to study, say, ancient Greece or Rome, you pretty much have to learn to read German because a century of the best secondary sources is in German. Some of that historical tradition, of course, was plenty jingoistic and can even be linked, along with German philosophy, to the rise of Nazism, but the idea of History as a scientific discipline with standards and practices was developed, in large part, in German universities.

Talking about the Nazis is most definitely not forbidden. The symbols are illegal to display, except in an artistic or documentary context (when making a film or a play, for instance). You can’t use it in advertising, though, which led to this display two years ago when The Producers premiered in Berlin. In the show, the Nazis wore proper swastikas.

I understand that a lot of Americans don’t approve of this ban, it also has led to a court decision banning T-Shirt or pins bearing this symbol (I believe this has since been overruled). It doesn’t mean, in any way, shape or form, that you can’t discuss the Nazis.

To add more information to Pitchmeister’s post: the relevant article in the German criminal code is § 86a.

Whether any restriction of that kind is justified, is a valid question, but many people still think that the experience of the Weimar Republic has shown that all-out tolerance against the totally intolerant is dangerous.

I’d add the qualifier “in times of crisis” but that leads to another discussion.

And yes, the decision has been overruled by the Federal Court of Justice of Germany (see the Wiki article about § 86a: Anti-fascism symbols).

I have heard this from Germans that I have worked with. In fact, while drinking a few beers and discussing that war in general, at least 1/3 of them said this very thing. I thought that Germans as a whole had this attitude. These guys would probably be in their mid fifties if when they went to school is relevant.

Well, I guess it’s generally true that the victors write history, but I think that regarding WW2 the German side disagrees less with the winner’s account than in about any other war.
The only thing that I can think of regarding constanze’s point is perhaps the under-emphasis of the USSR’s role in the victory in the American narrative.

But there is no hate there, the Western Allies conducted themselves mostly honorably during the war and especially afterwards, we agree that the war was our side’s fault, we deserved to lose it and are better off with the loss in the long run. I’d think of that as a pretty mainstream opinion, especially among the younger Germans, but even people like my grandfather who actually fought in the war are not far off that.

Do you guys ever get tired of encountering drunk American tourists in your beer halls only wanting to talk about Hitler?

I can’t possibly say anything about the people you worked with; “the victors write history” is a common and vague enough notion that I am not quite sure what they meant to say.

However, I’d like to add an observation: someone who is around 55 -60 years old by now went to school before or in the period when the West-German society changed considerably.

The decade after the war was characterized by the re-establishment of two German states, the reorganization of society, the reconstruction of the economy, infrastructure, etc. and a de-nazification that was well-meant but lost steam pretty quickly with the advent of the Cold War.

“Middle management” Nazis escaped prosecution too often and, worse, some of them started to creep back into crucial systems of society – namely, the judicial system (oh, don’t get me started), the civil services and politics.

This had an effect on the 60s; the Nazi era was hushed up in public discourse far more than it should have been and though schools taught the subject and the policy of Western Germany was oriented to avoid any entanglement with totalitarian ideas again, society had yet to reach a point when the overwhelming majority of the people were ready to accept this part of their own history and deal with it properly.

That changed in the late 60s and the 70s; a new generation that had been too young to be part of the so called “Tätergeneration” (the generation of perpetrators), was growing up and started to break with the silence of their parents.

In was in that time that society internalized democratic thinking and behaviour – and the young generation of students at the universities who were to become teachers transferred this attitude into the classrooms.

The public discourse changed back then and so did society.

This, of course, does not mean that the generation of the war didn’t realize, why things had gone wrong so fundamentally; many did and were immune to any totalitarian whispers since then. But a public debate that was pushed by the people needed a new generation.

And based on a true story.

Talking about the Nazis is allowed; it’s forbidden to glorify them. Likewise for the symbols: parts of documentation or historical films = allowed; Neo-Nazis wearing or using them = forbidden.

Discussing Nazism in historical context = Allowed; Neo-Nazis spreading myths = forbidden.

I think what the historians mean (I have heard that comment often) is that in the public eye Hitler would have been considered a hero, if he’d died or been killed before 1939. Heck, even before Stalingrad, or the heavy losses - if he’d been killed in one of the attempts during the early stages when the Blitzkrieg was bringing victory, then the rest of the Nazis could’ve blamed all bad things on his enemies.

Look at how many people who are not Neo-Nazis, repeat the dumb myth about “Hitler built the Autobahnen” (when they were in fact started during Weimar Republic; and his impetus in accelerating the plan was not to provide work to the unemployed, but to facilitate the coming war).

Isn’t there a rock for you to crawl back under?

First, “victors write history” applies to most of written history. It’s a general rule, along side with whatever is published during the war as rationale is propaganda, not necessarily the truth.

Second, this is a murky issue. Neo-Nazis love to point to the Nürnberg (Nuremberg) trials and the fire-bombing of Hamburg, or the destruction of Dresden, as evidence of the hypocrisy of the Allies, to punish Germans for war crimes while not charging their own. The neo-nazis do this to divert attention from and minimize the real Nazi war crimes.

Non-Neonazis, however, for purely legal/ ethical reasons, do point out the problem that, if bombing civilians like Nazi Germany against London Blitz, is wrong, why did the Allies do the same thing? If the Allies were ethically better, then they should have adhered to the better standards, instead of sinking to the level of the Nazis, just because they did it first, and it was important to win.

Yes. Not the way the German tourists in Fawlty Towers reacts (by having a nervous breakdown), but the 2nd and 3rd generation (now already the 4th) born after the war would like to stop being tarred with the Nazi brush, precisly because the 2nd and following generation lifted the rug under which Adenauer swept it during the Cold War, and tried hard to make Germany as democratic and ethical as possible.

What’s also a bit tiring was during the 70s and 80s and 90s, every action movie and TV series that didn’t have Soviets as the baddies had Nazis, and every other plot was Nazis resurrecting/ cloning Hitler. That got old really fast.

Sounds like some people need to get into and post in this thread! :slight_smile: