By Dan Fleshler, Haaretz,
February 19, 2012
A new study on anti-Semitism, commissioned by the German Parliament, came to the distressing, widely publicized conclusion that 20% of Germans are “latent” anti-Semites. But buried deep in the report is an assertion that might be even more troubling: Holocaust education is inadvertently fueling German anti-Semitism, making it worse.
The study concluded that “anti-Semitic stereotypes might be conveyed by the one-sided presentations of Jews as victims in [curriculum] plans and… books.’’ It noted that education about the Nazis often imposes “exaggerated moral expectations” on students, who respond with an anti-Semitism that is typified by “guilt denial.”
In other words, explained Wolfgang Battermann, an educator from the town of Petershagen, “they feel accused of acts they had nothing to do with. Some hate the Jews for putting them in this situation.” And accounts of Nazi propaganda, if not presented carefully, can end up perpetuating vile stereotypes, especially in an era where half-truths and lies about Jews are readily available online.
Those trying to educate Germans about the Nazis must also contend with the well-documented and long- standing problem of “Holocaust fatigue”: Sixty-seven percent of Germans surveyed by researchers from Bielefeld University in 2008 found it “annoying that Germans are still held responsible for crimes against the Jews.”