Nazism worked—really, really well, according to a new study.
Besides pulling off one of the largest systematic genocides in human history, the Third Reich also had a lifetime impact on Germany’s non-Jewish children by schooling them from an early age with anti-Semitic propaganda. Those children are now old people, who likely passed on their beliefs to younger generations, and so on and so forth.
Researchers from the United States and Switzerland examined surveys conducted in 1996 and 2006 that asked respondents about a range of issues, including their opinions of Jews. The polls, known as the German General Social Survey, reflected the views of 5,300 people from 264 towns and cities across Germany, allowing the researchers to examine differences according to age, gender and location.
By focusing on those respondents who expressed consistently negative views of Jews in a number of questions, the researchers found that those born in the 1930s held the most extreme anti-Semitic opinions - even fifty years after the end of Nazi rule.
“It’s not just that Nazi schooling worked, that if you subject people to a totalitarian regime during their formative years it will influence the way their mind works,” said Hans-Joachim Voth of the University of Zurich, one of the study’s authors. “The striking thing is that it doesn’t go away afterward.”
Germany has done an admirable job of reconciling its murderous past with its more peaceful present, at least more so than other countries that have a history of genocide. But this latest revelation confirms what many have long suspected of the country, and of Europe at large: that it still harbors swells of anti-Semitism, due to events that began some 80 years ago. The aftershocks are still being felt.
Benjamin Ortmeyer, who heads a research center on Nazi education at Frankfurt’s Goethe University, said the study’s conclusions were “absolutely plausible.”
“The significance of this kind of propaganda hasn’t really been exposed,” said Ortmeyer, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Compared to the brutal deeds of the Nazi mass murderers this area of crimes, the brainwashing, was largely ignored.”
One reason, he said, is the difficulty of getting older Germans to talk about their experiences of the Nazi period. While Jews who survived the Holocaust vividly recount the abuse they suffered in school and at the hands of fellow pupils, non-Jewish Germans mostly describe their school years as peaceful and fun.
[Pic via AP]