I just got back from a trip to Germany, had a great time. Since I live in the U. S., it's nice visiting a place with thousands of years of history. We visited Frankfurt, which was flattened during WW 2, and also Heidelberg, which was spared.
Since each country has different interpretation on things, I kept wondering, what do Germans think and teach their kids about Adolf Hitler and World War 2?
Do Germans think World War 2 was "grave mistake committed by their own country, which will never be repeated" sort of thing.
Or, do Germans have a different interpretation of why it started, what happened?
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I'm not German but I think I'm still allowed to give my opinion since I'm Swiss and our school systems (and the things we learn) are quite similar. I also know a lot of German people because they're the largest immigrant group in Switzerland (especially among well-educated, upper-middle class folks).
First of all, I must say that Germany should be complimented and applauded by the world community for its way of dealing with the holocaust and the second world war. There is NO country in the world and especially no former dictatorship that has done even remotely as much as Germany has done to educate and inform its population and "re-process" (for the lack of better English word) all the crimes it has committed in the past. Whereas Russian, Italian or Japanese people are still quite brainwashed about their past and sometimes even admire their former dictators, Germans are extremely differentiated and "academic" about Germany's dark history. They don't feel personally sorry (as is often the accusation), however, they are well-informed and will freely admit to Germany's former atrocities. So you won't find German people telling you "Hitler was a pretty cool guy". In fact, it would be UNTHINKABLE for a German person to say this. NOT, because they feel so ashamed about their past but because they're so well-educated on the topic. In my country Switzerland, we have a pretty similar approach to our dark past. As a Swiss person, I don't feel personally sorry for Swiss banks having stored Jewish gold during WW2 because I didn't decide that. However, contrary to Italian or Japanese people, I would NEVER deny these things. Many Japanese politicians deny to this day the numerous war crimes Japan committed during the war. In Italy, the granddaughter of Mussolini sits in the national parliament. In Germany, this is unthinkable because people have psychologically re-worked their history as a country
The Holocaust and world war two are usually prominent topics in German (and Swiss) education. Contrary to America, our school system makes most subjects in school mandatory for all students, including history. In my case, we covered the second world war for almost an entire year in high school. I'm sure it's similar in Germany.
From what I understand, Germans do think that it was a grave mistake. However, BECAUSE it happened to them, they also understand it could happen again any time. My history teacher once said "fascism is not a thing of the past. It still (cont.)2
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