Survey: Glaring Gaps in German Knowledge of History | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 03.12.2008
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Survey: Glaring Gaps in German Knowledge of History

When was the Federal Republic of Germany formed? How long did the first world war last? Questions you may expect all Germans could answer. Think again.

Berliners sing and dance on top of The Berlin Wall to celebrate the opening of East-West German borders

Only a third of Gemans surveyed knew when the Wall came down

It was probably the most defining moment in their recent history, but a new survey by the Stern news magazine suggests only a third of Germans know when the Berlin Wall came down. And only the same number knew it was built in 1961.

The timing could hardly have been worse: on November 9th next year, the country will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall.

Konrad Adenauer is sworn in as first Chancellor of Federal Germany

It was 1949 when Konrad Adenauer became the first Chancellor of Federal Germany

However, this wasn't the only gap in the nation's knowledge of history. Only 35 percent of the 1001 Germans surveyed knew that the Federal Republic and the former GDR were formed in 1949. And despite the Second World War still being very present in the German media, only 61 percent knew it began in 1939.

East beats West

Stern magazine set a total of 21 questions in its historical knowledge test and only 5 people were able to answer all of them correctly. However, over 70 of those taking part did not get a single question right.

And the magazine revealed that regional bragging rights would be heading east, as residents of the former East Germany fared better than their western counterparts. On average, people from eastern Germany got 9 questions right as opposed to 6.7 correct answers from those living in the west of the country.

A generation gap is all too evident as well, according to the survey. Those surveyed in the age group 14-29 were on average only able to answer 4.8 questions correctly.

Shoe-in for Fischer

Joschka Fischer holds up a running shoe

Joschka Fischer's shoes: famous in Germany

Political fashion obviously plays an important role for Germans and their sense of history. Only 34 percent recognised Helmut Kohl as the man who made history while wearing a cardigan. In July 1990, the then Chancellor was dressed casually for his meeting with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev as they paved the way for German re-unification.

Yet former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has better stuck in the memory of his compatriots. The majority of those surveyed knew that when Fischer was sworn into the Hesse state parliament, he turned up in sportsshoes!

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