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Auschwitz death camp not known to many students

Nicole Goebel
September 28, 2017

Just 47 percent of 14- to 16-year-olds in Germany know that Auschwitz-Birkenau was a Nazi death camp, a survey shows. Its authors cite fewer history lessons as a reason.

Entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp
Image: Picture alliance/Bildagentur-online/Schoening

More than half of German secondary school students aged 14 to 16 years of age polled in a survey commissioned by Germany's Körber Foundation do not know that Auschwitz-Birkenau was a concentration camp.

Students aged 17 and over fared slightly better, with 71 percent saying they knew what it was. In total, 86 percent of all those surveyed - including adults - gave the right answer.

Read more: Auschwitz museum plans traveling exhibition

It also found that 95 percent believe high school history lessons are important, and a similar number said they think history classes should enable students to draw lessons from the past for the present.

Not enough history lessons in school

However, Sven Tetzlaff, a historian who was involved in the survey, says he is concerned about the lack of stand alone history classes for 14- to 16-year-olds in particular.  He says in many states "history is not being taught as a separate subject in years 8 to 10," according to a press release statement.

Sculpture on tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau
Families deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau were torn apart and, in most cases, murdered.Image: picture alliance/dpa/F. Schumann

He sees this as one of the reasons the knowledge about Auschwitz is particularly bad in that age group. "We must stop this development," he added.

The representative survey, which was conducted by the Forsa institute, polled 1,009 German citizens aged 14 and over as well as 502 high school students.

The Körber Foundation is affiliated with the German president. The foundation organizes a history competition for children and students on behalf of the president's office every other year.