German Jews Want Separate Treatment for Nazism in Schools | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 04.07.2006
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Germany

German Jews Want Separate Treatment for Nazism in Schools

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has called for the country's Nazi history to be taught as a separate subject. But teachers' representatives remain skeptical.

Are students in Germany learning too little about the Holocaust?

Are students in Germany learning too little about the Holocaust?

Charlotte Knobloch, the president of the council, said students were taught far too little about the rule of Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust, particularly in the former communist East Germany, the online Netzeitung reported.

"We urgently need to overhaul the way history is taught because far too little attention is paid to National Socialism," Knobloch said, adding that the solution would be to devote a course to this chapter of history.

Charlotte Knobloch Zentralrat der Juden

Charlotte Knobloch wants to overhaul teaching about the Holocaust

"It should be made legally binding to do so throughout all of Germany's states," she added.

Knobloch, a 73-year-old Holocaust survivor, said there were teachers in the former German Democratic Republic who "hardly know anything about history". She added that the system of training school teachers in Germany had to be overhauled towards that purpose.

Teachers dismissive of proposal

But Knobloch's comments have met with indignation and skepticism from teachers' unions as well as the council of regional educational ministries.

Ute Erdsiek, president of the council and education minister of the state of Schleswig-Holstein told news agency AP that the Nazi era and the Holocaust were a "mandatory, integral and exhaustive" part of history lessons in all forms of schools in Germany. Nazism is also a permanent chapter of the teachers' training program both in western Germany as well as the former Communist East Germany, Erdsiek added.

The German teachers' union described Knobloch's proposals as "wrong and not justified."

Holocaust Mahnmal in Berlin Schüler

Students near the Holocaust memorial in Berlin

Union president Josef Kraus said teachers were dedicated to teaching the period between 1933 and 1945 "with the necessary time frame and with necessary discernment." "No other era of German history is studied as intensively in German schools as National Socialism," Kraus said.

New dialogue with Jews?

However, Erdsiek added that in the face of new political challenges such as the rise of right-wing extremism and increasing multiculturalism in society, the council of regional educational ministries was readily prepared to open a dialogue with the Central Council of Jews about a contemporary and didactic revamping of history lessons about the Holocaust.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany is the highest body

representing the country's 110,000 Jews. Knobloch last month became the first woman to head the council.

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