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Berlin - Small: Methods of Holocaust Education

Remembrance Learning

A final result of the project was the observation that every student had some form of prior knowledge of the Nazi period, primarily provided by grandparents or parents. Frequently, however, there were significant discrepancies between the information taught at school and that provided through the family (Schwendemann and Marks 2003, pp. 189- 210). The family socialization always tends to embellish the Nazi experiences, leaving the young generation with the conviction that ‘‘Grandfather was not a Nazi’’ (Welzer et al. 2002).

A further reason why remembrance learning often fails, or is not very effective, is that often neither teachers nor learners are familiar with the psychology behind Nazi ideology. Thus, well-intended teaching approaches frequently result in misjudgments about the classroom setting (Marks 2007) that include fragments of Nazi ideology. The power structure of the National Socialist regime relied upon a series of purposefully employed interdependencies that can be compared to addictions to drugs or similar substances. This means that even after the Nazi reign of terror ended, large sections of the population were left in an emotional state similar to the withdrawal symptoms an addict experiences. 

Class Instruction

Amongst other aspects, these teachers requested that texts not portray the Jewish population as objects of history and victims, but instead identify them as an independent section of society with its own culture and identity that was persecuted by the majority of the populace. But the schoolbooks were still not ideal: though students could now learn detailed facts and figures about Nazi history, and articulate their regret at what had happened, the true roots and conditions of anti-Semitism remained unexplored.

(Boschik, 2010)

Still, experts in the teaching of history have argued that history teaching in schools is relatively unimportant, highlighting the ‘‘inadequate role of schools’’, and ‘‘the subject of History and teachers’’ (Borries 2009, p. 46). This damning statement is founded on several observations, which Zu ̈lsdorf-Kersting (2008, pp. 63ff, 120) summarizes. Family ties are very powerful, particularly with regard to issues concerning National Socialism, and the media have immense power to confront issues via films, discussions, and documentaries. Also, discussion about National Socialism and the Holocaust enters school curricula quite late, when students are 15–16; at that age, family and the media have had crucial influences and students are unlikely to be affected by school teaching.

Memorials and Museums

The history of the Holocaust is omnipresent in Berlin. Throughout the city there are memorial sites and museums used to educate people and to commemorate the historic events that took place. Pictured here is part of the Jüdisches Museum Berlin. The Jüdisches Museum Berlin serves to educate its visitors on the history of Judaism and what it means to be a Jewish person living in Berlin from 1933 to 1945.

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