Food for Thought

The German historian Hannes Heer, best known for a 1990s exhibition that confronted the German public with the crimes of the Wehrmacht, says: “For young people in Germany today, there is a fascination with Hitler, with the black uniforms – and they also have a sense that this is something uncomfortable for their parents.”

It is vital to understand, Heer says, that at the time Nazism had a powerful appeal to ordinary Germans. “For the older generation, there was always an element of hope about this period [the Third Reich], because it came after the Weimar Republic, the terrible unemployment, the discord between the parties in parliament, the reparations that followed Versailles. It wasn’t just bloodlust. This hope led many young people to join the Hitler Youth, for example, and you have to take that seriously.”

The German education system continues to be rigorous in educating its children about the Nazi past. To help young Germans to understand their relationship with the Holocaust, Mr Heer argues, it is essential to say that: “While you have no guilt, you must have a view. You must know what happened, and you have a responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

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