I’m Embarrassed.

I have to apologize. I do. Really. There were times when I made fun of other countries where only 13% of people knew where to find a recently invaded country on a map. Right here on this blog. And there were times when I was startled that a good part of the usually WW2 obsessed Brits had no idea who Hitler was (that was on afoe).

But then I found the results of a survey concerning the historical knowledge of Germans of voting age, conducted in March 2005 by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, a rather reliable pollster, for ZDF television (in German). Apparently, the sample of 1087 people is statistically representative, although I do hope they are wrong – I really do. Of course I know that most people are not able to remember at least one of the topics mentioned in news broadcasts even half an hour after they watched it. But this

clearly exceeds my capability of comprehension. Apparently, despite all the education in this respect, only 51% of all people 18-24 know what the Holocaust was. I think this is a stunning figure, far more impressive and shocking than all the statistics that have been produced by the OECD’s PISA study.

It is a single figure that illustrates to which extent current public education in Germany is clearly missing a fundamental objective – explaining the larger social context of the society in which the kids grow up. It also indicates that families don’t seem to talk about history and social context either – which probably means they don’t talk at all -, despite all the “history” on tv (incidentally, the name of the programme for which the survey was produced…).

But there’s another number that’s equally scary: according to the survey, only 96% of people with a university degree seem know about the Holocaust… I can only hope these people lied about their educational achievements.

For the first time I do a little bit understand the concern of Jewish leaders about the possibility of rising anti-semitism. And tonight, I’m a little embarrassed to say ich bin auch Deutschland.