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Commu-what?

Roger Cohen’s latest column in the International Herald Tribune paints a concerning picture of the ignorance of all too many German youths. Speaking to a few school children, he found an amazing lack of knowledge about German’s very recent history:

"Communism? What's that?" said Ricardo Westendorf, 17, a student at the Carl-von-Linné school in what was East Berlin. "I think we talked about it in a history lesson, but I was ill."

Ouch.

This isn’t uncommon though.

I’ve been taking a language course for foreign students at the university here in Frankfurt. They did, admittedly, all go to school outside Germany in places like Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and Uzbekistan. But they’ve all been accepted, or will soon be accepted, to study a full academic course at a German university.

On one occasion, the teacher wrote up on the board (in German) “National Socialism”, and asked what things we associated with it. Suggestions included the Berlin Wall, the separation of Germany and the reunification. The teacher nodded along until, finally, breaking to them that these things had nothing to do with the Nazis.

He then asked if we knew anything about resistance to the National Socialists, so someone brought up the name Stauffenberg. He was the one who tried to assassinate the Führer in 1944. The student, I think from somewhere in the old Soviet Bloc, was asked to expand on this and explain what Stauffenberg did.

He said he tried to assassinate Hitler… in the 1980s.

Cohen’s findings are no exception.

Hat tip: Passages

UPDATE: On a less serious note, this quote from the same article is a great one worthy of Gareth Southgate's quip about Winston Churchill, Iain Duncan Smith and Sven-Göran Eriksson:

We dreamed of paradise and woke up in North-Rhine Westphalia.

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