According to a new study,
10 percent of Austrians do not know who Hitler was –– an increase of five percent over 1985; only 76 percent recognize the name of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin; 69 percent know who British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was; and 64 percent recognize the name of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.... About half of those asked were able to identify Anne Frank. Nearly 30 percent could not define “concentration camp,” “persecution of the Jews,” “Auschwitz,” “Holocaust,” “Stalingrad” and “Hiroshima.” Of those between ages 16 and 29, the numbers were lower.I assume we're supposed to be outraged by the low levels of knowledge. But frankly, the major surprise here is that so many people knew so much. It's a minor miracle that 50 percent of Austrians know who Anne Frank was. I'm willing to bet that there are plenty of Brits out there who don't know much about Churchill or the Blitz, either; and the situation is no better in the US. I distinctly remember Jay Leno asking random people on an LA street what year the Second World War started, and getting everything from '1776' and '1861' to blank stares in reply.
The fact is, it's 60 years after the war, and a certain amount of memory erosion is natural. We're living in an age when history is no longer an integral part of school curricula. Jews happen to be a people with a very strong tradition of 'remembering' (albeit selectively); others aren't.
Naturally, we would prefer Austrians and indeed all members of the Axis to know enough about history that they are not condemned to repeat it. Sadly, it's unrealistic to expect that awareness of the Second World War will be at the same level it was 30-40 years ago.