Sunday, November 08, 2009

British kids' knowledge of the Holocaust - the bright side

Everyone seems surprised - and even indignant - at a new survey about British children's knowledge of the Second World War.

The survey of 2,000 children was published ahead of Remembrance Day on November 11...

Given a choice of answers, 77 percent of the children aged 9-15 recognised Hitler as leader of the Nazi party, but 13.5 percent thought he invented gravity in 1650 and seven percent thought he coached Germany's football team.

Likewise, 61 percent knew who Goebbels was but 21 percent thought he was a "well-known Jew who wrote a diary in the attic" -- and 14 percent thought he was Britain's defence secretary at the start of the World War II.

While 85 percent knew what the Holocaust was, six percent thought it was the celebration at the end of the war. Auschwitz was correctly identified by 70 percent -- but 15 percent thought it was a WWII based theme park...

"Some of the answers to this poll have shocked us," said Major Jim Panton, chief executive of charity Erskine.

Really? First of all, this is hardly new. Back in 2004, a poll showed that 45 per cent of British adults have never even heard of Auschwitz, and similar polls have followed only too often.

Second, poor knowledge is really only to be expected. It has been 65 years, awareness is simply not going to be what it was 50, 40 or even 20 years ago. 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, though naturally this is something we would prefer them to remember.

Third of all, however, the results of this particular poll are not even that bad (particularly compare to the adults' survey I cited above). 77 per cent of kids knew who Hitler was; 61 per cent knew who Goebbels was; 85 per cent knew what the Holocaust was.

In a country where one in three schoolchildren thinks Churchill flew to the moon, almost every child correctly identifying the Holocaust is actually rather impressive.

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