Germans Surveyed on Views of Jews and Holocaust
BONN — MOST Germans believe that, with World War II 46 years behind them, Germany should not "talk so much" anymore about the persecution of the Jews and that the Germans should finally close the chapter on this part of their history.
In recent weeks, however, there's been much more talk than usual.
The reason is the 50th anniversary of the Wansee Conference (Jan. 20, 1942), in which Nazi bureaucrats gathered in an elegant, lakeside villa in Berlin to agree on the Final Solution: the deportation of Jews to concentration camps where 6 million of them were wiped out.
With the anniversary in mind, Germany's main news weekly, Der Spiegel, has published a major poll on German attitudes toward Jews. According to the poll, 62 percent of those interviewed believe Germany should quiet talk of the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, two exhibits have just opened in Berlin featuring the Holocaust. One, called Jewish Worlds, depicts Jewish life before the Holocaust and brings together rare Jewish religious and secular works from around the world.
The other exhibit, at the Wansee villa itself, is permanent, and shows pictures and quotes describing the Holocaust. Germany's most senior politicians, as well as leaders of the small Jewish community in Germany, gathered at the villa last weekend to open the exhibit. The event received front-page coverage in most German newspapers.
The Spiegel poll, carried out by the Emnid Institute in Germany and the Gallup Institute in Israel, queried 3,000 Germans and 1,000 Jews in Israel.
Revealing attitudes about the Nazi era, the poll found that 42 percent of Germans think that "only a minority" knew about the mass murder of Jews at the time that it occurred. A large majority of Germans (73 percent) say that "most of the reports" of concentration camp atrocities "are true" and not exaggerated.
Also, more than half of the Germans questioned said there were "more bad sides" or "only bad sides" to Adolf Hitler's National Socialism; however a significant number (44 percent) said there were "good and bad sides" or "more good sides" to National Socialism.
The poll showed that many Germans feel neutral toward the state of Israel and believe they have no special responsibility toward Jews.
Seventy-six percent of the Germans felt that "Israel can be a state like any other for the Germans."
The Jews in Israel hold the opposite view. Seventy-one percent agree with the statement, "The Germans can not treat Israel as they do any other country."
The pollsters also examined the relationship between anti-Semitism and antiforeigner sentiment in Germany. They found no significant difference, for instance, between the way Germans view Turks and Jews in this country: Both groups are considered "strangers," Der Spiegel wrote. Both Israeli Jews (79 percent) and non-Jewish Germans (52 percent) felt that democracy in Germany was "endangered" by right-wing extremism.
Pollsters put 16 statements about Jews to the Germans. Those who responded to six or more of the statements with criticism, were counted as anti-Semitic. The pollsters said they used this method because it was impossible to directly ask such a sensitive question and expect an honest answer. According to the pollsters' criteria, 13 percent of the Germans questioned were anti-Semitic, while 48 percent were considered completely free from anti-Semitism.
The polls showed that only 4 percent of east Germans are anti-Semitic, compared to 16 percent of west Germans.