A new study has found that many of the children who were educated in Nazi Germany retained, for the rest of their lives, the anti-Semitic attitudes they learned in school. What does that portend for Palestinian children, who are likewise inculcated with hatred of Jews?
After surveying some 5,300 German citizens, American and Swiss researchers found that those who were educated in Germany in the 1930s, under the Hitler regime, are much more likely than other Germans to still cling to anti-Semitic beliefs.
“It’s not just that Nazi schooling worked, that if you subject people to a totalitarian regime during their formative years it will influence the way their mind works—the striking thing is that it doesn’t go away afterward,” said Hans-Joachim Voth of the University of Zurich, one of the authors of the study.
Prof. Voth also noted that anti-Semitism was particularly long-lasting if there was already some anti-Semitism in the neighborhoods where the children lived, which they measured by studying the number of votes received by anti-Semitic political parties in specific German towns going back to the 1890s.
“The extent to which Nazi schooling worked depended crucially on whether the overall environment where children grew up was already a bit anti-Semitic,” Voth noted. “It tells you that indoctrination can work, it can last to a surprising extent, but the way it works has to be compatible to something people already believe.”
This does not bode well for Israel. It suggests that Palestinian children are especially likely to retain the anti-Jewish hatred they learn in school, since it conforms with attitudes that often are commonplace in their home towns—that is, attitudes based on those aspects of Arab nationalist ideology or fundamentalist Islam that encourage hostility toward Jews and Israel.