Study Shows ‘holocaust’ Series Produced Slight but Significant Change in Attitude Among Germans
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Study Shows ‘holocaust’ Series Produced Slight but Significant Change in Attitude Among Germans

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West Germany’s telecast of NBC-TV’s “Holocaust” eight months ago produced “a slight but significant change” in attitude, stimulated education about the Nazi era, ignited controversy between parents and children and exposed a bedrock core of anti-Semitism in that country, according to the findings of a study made public today by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith’s Center for Studies on the Holocaust.

The study was conducted by the West German Federal Bureau of Education in three stages — a sampling of 800 West Germans were interviewed before the telecast, 1800 immediately afterward, and 500 follow-up interviews took place 14 weeks later.

The study’s findings and conclusions were reported here to ADL’s European Affairs and Program Committees by Dr. Friedrich Knilli and Dr. Karl Heinz Stahl of the Technical University in Berlin; Siegfried Zielinski of the West Germany Institute of Media Studies, and Tilman Ernst of the Bureau’s Department of Planning and Development.


According to Ernst, while the survey found much that is “positive,” it also disclosed that educational measures face “hard opposition that cannot be shaken by logical or rational arguments.” For example, he said: 59% of those interviewed believe Germans today can no longer be held responsible for the crimes committed under National Socialism; 59% believe those who talk about wrongs done to Jews should also talk about the wrongs done to Germans, such as bombardments and expulsion from the East: and 55% believe that only Nazi crimes are talked about, “not those of the Americans, English or Russians, because we Germans lost the war.”

The study also showed that 51% believe Germans didn’t know about Nazi crimes against Jews; 31% believe they are being “overemphasized because people are jealous of Germany’s post-war economic prosperity”; 10% believe the extermination of the Jews is “propaganda to blackmail Germans into paying reparation”; and 6% believe that “not one single Jew was ever gassed in a German concentration camp and that the Nazi death camps are a lie made up by the Communists.”

As a result of these findings, Ernst said, the Federal Bureau estimates that “anti-Semitic tendencies are once again, or still, present in about a quarter of the population.”

On the other hand, he stressed, “the telecast sent an electric shock wave through the nation” which has aided the Federal Bureau advance toward its main objective — educating the community about National Socialism and pointing up its contemporary relevance.”


The lasting effect of the telecast on attitudes was demonstrated in the fallow-up interviews, which revealed only a 3% to 6% reduction in the way individuals responded.

For example, in the interviews 14 weeks after the telecast, 54% responded that National Socialism had become more comprehensive as compared to 60% immediately afterward; 65% felt that it provided “a good history lesson” as compared to 70% earlier; and 45% wanted “Holocaust” exhibited in all schools as compared to 48% earlier.

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