The basic conditions of Holocaust education and remembrance have changed fundamentally. Most of the survivors have died of natural causes, and it is thus becoming increasingly difficult to access live witness accounts. As a result, historical consciousness of the Holocaust – and thus Holocaust education – will change dramatically. The extermination of the Jews will increasingly become a topic of tradition. Ways of addressing the Holocaust need to be adjusted to the prerequisites of learning. What do adolescents think about the Holocaust? And – more importantly – which concepts do adolescents use to explain perpetrators’ actions and motives?
This essay develops the assumption that German adolescents (of the third and fourth generation) think about the Holocaust in a similar way to perpetrators and bystanders. Apologies are adopted; excuses are internalized, and alibis are sought. If historical education continues to ignore these facts based on empirical studies, historical learning will be seriously impaired.
Author(s): Meik Zülsdorf-Kersting,