By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany

Almost a week before international Holocaust Recognition Day (today January 27), the German newspaper, DIE ZEIT, ran a three article series on how Turkish Germans and Turkish peoples in Germany see the Holocaust and Holocaust education in Germany.  One of the articles included a lengthy review of an opinion poll exclusively of Turkish Germans and Turkish peoples in Germany.

This article was called “Was geht uns das an?”  (“How does that [the Holocaust] relate to Us?”) and was found in the hard copy of DIE ZEIT on the 21st of January 2010.  Interestingly, the online version of a similar article from that same date is

entitled “Divided Memory:  German-Turks and the Holocaust” (“Geteilte Erinnerung:  Deutschtuerken und der Holokaust”)

What is interesting to me in reading both stories is that DIE ZEIT editors who had produced the poll, which was carried out in German schools and at actual Holocaust sites in Germany over this past year, had had a pre-poll hypothesis that German-Turks or Turkish-Germans would think and respond in their replies statistically differently than the masses of the German population might.   Considering that Turkish peoples have made up the largest non-ethnic-German population in the Federal Republic of Germany for most of my entire life  (more than 4 decades), I was very surprised that this had been DIE ZEIT writers and editors expectations for their German cohabitants in Europe: i.e. the Turks.

One survey question asked the following:  When you see photos of the starving Jews in the Concentration Camps [of the Nazis during the Holocaust], how do you respond? The responses were as follows:

-74%   Above all, compassion.

-27%  Only very little compassion as I had nothing to do with it.

-23%  Above all, a disgust with the Germans.

-7%    I don’t know or No Answer.

The survey’s various questions do demonstrate by the high number of those who replied “Not enough information” or “ No or little knowledge of the Holocaust” or “it doesn’t apply to me” in various parts of the survey on their Holocaust awareness,  education on the Holocaust must be improved in Germany for the many minorities (such as the Turkish Germans) who do not feel responsible for learning anything about the Holocaust—i.e. as they are/were not responsible.  [In short, some creative  forms of empathy-building are needed in German schools for minorities along with the implementation of  a variety of educational training methodologies need to be employed more to integrate minorities in Germany.]


It is only in the area of how to approach Israel that the Turkish-German and German-Turkish peoples significantly disagree with many in Germany (including the official Angela Merkel policy statements in the Knesset). The survey question in DIE ZEIT poll, i.e. related to this concept of Germany’s relationship to the State of Israel & actually quoted from the German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s visit to the Knesset. There, in the Israeli Knesset, Merkel had claimed that “Germany and Israel’s raison d’état and destinies are intertwined.”

While that statement by Angela Merkel, as head of the German government, might be either accepted, rejected or simply questioned by many different Germans in 2010, this question was posed in DIE ZEIT survey specifically to the second largest Muslim audience on continental Europe.

I ask myself—Why would Turkish-Germans or German-Turks not be expected to be more aware of the abuses and crimes of Israel (and the weaknesses of German’s own government in terms of promoting human rights)  than the average German?

Naturally, as a mostly Muslim population, the Turkish peoples surveyed are going to go against the status quo in Germany—with all of the Holocaust burden which has been passed on to young Germans in school for nearly 4 decades now.

On the other hand, I was happy that overall in the survey that the German-Turks (non German citizens) and Turkish-Germans (German citizens or destined to be) in 80 to 90 percent of the poll results came out looking fairly integrated—not only integrated into the German social and political status quo but well-integrated with all of Europe in their empathy for their fellow man.

That is, through DIE ZEIT survey, the Turkish peoples-surveyed obviously hold many supposedly universal human qualities that align well with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.  It is this universalizing of human rights ideals that is the great legacy of man’s overall response to the horrors of the Holocaust.  This is certainly good news as this UN Holocaust Day is recognized around the globe today.

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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