April 25, 2011

Interview with Dr. Jeff Brown

Something I've always wanted to do is talk to someone who is presently in Germany, Poland, or some other country that has been significantly impacted by the events of the Holocaust. Finally, I got my opportunity!

Dr. Jeff Brown is a long-time missionary to the country of Germany. Recently, he graciously granted me the time to interview him about his experiences in Germany relating to the Holocaust. Below are the questions and his responses. Enjoy!

Are there any ways in which public perception of the Holocaust is unique or changing in Germany?

I am not current enough on this. I will answer as best I can. Most school children, since the 1980s have been well-taught about how the Holocaust took place and who was responsible. There is still an unspoken feeling of guilt on the part of most Germans about the responsibility of their nation in the event. There are quite a few youths in Germany who side with the neo-Nazi movement. They are also Holocaust deniers. But they are really a small percentage of the population. The amount of antisemitic activity (such as desecrating Jewish cemeteries) has increased in the past 6-8 years. Again, this represents a small minority of German youth. But it is growing (while at the same time the radical left is growing even more among youth in Germany). Political events of 70 years ago, or even 20 years ago have little meaning to many young people under age 30. So they don't take the lessons as seriously.

What is the attitude of German nationals you have interacted with towards the Holocaust? Do they relate personally to it? What is the general attitude towards Jewish people?

There is a three-fold answer to this question.

First, 20 years ago I often met older people who had lived through WWII, and who were positive about Hitler. They felt that the Jews had brought their fate upon themselves (the logic was twisted, but they believed it). I also met other people who spoke plainly about how evil the Hitler regime was, and how it was responsible for the murder of millions of Jewish people.

Second, the postwar generation (my generation) generally understands that what the Hitler regime did was an abomination, that it must never be allowed to happen again. They also usually answer that they are morally no better than their parents and grandparents. They simply know now from history not to repeat it. That is an honest answer. Then there are others in the postwar generation who are always defensive when the subject is brought up.

Third, the members of the Generation X and later, generally know about the Holocaust and its causes. But the event is distant, and for some, not meaningful. In particular, young people in the eastern part of Germany have not been as well taught about the Holocaust as those in the west.
18 years ago Der Spiegel found that 25% of the German public is antisemitic. I would guess this statistic, if examined again, would prove at least the same as before in the nation. Jews that I know tell me that they have received criticisms at work, simply for being Jews.

Do you think Germans are more cognizant of Holocaust events than other people around the world?

Definitely. Only Jewish people exceed them in sensitivity to this subject. As I mentioned in my first answer, children are taught as a part of school curriculum how the Holocaust happened and who was responsible.

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