The AfD gained seats in the parliament, even though the chairman was saying he is proud of Wehrmacht achievements.

That raises the question, are people in Germany properly educated about WWII and the role of the Wehrmacht? Do they know that the narrative of a clean Wehrmacht is a myth, and that the Wehrmacht was actively involved in the Holocaust and committed war crimes as detailed in books such as Marching into Darkness?

It looks like Germans are paying the price for propaganda pieces like Generation War. German poor-quality historical films are seeking sympathy for Nazi Germany. They feel like western movies, but in the background waves a flag with a swastika.

Are these movies representative of the average German's education of the role of the Wehrmacht in WW2, or do schools teach about the involvement of the Wehrmacht in WW2 and the Holocaust?

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    @Tlen I edited your question to be a bit less subjective / received as a rant, and to include proper sources. I tried to keep the original message intact, but please feel free to revert.
    – tim
    Oct 2, 2017 at 14:08
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    AFAIK "Generation war" is a work of fiction set during WWII. I haven't seen it but from what I read I don't see that it could be confused for a documentary - there are plenty of documentaries available, some of which were AFAIK broadcasted together with Generation war. And, btw, Generation war was received and discussed very controversely in Germany. BTW we did learn in school how to pull works of fiction apart analyzing how much fiction they were and what impressions they intend to generate (including one or two historic fiction movies)... Oct 2, 2017 at 15:30
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    I must admit, your tone urges me to ask as German in return: Are you properly educated about the atrocities your country have committed? Just curiosity. Oct 3, 2017 at 19:11
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    @Thorsten S. this is the sole reason why a neo-nazi party like AfD is on the rise. They were able to convince people that Nazi crimes were nothing special and people can be proud of what Wehrmacht had achieved.
    – user14816
    Oct 4, 2017 at 6:13
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    @ThorstenS. Whataboutism is no constructive discussion strategy.
    – Philipp
    Oct 4, 2017 at 8:06

1 Answer 1



In Germany, what should be taught is regulated in what is called Lehrplänen or Bildungspläne. These are different for each state and type of school, and they change over time. Additionally, teachers have some autonomy on what they will teach, so even when a topic is not mentioned, it could still be taught.

Most plans focus on teaching methodology and competency. The actual topics that should be covered are often only described by short keywords. Berlin (Oberstufe) and Hamburg for example only mention the 2. World War and the Holocaust, but no details.

Some states do mention crimes of the wehrmacht though:

In den Bundesländern Bayern, Hessen, Niedersachsen (»Verbrechen der Wehrmacht«) und Sachsen-Anhalt (»Rolle von Einsatzgruppen und Wehrmacht«) wird die Rolle der Wehrmacht in kritischer Weise in den Lehrplänen benannt.
My translation: The role of the wehrmacht is mentioned critically in the curriculum of the states Bavaria, Hesse, Lower Saxony ("Crimes of the Wehrmacht") and Saxony-Anhalt ("The Role of the Einsatzgruppen and Wehrmacht").

Looking at school books, there are some that mention the crimes of the Wehrmacht, and there are others which neglect to mention the Wehrmachts involvement in the Holocaust and downplay its war crimes.

Historically, the state of school books was a lot worse until the 90s:

Schulbuchdarstellungen [boten] bis in die 1990er Jahre kein angemessenes Bild von der Mitverantwortung der Wehrmacht für Kriegsverbrechen und Völkermord [...].
by translation: Up until the 90s, school books did not create an accurate picture of the responsibility of the Wehrmacht regarding war crimes and genocide.

The source goes on citing the work of Dieter Gebhard, Hans-Heinrich Nolte, Bodo von Borries, and Wigbert Benz.

Outside of Schools

A traveling exhibition called Wehrmachtsausstellung informed about crimes of the Wehrmacht from 1995 to 1999 and 2001 to 2004.

Wikipedia says that this exhibition was what first introduced the broad public to the issue. There has been considerable controversy about it, especially the political right from CDU to NPD attacked the exhibition for displaying the Wehrmacht in a negative light.

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    I'm too lazy to look in detail through more Lehrpläne, but when I was in school, the subjects of Holocaust and 3rd Reich (including WWII and Wehrmacht - but the focus was more on the whole 3rd Reich than specifically on the Wehrmacht) were covered several times, and not only in history classes (which was somehow more about "older" history) but also in social studies (Gesellschafts-/Sozialkunde), Ethics/Religion, German. We had school trips to the Jewish museum as well as to a concentration camp (Buchenwald). A visit to the Mikveh in a neighbour town (IIRC elementary school) was of course ... Oct 2, 2017 at 14:34
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    ... embedded in teaching about Holocaust. So I may sum up this anecdata that what we learned about the Wehrmacht was rather one particular point within the larger subjects Drittes Reich and Holocaust. I don't recall whether "clean Wehrmacht myth" in itself was discussed (I'd suspect so, though), but for sure no impression whatsoever in that direction was given. I'd say that it is/was not possible to pass school in Germany and not know about 3rd Reich, Holocaust and about Wehrmacht. Oct 2, 2017 at 15:06
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    cbeleites experience exactly mirror my own. (Gymnasium (roughly equivalent to High School) in Bavaria, finished in 2004). Holocaust was taught a lot throughout my school years, the specific atrocities of the Wehrmacht were mentioned but not the main focus.
    – whatever
    Oct 4, 2017 at 12:02

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