How nazi schooling amplified anti-semitism

The consequences of indoctrination aren’t confined to extremists. Generally, we find that degrees of anti-Semitism are higher for all those born in the 1920s and 1930s – average negativity towards Jews is markedly higher in these cohorts.

Figure 3 . Share of committed anti-Semites by birth decade.

Source: Voigtlander and Voth (2015).

The figure shows the proportion of respondents who answer with 6 or even more (on a scale of 7) on each of three Jew-specific questions asked in ALLBUS: “Do Jews have an excessive amount of influence on the globe?”; “Are Jews partly in charge of their own persecution?”; and “Are Jews trying to exploit their victim status for profit?”

Where was exposure of young minds to Nazi schooling particularly corrosive? To examine factors that may have amplified or dampened the consequences of indoctrination, we look at voting results from the late Imperial period. In the past, several parties with a solid anti-Semitic agenda competed for votes. Where they proved popular, children born in the 1920s and 1930s are markedly more anti-Semitic – and the bigger the amount of historical anti-Semitism, the higher the increase in accordance with pre-1933 degrees of Jew-hatred.

This shows that indoctrination was at its most reliable where it might build on a basis of pre-existing prejudice. Conversely, in areas where individuals were not visibly anti-Semitic in the 1890s and 1910s, Nazi schooling created significantly less of a surge in anti-Jewish beliefs.

Nazi indoctrination proved extraordinarily powerful.

As opposed to studies using small-scale interventions, subjecting a whole population fully power of a totalitarian state was very efficient.

As one person in the Hitler Youth recalled – “We who were born into Nazism never really had a chance unless our parents were brave enough to resist the tide and transmit their opposition with their children. There were handful of those,” (Heck 1988). Concurrently, as our evidence shows – and the quote suggests – family and the social environment can isolate young minds from the consequences of indoctrination at least somewhat.

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Voigtlander, N and H J Voth (2015), “Nazi indoctrination and anti-Semitic beliefs in Germany”, PNAS, June 15, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1414822112.