- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

Seven out of 10 Americans don’t blame the current generation of Germans for the Holocaust, according to a Harris poll released yesterday.

Harris asked about 20,000 people in the United States and 11 other countries whether they thought contemporary Germans “should somehow feel jointly responsible for the exterminations of the Jews before 1945.”

Among American respondents, about 71 percent said the Germans were not responsible, while 12 percent said they were at fault. Another 15 percent said they were not sure, and 3 percent declined to answer.

“A poll question like this can often be misunderstood,” said Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzveig, director of the Michigan-based Holocaust Memorial Center.

“Those who were born after the Holocaust, or who were children then, are not technically responsible. But Germany, as a nation, is responsible,” he said. “When the respondents were answering the question, I think they were thinking of the German individuals, and not the nation in this case.”

Many Americans have taken a dim view of Germany after its public opposition to the Iraq war, including the country with France in what the New York Post dubbed the “Axis of Weasels” in 2003.

Germans are not so fond of the United States, either. A Pew Research Center poll conducted last year found that only 38 percent of Germans gave the United States a favorable rating, while half thought the nation was “overreacting” to terrorism.

Other countries in the Harris poll share American opinions of the German role in the Holocaust. Roughly seven out of 10 respondents in Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Hungary and Germany do not hold today’s Germans responsible for the extermination of 6 million Jews at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

In France, 84 percent did not blame them.

Those polled elsewhere were not so sure: 37 percent of the Polish respondents did not blame today’s Germany. The number was 54 percent in Austria, 56 percent in Ukraine and 61 percent in Russia.

Harris posed the question as part of a larger survey conducted between January and March to mark the 60th anniversary of World War II.

Among other findings, it revealed that Hitler was the most “famous figure” from the war years, identified by nine out of 10 respondents in all the countries. The survey also found that two-thirds of the respondents in Germany and the Czech Republic said they “never” spoke of World War II in their households.

Feelings about the Holocaust have varied among Germans in recent years. A poll of 3,000 Germans taken by Bielefeld University three years ago found that 70 percent said they were “annoyed” at being held responsible for the Holocaust.

During the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January, however, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told his countrymen that “Nazi ideology was willed by the people” and that Germans had a “moral obligation” to remember the crimes of the Third Reich.

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