German history syllabus 'doesn't mention the war'

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The Independent Online

The Cold War would replace the Second World War in secondary school classrooms under a syllabus published today on how to teach German history.

The new unit, designed for 11 to 14-year-olds, is in recognition of the criticism that too much time is being spent on studying Hitler in history lessons and - as a result - UK youngsters are building up a picture of today's Germany as being full of goose-stepping Nazis.

Under the new syllabus, pupils will be urged to make presentations on the history of the Berlin Wall - chronicling the numerous, and frequently tragic, attempts to flee the repressive Communist regime. More than 100 people lost their lives between its construction in 1962 and its destruction in 1989.

They will study the methods used, the successes, the failures and how Germans lived with the wall.

In one exercise, they are challenged to write an article for an official East German television programme justifying why the wall has to be built - or write a West German student pamphlet condemning its construction. The idea is to build up a more accurate picture of modern Germany among today's young people.

The new "don't mention the war" syllabus comes a week after an official report from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority - the Government's exams watchdog which has devised the new syllabus - repeated claims that the study of Hitler was dominating GCSE and A-level history lessons.

It said there had been a gradual narrowing and "Hitlerisation" of post-14 history, giving "increasing cause for concern" about the narrow range of subject matter taught in the classroom.

Earlier this year, during the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of VE Day, Thomas Matussek, the German ambassador, also criticised the UK's obsession with Hitler - suggesting most people in this country were ignorant of his country's history since the end of the world war in 1945.

Dr Ken Boston, chief executive of the QCA, said: "This year marked the 60th anniversary since the end of the Second World War.

"The momentous events of 1939-45 will always be taught in schools, and rightly so, but children need to understand that German history did not end with the death of a dictator.

"The last 60 years have seen great events in Germany - the Cold War, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, reunification - and great achievements that too few English children are taught. Schools in England need to spend time teaching what happened in Germany after 1945."

Dr Boston added that the football World Cup in Germany this summer will provide a good opportunity for pupils to learn more about the Germany of today. The new syllabus, called "How Germany has moved from division to unity", begins with an acknowledgement that there are few classroom resources devoted to the post-war period in Germany.

It says that - as a result of studying the post-war era - most pupils will develop an understanding of what led to the allied occupation of Germany and the Cold War.

They will also learn of the contrasts between East and West Germany and "learn, in depth, reasons for both the building of the Berlin Wall and its end". They will also understand the main challenges facing the reunified country.