Don't mention the war so much

29th October 2004 at 01:00
Germany takes UK history teachers on lavish tour to stop them going on about Nazis. William Stewart reports

The German government has spent pound;36,000 on a campaign to persuade British history teachers that there is more to their country's heritage than goose-stepping Nazis and Hitler.

This half-term, 20 teachers swapped marking and lesson plans for five-star hotels, a night at the opera and a tour of Berlin, Dresden and Bonn.

The trip was to counter a perceived over-emphasis on Nazis in the curriculum and in British perceptions of Germany. Last week Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, said: "If you want to learn how the traditional Prussian goose-step works, you have to watch British television, because in Germany in the younger generation, nobody knows."

Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, admitted there was a problem in schools last November, saying that pupils should learn more about the Berlin Wall and less about why it was built.

In 2002 Robert Tombs, of St John's College, Cambridge, condemned the "Hitlerisation" of A-level history. This year Michael Riley, from Bath Spa university college, said the phenomenon occurred to an "unjustifiable extent" in some schools where pupils studied Nazi Germany in Year 9, at GCSE and again at A-level.

The British teachers were taken to sites such as Dresden's Church of Our Lady, bombed by the British during the war, and met German teachers and education officials.

Kyle Boote, head of history at Hagley Park sports college, Rugeley, Staffordshire, said part of the problem was that pupils were less likely to visit Germany because fewer were studying languages. His colleague at Hagley Park, Anna Jordan, said there was no need to completely overhaul the curriculum, but study of the war and Holocaust could include their impact on Germany today.

"I don't think that Germany is concerned that we teach about Nazism, because they do as well - it is a fundamental part of history," she said.

"But there are concerns that we don't set it in context."

Alf Wilkinson, of the Historical Association, said: "We are 60 years on and perhaps there should be more emphasis on co-operation and the European Union. But it is dicey ground when countries interfere in each other's curricula."


How the history curriculum covers Germany

* Key stage 2 children must study either Victorian Britain or Britain since 1930. One suggested topic is the impact of the Second World War.

* The Department for Education and Skills has asked for new courses on modern Germany to be included in the curriculum. From December, key stage 3 pupils may study "How has Germany moved from division to unification, 1945-2000?"

* OCR's GCSE history exam core content includes the peace treaties of 1919-1923, the collapse of peace by 1939, and the Cold War. In-depth study options include Germany from 1919-1945.

* Edexcel says that a third of its GCSE and A-level history entries relate to the Second World War, despite a range of options from 1350AD onwards.

The board can ensure GCSE students only study WW2 for one of six GCSE units but cannot stop a school teaching it at GCSE and A-level.

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