28 September 2021

Why Bhutanese Students Admire Hitler? -A Letter From Germany

In March 2019, my German friend, Annalena Lohaus wrote the following letter to our education minister, Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai. Since it was written to none other than the man at the helm of the education ministry, I didn't think I needed to write this blog. But it's almost three years, and there is no sign of the letter having made any impact whatsoever, so I am obliged to share this letter and let the people whom Lyonpo forwarded the letter know how significant it is. 


Anna- The Letter Writer

Anna told me how she was taken aback by several Bhutanese friends holding high regard for Hitler and Nazis. Of course, if she was not from Germany, the conversations wouldn't have happened. I helped her understand the mystery by pointing at the class VIII world history textbook. She didn't believe me. I had to get a tattered copy of the textbook that was published before I was even born and gave it over to her. 

Several days later, she wrote back to me expressing how disgusted she was about the content of the book where not only was Hitler celebrated but also Stalin and Mosulini. She couldn't believe that students were given tasks to collect the picture of Hitler and write notes about him. You will feel the significance of portraying Hitler in such a light in the letter below, which comes from a young German lady who carries the great burden of her history to this day;

Dear Minister Jai Bir Rai,

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you directly. I am writing to you today to speak about an issue I've encountered several times in Bhutan as a German citizen. While Bhutan is a wonderfully welcoming country and the people I've met have been very warm and curious I was confronted multiple times with statements that are deeply troubling to me.

When people have learned that I am from Germany I was told more than ten different times how much Adolf Hitler is admired for his leadership and how he strengthened Germany during the early 1900s.

These statements are deeply problematic and as well as incorrect. The first time I heard this I did not know how to react. I also did not think much of it. However, it happened more frequently and I started to wonder where it was coming from. I would speak to my brother and friends at home who were equally as shocked by these remarks especially as we have our own personal experiences withNeo-Nazis nowadays and the uprising of far-right ideology.

For a German, positive remarks about Hitler are very insulting as our history is a great burden that we carry until today and it should not be treated lightly,

I was born many years after the war had ended, however, I still feel the shame and guilt of what has happened during WWll as we hear about it from our grandparents, in our schools and in books, art and movies.

I remember quite vividly one evening when we were staying with my grandparents and my father was talking to my grandfather about WWll. My grandfather grew up in central Germany as part of a low ranking family. His parents weren't Nazis; the Nazi propaganda didn't have a place in their homes. They were however members of the Nazi party as far as I know - but merely to protect themselves. lt wasn't a free choice at all. My grandmother's father refused to join the party and spent several years in prison for it. This resulted in a lot of hardship for his family. Many people tried to avoid these situations by joining the party as my grandfather's parents did. For children, there were special organisations: Hitler youth ("Hitlerjugend" in German) for the boys and League of German Girls ("Bund Deutscher Mädel")for the girls. My grandfather was not allowed to join the Hitler youth as his parents wanted to protect him from the propaganda as much as they could.

He was born in 1933. During the war, he was only a child. He went to school in his village. Every morning the children would gather in the schoolyard and sing the national anthem together; standing in one line. For a young boy, this generated a feeling of great pride. However, some children were not allowed to join: Jews especially and those, who were not members of Hitler youth or League of German Girls. These children were made to stand at the side in shame as th€ others proudly sang the national anthem.

My grandfather told me that he went home one day and begged his parents to allow him to join. Years later he was still ashamed of how easily the propaganda worked on him. He probably was wondering which role he would have played in the war had he been older and able to work and fight. I am afraid it would not have been a positive one. He had a small room in his house with bookshelves on every wall stuffed with books on WWll. He read everything he could get his hands on. History books, books on mäss psychology, biographies and even Mein Kampf and other books written by Nazis. He wanted to understand thoroughly how the crimes during the Nazi era had become possible and how the propaganda had worked on so many people.

My father was born after the war. During that evening at my grandfather's house, he claimed that every German back then knew about the concentration camps and the holocaust. My grandfather denied it. He wanted to explain how people fell for the propaganda without knowing about the horrors of the genocide. He was at the brink of tears. The shame of having been a part of it all even though he did not commit a crime himself never let go of him.

But whoever receives a regime like the Nazis and a dictator like Hitler as positive is an enabler to their crimes. This is what we learn in Germany as part of our history lessons. We speak in great detail about antisemitism and the ideology of the Nazis that put humans into different categories and allowed the enslavement and murder of millions. We visit concentration camps and listen to talks of survivors so that we remember our history and our duty to make sure that it does not repeat itself.

Even though I was born so many years after WWll I still feel the same historic guilt as my grandfather did. When I visited a friend in Poland and heard that I was going to meet his grandmother I was deeply worried about how she would receive me. Luckily she was a very lovely lady and welcomed me. However, in Finland, I was told by friends that I couldn't go to their grandparents' house because I was German and they would never open the door to me since they suffered greatly from the deeds of the Nazis during WWll.

I hope these stories help you to understand why it troubles me and other Germans so deeply when people in Bhutan or anywhere else say positive things about Hitler. The second world war is not my fault but it is my duty to do my best to prevent the ideology from growing again. Every family in Germany has its own story. Some were perpetrators, many were victims. Some stories I've heard from my friends' grandparents are too horrible to repeat here. Every family has lost loved ones and many innocent lives were lost in an unjustified war that was started by Germany and fuelled by a twisted and inhuman ideology.

I am writing to you because through conversations with my friend Passang Tshering I have come to know that the remarks about Hitler I was confronted with are partly rooted in misinformation during history classes. He was able to get me the Vlll World History Book that is being used (as far as I am told) in schools in Bhutan and it was very surprising to me to see how Hitler and Nazi Germany are being portrayed as victims of the other nations and Hitler as the liberator of the oppressed German people. The holocaust is not even mentioned in that book, which would be illegal in Germany. The denial of the holocaust and public praise of the Nazis is a crime punished with up to 3 years in prison.

The depiction of history in that era is very one-sided and simplified, leaving out major events and painting a wrong picture of Germany's role in both wars. Even WWI was caused to a great extent by Germany and the conditions set by the peace treaty of Versailles were harsh but justified. Germany was by no means a victim and Hitler no liberator. He rose to power by killing and capturing those opposing him and by manipulation of the masses. The book talks of great economic advancement and development of infrastructure in that time but fails to mention how the momentous buildings were constructed: By taking property from non-German people and Jews, by using forced labour and by enslaving Jews as well as whoever was deemed to be of lesser worth than the "Aryan master race".

The book talks very positively not only about Hitler but Stalin and Mussolini as well. Millions of lives were lost in WWll and I strongly believe that these dictators should not be glorified. The tasks for the children to solve in the book are especially disturbing: They are for example asked to collect pictures of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini and write short texts about them as if they were Popstars.

The book is poorly written and seems to be very biased in order to depict history in a certain way. This results in Bhutanese admiring Hitler and thinking that this is a compliment for Germans when in fact it is an insult and disturbing to anyone aware of the history.

I hope that the lessons and books can be changed in the future. I do understand the fascination with Hitler's charisma, however, a man that ordered the murder of 6 million Jews should never be idolised. The ideology behind the Nazi era is extremely harmful and their role in WWll should be recognised as what it truly is: One of the greatest crimes against humanity and all of their doing needs to be clearly condemned.

Thank you very much for your consideration; I would be glad to talk to you further about this issue if you have any enquiries.

Kind regards,

Analena Lohaus

08.03.2019

14 comments:

  1. I don't think the class VIII, students are taught about Hitler and other dictatorship leaders in the new world history textbooks which have been published in 2020. Additionally, no student admires Hitler, and students are taught about his bad leadership but not his success story. No Bhutanese teachers have taught their students as Hitler is a good leader. So, Your topic might be catchy but provides a misconception to some readers.

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    1. If a new textbook came in 2020, then it’s a great news. I would love to read it.

      Have you read the World History textbook in question? Because I was taught that text and I later taught that text. There is no ‘misconception' whatsoever in the above claim. Anna read the text herself and then wrote that letter.

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  2. I have never admired Hitler from the books I have read and was taught by our history teachers. You went through only class eight textbook of Bhutan where it gives only details about how Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin got the powers and started the wars. If you have seen our grade eleven and twelve textbooks you will find all the evil deeds of Mussolini and Hiler wrote in detail even the holocaust and bloody Saturday is also included. I think that the evil thing that Hitler did was not included in the history textbook of lower grade because it would be disturbing for young minds to digest like the holocaust or concentration camp of jews. When I read about the holocaust in class twelve it was hard for me to take in the evil things that Hitler did because it was unbelievable and was an act of a monster. In my entire learning of history I never even picture Hitler as a hero instead I cursed him for ruining so many lives. I am deeply sorry that some of the young people might have portrayed Hitler as a hero maybe because he fought a war and for young people, it was hard to differentiate good and bad but I assure you that as they grow up they will never appreciate Hitler for his evil deeds

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    1. Young minds are impressionable.
      Many don’t study history after 10th.
      And many drop out of school.

      Luckily now young kids explore beyond their text book into YouTube...

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  3. Yeah I guess u have rightly said since I am science student I didn't knew about all those holocaust and bloody saturday until I watched the WW2 documentary videos where they have portrait all those facts in detail it was indigestible evil deeds done by Hitler in that particular Era.
    I believe if it was include that in lower grade books it wouldn't be appropriate to young grooming minds.

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  4. The popularity of his tenure in wwii was craftly depicted, but wasn't remarked him as a successful dictatorship. That's what I remembered la

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  5. Though, I read the same history book in my high school days I never admired Hitler, thanks to my history teacher who made positive impact on me.

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    1. You are lucky to have a well read teacher who knew more than what’s there in the text. I did my redemption when I later taught the same text.

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  6. I am not sure/ nor I remember if we were taught world history, in particular to this topic about Hitler to appreciate him. If it was taught in the class, it was just the history we read- either good or bad but, not exactly to idolize him or appreciate for what he had done to the humanity, especially to the Jewish in Germany. We do share the grievances equally and the loss of millions lives is unfortunate. Hope, she will understand ( some conversations might have been ignorant or expressions were perceived differently otherwise. Thanks 🙏

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    1. She read the textbook and then came about writing the letter.

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  7. I also taught for years in Bhutan and when I asked my College students about leaders they are inspired by, some of them mentioned Hitler. I directly stopped whatever I was teaching at that time and asked them what they knew about World War 2 and the atrocities committed by Hitler and his henchmen. It seemed the students were not really aware of that, or if they were they did not really grasp the significance of it. The rest of my class that day became a history lesson...

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  8. Well, i dont find myself praising Hitler in any means or under any circumstances. Jews would have been more than Christians and world politics would been different if holocaust was never caused.

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