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This article was published 16/6/2015 (1582 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BERLIN — Anti-Semitic propaganda had a lifelong effect on German children schooled during the Nazi period, leaving them far more likely to harbour negative views of Jews than those born earlier and later, according to a study published Monday.
The findings indicate that attempts to influence public attitudes are most effective when they target young people, particularly if the message confirms existing beliefs, the authors said.
Researchers from the United States and Switzerland examined surveys conducted in 1996 and 2006 that asked respondents about a range of issues, including their opinions of Jews.
The polls, known as the German General Social Survey, reflected the views of 5,300 people from 264 towns and cities across Germany, allowing the researchers to examine differences according to age, gender and location.
By focusing on those respondents who expressed consistently negative views of Jews in a number of questions, the researchers found that those born in the 1930s held the most extreme anti-Semitic opinions — even 50 years after the end of Nazi rule.
"It's not just that Nazi schooling worked, that if you subject people to a totalitarian regime during their formative years it will influence the way their mind works," said Hans-Joachim Voth of the University of Zurich, one of the study's authors.
"The striking thing is that it doesn't go away afterward."
But members of the group, which was systematically indoctrinated by the Nazi education system during Adolf Hitler's 1933-1945 dictatorship, also showed marked differences depending on whether they came from an area where anti-Semitism was already strong before the Nazis.
For this, the researchers compared the survey with historical voting records going back to the late 1890s.
They found that those from areas where anti-Semitic parties were traditionally strong also had the most negative opinions of Jews.
"The extent to which Nazi schooling worked depended crucially on whether the overall environment where children grew up was already a bit anti-Semitic," said Voth.
"It tells you that indoctrination can work, it can last to a surprising extent, but the way it works has to be compatible to something people already believe."
— The Associated Press