Am I right in thinking that in German schools after the war they didn't teach about WW2 and that they created a much more liberal and relaxed atitude in education, then the next generation they turned about and taught it? I seem to remember reading/hearing that at one time German children couldn't tell you who Adolf Hitler was.
Note: the following is a fairly simplistic version, but explains the bare bones. Oh, and my innate historian has come out to play, so this is loooong.
It reflected the changing attitudes of the Germans over time. It was very much a subject that Was Not Discussed immediately after the war by everyday Germans. In the historical and political sense, there was a big debate about whether what had happened was the work of a few extreme individuals and everyone else simply obeyed orders.
The new generations in the 1960s, along with prevailing attitudes of rebellion and revolution, changed this. Historians began to see the events of the 1930s and 40s as a reflection of the German character and thus many more Germans are seen as to blame for 'what happened.' (This is particularly in relation to the Holocaust, but extends to the war and other atrocities as well).
A big change occurred from 1986 with the beginning of what would become known as the Historikerstreit (historians' quarrel). Politicians and leading figures began to complain about the lack of anything in which Germans could take pride. There were plans for new museums to be built, and there was a fear that these would exclude the recent history in favour of the past and honourable events. Some German historians began to feel around for other events that could explain or pardon the Holocaust, such as the Russian Revolution. Touchy comparisons were made between those Germans forced to leave their homes in Czechoslovakia and Poland with those Jews forced into labour and death camps.
The controversy boiled down to the following key questions:
* Were events related to the Holocaust unique in history or could they be compared to other events like the Russian gulags?
* Had Germany followed a special path to get to the point in which such atrocities were committed?
* Could other genocides be compared to the Holocaust?
* Were Nazi-related crimes a reaction to those of Stalin in Russia?
Understandably, there is no 'right' answer to any of the above questions. Much of the debate died away by 1989, and the reunification of Germany certainly helped to hide it away under the carpet. Nevertheless, any history of Germany that describes the Holocaust and appeared during the late 1980s or early 1990s has to be viewed in light of the author's opinion on the Historikerstreit.
Another key issue is the change that saw the increasing importance of social history in the late 1990s and particularly in the 2000s. Prior to that, much of the attention had been focused on military and political decisions, but slowly the roles of individual everyday Germans who did not take part in extraordinary support of or opposition to the Nazi regime began to be seen as important. Diaries and memoirs that were originally published in the period from the 1940s to the 1990s are being re-examined, with a number of them being made into films and/or republished. As part of this, the idea of Germans being allowed to see themselves as victims is slowly become more acceptable. Hence formerly verboten topics such as the rape of German women and children by the invading Allied forces is being discussed openly for the first time.
Er, yes, I may have babbled a bit. Sorry.