Five Austrian school students are under investigation for role playing as Nazi SS members and Jews after a coursework designed to teach them about the dangers of indoctrination did the exact opposite.
The anti-Semitic incidents occurred at New Middle School in Zurndorf while 13- to 15-year-old students were learning about Nazi Germany and World War II in their school, according to the children’s lawyer, Andreas Schweitzer. The students were also told to read a book, “The Wave” by American writer Todd Strasser about an anti-Nazi social experiment gone wrong and a movie based on the same book.
Both the book and the movie are based on a real life U.S. history teacher Ron Jones, who in 1967 got his class to enlist in a fascist experiment to show how the propaganda of National Socialism took people in its grip. However, the experiment went out of control when students, instead of viewing the exercise with revulsion, became much too enthusiastic in enacting Nazi behavior.
The same thing happened this time around with the students at Zurndorf.
Some students took on the roles of Nazi SS guards and others pretended to be the prosecuted Jewish community or the “dirty Jews” according to the Kurier newspaper. A 15-year-old, who played a Nazi leader, demanded students greet him with a Nazi salute and those who refused to do so, were pushed and locked into “gas chambers.”
Prosecutors initially launched an investigation against 10 students; however five are below the age of 14 years old and so are considered minors and cannot be pursued.
The student who played the leader has also since said the role-playing was a “big stupidity. No one took it seriously.”
Austria was annexed into the Third Reich in 1938 and has some of the world’s most stringent laws when it comes to pro-Nazi behavior and Holocaust denial. In spite of this, anti-Semitic sentiments are still quite rife in the country. In fact, the Nazi-founded Freedom Party and the center-right People’ Party have formed a coalition which has been governing Austria since December after they won votes on their anti-immigration stance.
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