Czech expert: Education about communism and Nazism should focus on root causes
Jaroslav Pinkas of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (Ústav pro studium totalitních režimů) in the Czech Republic says that school instruction about the communist and Nazi eras should not consist merely of describing various events that took place during those time periods. The two eras should not be presented as closed, separate topics and the instruction should lead pupils to understand the causes behind the rise of both totalitarian systems. Pinkas made the statement at a seminar on the crimes of Bolshevism organized by the Committee on Security of the Czech Senate.
"A theoretical discussion of the nature of totalitarian ideologies is hard for pupils to grasp. What is more essential is how totalitarian regimes work in practice, their repressive apparatus, their suppression of the human rights of individuals," Pinkas said.
Pinkas believes teachers should work with the stories of those who stood up to these totalitarian regimes, with the stories of those to blame for the regimes, and with the approach taken by those who decided to be bystanders, i.e., the silent majority. Such stories would explain why such a cultivated nation as that of the Germans allowed the rise of Nazism and why the Communist Party won the first postwar elections in what was then Czechoslovakia.
"We must pay attention not only to the repressive apparatus of these totalitarian regimes, but also to their social policies, which probably played an essential role in the process of legitimizing and stabilizing those regimes," Pinkas pointed out. He went on to say that social policy in particular served as a more reliable tool for disciplining the masses than the secret police did.
Communism and Nazism were both founded on the fulfillment of the ideology of a one-party state and on segregation according to class or racial origin. Both regimes forced their citizens to participate in social organizations and both also operated concentration camps.
Part of the seminar was the screening of a Latvian documentary, "The Soviet Story", which describes the Soviet role in the Nazi Holocaust, such as the partnership between the Nazi SS and the Soviet KGB. The film also reviews the famine in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 and the Soviet massacre of Polish military officers in Katyn.
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