Ask any German who's lived in the Arab world for a while and interacted with normal people, and you will almost always hear of Arabs who admire, even love Adolf Hitler. Some of the ones I know even stopped identifying themselves as Germans in conversation, to avoid that blood-chilling moment when their conversation partner would say: 'Adolf Hitler very good man! Hero!' It has happened to me -- and not just in Arab countries -- when I identified myself as German to avoid getting into long conversations about American foreign policy.
But of course it's not just an Arab problem by any stretch. It happened to me most recently on a park bench in downtown Sofia, Bulgaria, where a man who borrowed a cigarette from me started chatting and revealed that he had once lived and worked in Germany but his work permit had been revoked because 'the Jews up there' didn't want more 'Christian Bulgarians' in the country. I was tempted to try to enlighten him, but really, where do you even begin with a comment like that?
Remember, we are not talking about the 15-20% of the educated elite of these societies, who either understand the evil of Hitler or know enough not to discuss the issue with foreigners. We are talking about ignorant or illiterate people. Their views are shaped by attitudes passed down through generations (and either tolerated or encouraged by their governments) and never challenged by an educated person.
But that doesn't mean we have to let these backward prejudices into Germany. Commenter KS brings a report from the front lines of migrant education in Germany right now which I thought worthy of hoisting to the main page:
When I finished school in 2005, I travelled around some time in Egypt and Jordan and I was astonished by the fact, that the old-fashioned anti-semitism, that I only knew from history books, creepy internet-pages and grandma's honest moments, was pretty much political mainstream in these countries. Including the admiration of Hitler. (I mean, I expected some hatred towards Israel - but the arguments about filthy, conspiring jews were an exact copy of European anti-semitism.) Today I work as a teacher in a class in which pupils, who just came to Germany, learn the German language, before they can attend the regular classes.
Last week I taught about German history. Now my pupils were astonished by the fact, that Germany doesn't admire Hitler anymore. "Aber alle lieben Hitler!" ("But everyone loves Hitler!") was one of the reactions, by a Macedonian boy with a christian-orthodox background by the way. Two boys from Syria applauded him. So I asked politely (to get an honest reaction): "Wer von euch liebt Hitler?" ("Who of you loves Hitler?") Five out of eleven children raised their hands: the two guys from Syria (Kurdish Muslims), two Macedonians (Christian-Orthodox) and one guy from Somalia (Muslim). The children who didn't raise their hands were Roma and two boys from Portugal.
It's hard to imagine anything more depressing than young children taught to admire Hitler, isn't it? Now you could look at this as a glass-half-full optimist: at least these kids will be able to escape the miasma of ignorance and prejudice that poisons their countries of origin (and helps explain why their countries of origin have so many problems). At least they'll escape it while they're in school. Certain schools, that is. At home is a different story.
And I would agree with you, to a point. But an intensive re-education program requires significant resources. It might well work with 10,000, 20,000 or even 50,000 fresh migrants. But with 800,000+? And the millions who will follow thanks to family reunification? Not a chance. If policies don't change quickly, Germany may end up importing millions of new residents -- 3-4% of its entire population -- who despise Jews and admire Hitler.
I think that's a serious public-policy issue that should be openly and frankly debated right now, don't you?