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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Jun 30;112(26):7931-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1414822112. Epub 2015 Jun 15.

Nazi indoctrination and anti-Semitic beliefs in Germany.

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University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson School of Management, Los Angeles, CA 90095; National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA 02138; Centre for Economic Policy Research, London EC1V 3PZ, United Kingdom;
Centre for Economic Policy Research, London EC1V 3PZ, United Kingdom; University of Zurich, 8001, Zurich, Switzerland; and UBS International Center for Economics in Society, 8001 Zurich, Switzerland.


Attempts at modifying public opinions, attitudes, and beliefs range from advertising and schooling to "brainwashing." Their effectiveness is highly controversial. In this paper, we use survey data on anti-Semitic beliefs and attitudes in a representative sample of Germans surveyed in 1996 and 2006 to show that Nazi indoctrination--with its singular focus on fostering racial hatred--was highly effective. Between 1933 and 1945, young Germans were exposed to anti-Semitic ideology in schools, in the (extracurricular) Hitler Youth, and through radio, print, and film. As a result, Germans who grew up under the Nazi regime are much more anti-Semitic than those born before or after that period: the share of committed anti-Semites, who answer a host of questions about attitudes toward Jews in an extreme fashion, is 2-3 times higher than in the population as a whole. Results also hold for average beliefs, and not just the share of extremists; average views of Jews are much more negative among those born in the 1920s and 1930s. Nazi indoctrination was most effective where it could tap into preexisting prejudices; those born in districts that supported anti-Semitic parties before 1914 show the greatest increases in anti-Jewish attitudes. These findings demonstrate the extent to which beliefs can be modified through policy intervention. We also identify parameters amplifying the effectiveness of such measures, such as preexisting prejudices.


anti-Semitism; cultural transmission; indoctrination; persistence

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