Jewish Journal

Prince’s Nazi Uniform Spotlights Problem

Posted on Jan. 20, 2005 at 7:00 pm


Prince Harry's Nazi uniform costume might have outraged the world, but most of his British peers can't see what all the fuss is about. In the days following the furor (no pun intended), a poll published by the Sunday Mirror newspaper showed that although 71 percent of those interviewed thought Harry was wrong to wear the costume, which featured a swastika armband, more than half of those between 18 and 24 said the choice of outfit was acceptable. The results were particularly dispiriting because they followed a recent BBC survey in which 60 percent of those younger than 35 claimed never to have even heard of Auschwitz.

Holocaust education has been a compulsory part of the national curriculum for 11- to 14-year-olds since 1991. Although the 20-year-old prince was far from an outstanding student during his education at Eton College, one of the most prestigious private schools in Britain, he could not have avoided being taught about the Nazi genocide.

"Students need to know that it is relevant today, not just a history lesson. It's about tolerance, prejudice, anti-Semitism," said Emma Sandler, spokeswoman for the Holocaust Educational Trust, which runs teacher-training courses and an outreach program for schools, taking high school seniors to Auschwitz.

Community leaders also hope that a high-profile event such as Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls on Jan. 27 and first was marked in 2000, can help to remedy the public's apparent lack of awareness of the Holocaust. A series of high-profile media events, including a BBC broadcast of the official national ceremony, will bring the issue of the Holocaust directly into people's lives.

Prince Harry's grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, will be at the ceremony at London's Westminster Hall, so will Prime Minister Tony Blair. Even though the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Prince Harry to join the British delegation to Auschwitz on the 60th anniversary of its liberation, Anglo-Jewish groups hope that the scandal does not eclipse the commemorations.

"Harry shouldn't be the center of attention on Holocaust Memorial Day," said James Smith, chief executive of the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire.

He suggested that Harry visit the center, meet survivors and travel to Auschwitz, "but only once the attention has died down," an option a royal spokesman said would be considered. Smith sees an encouraging aspect to the prince's ill-advised prank.

"His actions have done an enormous amount to generate debate around the issues raised by Holocaust Memorial Day, and that has been very positive," he said. "We should be pleased that he has highlighted something important -- that knowing about history is not enough in itself. The Holocaust wasn't just a stain on European history, it's about why we desperately need to combat prejudice and discrimination in our own society." -- Daniella Peled, Jewish Telegraphic Agency


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