Military indoctrination at Nazi death camps stokes… universal democratic values!

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Auschwitz concentration camp
Auschwitz concentration camp, Poland

Did you see this? From Ha’aretz, “Study: IDF officers less committed to Jewish values after visits to Nazi death camps.” The headline exposes unsatisfactory indoctrination levels in IDF soldiers.  The whole article is worth a read (especially to see how the paper doesn’t quote the actual report at all, yet then tries to do damage control by referring to a different survey that showed increased indoctrination levels among Israeli high schoolers who take similar trips).

Here’s the key section:

The study found that before going on the trip, officers expressed a very high level of commitment to the Jewish people and to preserving their Jewish heritage, and high levels of solidarity with the fate of other Jews.
In contrast, they expressed a lower – though still high – level of commitment to more universalist ideas, such as understanding the universal context of the Holocaust.
After they returned from the trips, however, the researchers found a drop in commitment to all values related to Jewish identity, including the importance of the Land of Israel for the Jewish people, the importance of the IDF’s existence, feelings of national pride in being Israeli, and a sense of a shared Jewish fate.
The study found a particularly dramatic decline in the importance the officers attached to Jewish and Israeli symbols, and to Diaspora Jewry.
The trips also produced a decline in IDF-related values, including commitment to the state and the army, feelings of leadership, and love of heroism.
In contrast, the trips produced no change in the officers’ commitment to universal democratic values such as human dignity, the sanctity of life and tolerance.

As a result, Ha’aretz reports, “Army sources said they were ‘stunned’ by the findings, which seem to indicate that the trips are achieving the opposite of their declared purpose.”

Note how the bad news of the report is that tribalist and exclusivist ideologies decline while ideas “such as understanding the universal context of the Holocaust” and a “commitment to universal democratic values such as human dignity, the sanctity of life and tolerance” remain the same.  Yeah, what a bummer.

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The crucial question is why this is occurs. Is it remotely possible that IDF members had some glimmer that the inhuman devaluation of life they witnessed was in any way similar to their indoctrinated view of Palestinians and Arabs? Now that would be worth the trip, if they could see themselves in the wider context of ethnic nationalism and its racist, elitist behaviour.

Perhaps seeing the Nazi machinery of dehumanization, torture, and sheer inhumanity, brought many soldiers face to face with the ugliness and the evil they themselves have committed in the name of the Jewish and Democratic State™.

That decrease in morale is certainly an indicator. One walks out of the camps with the feeling of disgust and disappointment in one’s self and one’s country.

Maybe shock indoctrination/brainwashing works better on teens than on adults. Maybe the officers recoiled at the primitive attempt to condition them and manipulate their emotions, and instinctively resisted by refusing to draw the facile, jingoistic conclusions their handlers were obviously after. Another theory. I wonder how many of these officers (keeping in mind that they tend to come from higher socio-economic backgrounds) had been through this before, as teens, and refused to be manipulated a… Read more »

The effectiveness of this “camp” trip on indoctrinating high schoolers was well documented in the amazing movie Defamation, which I believe is available for view online at This surprising study is no doubt quite troubling. The next thing you know, some Israelis may be tainted with the dangerous notion that all people should enjoy full equality in the land of their birth regardless or religion or ethnicity. On second thought, no worries – that’s… Read more » “Thus, and also as a result of the demographic phobia, another chapter was written this month in the attempt to harass the minority. The Citizenship Law prohibits Palestinians from living with their Israeli spouses within Israel proper. So, in the guise of an innocent “regulation,” women are separated from their husbands and children from their parents, and their lives are turned into an ongoing nightmare.” Maybe some of the soldiers recognised the past in… Read more »