A survey of 11,000 Americans ages 18 to 39 has found a ‘worrying lack of basic Holocaust knowledge’

  • The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, an activist group, conducted a survey asking 11,000 young adults from every US state of their knowledge about the Holocaust.
  • The survey found that 23% of respondents said they believed the Holocaust is a myth, that the number of Jewish deaths was exaggerated, or that they were not sure about their views on the Holocaust.
  • Twelve percent of respondents said they had "definitely have not heard" or "don't think I've heard" of the Holocaust.
  • The president of the group that commissioned the survey said the results were "both shocking and saddening" and are a "wake-up call" in underscoring the need for Holocaust education.
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Almost two-thirds of young adults in the US did not know that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust of World War II, according to a new survey spanning all 50 states.

The survey was commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, an activist group, and conducted by Schoen Cooperman Research on 11,000 people aged between 18 and 39 across all 50 states.

The group said the survey also found the following results nationally:

  • 12% of respondents said either "no, I definitely have not heard about the Holocaust," or "no, I don't think I've heard about the Holocaust."
  • 23% said they had believed the Holocaust is a myth, that the number of Jewish deaths were exaggerated, or that they were not sure. 
  • 48% of respondents said they could not name a single one of the 40,000 concentration camps, death camps, and ghettos that were established in Europe during the war.
  • In a multiple-choice question asking "who or what do you think caused the Holocaust," 11% of respondents selected "Jews."
  • In response to a multiple-choice question asking "approximately how many Jews were killed during the Holocaust," 63% did not select the correct answer, which is six million.
  • 36% of respondents said they thought "two million or fewer Jews" were killed during the Holocaust.

The shoes belonging to those killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

Forty-nine percent of respondents said they had seen posts denying or distorting the Holocaust online, the activist group said, condemning what it said was a "distortion of history."

The survey also found many respondents who were unable to identify various concentration camps, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland and the Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, and Treblinka camps.

Fifty-nine of respondents also suggested that they believe something like the Holocaust could happen again, the group said, adding that this "might be considered a disturbing sign of the times."

Thirty percent of respondents also said that they had seen Nazi symbols on social media or in their community.

In response to the survey results, Gideon Taylor, the group's president, said: "The results are both shocking and saddening and they underscore why we must act now while Holocaust survivors are still with us to voice their stories."

"We need to understand why we aren't doing better in educating a younger generation about the Holocaust and the lessons of the past. This needs to serve as a wake-up call to us all, and as a road map of where government officials need to act."

Two brothers show a photograph of their late father, who survived the Auschwitz Nazi death camp, in January 2020.
Reuters

The group added in a statement: "The surprising state-by-state results highlight a worrying lack of basic Holocaust knowledge, a growing problem as fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors – eyewitnesses to a state-sponsored genocide – are alive to share the lessons of the Holocaust."

Sixty-four percent of respondents have said that Holocaust education should be compulsory in school, according to the survey.

Greg Schneider, the group's executive vice-president, said of the survey respondents: "Not only was their overall lack of Holocaust knowledge troubling, but combined with the number of Millennials and Gen Z who have seen Holocaust denial on social media, it is clear that we must fight this distortion of history and do all we can to ensure that the social media giants stop allowing this harmful content on their platforms."

"Survivors lost their families, friends, homes and communities; we cannot deny their history."

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