Americans Lack Basic Knowledge of the Holocaust Study Finds

Craig Bowman
Bibi595 CC BY-SA 3.0

According to a survey commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), nearly two-thirds of young US adults are unaware that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Greater than one in ten said that they thought the Jews caused the Holocaust.

The study surveyed US citizens between the ages of 18 and 39, known as millennial and Gen Z. Almost half of those surveyed were unable to name a single concentration camp or ghetto from World War II.

23% surveyed believe the Holocaust is a myth, has been exaggerated, or they were unsure. Twelve per cent said that they either were certain they had never heard of the Holocaust or did not believe they had heard of it.

Czechoslovakian Jews at Croydon airport, England in 1939, before deportation.
Czechoslovakian Jews at Croydon airport, England in 1939, before deportation.

Over half of the respondents stated that they had seen Nazi symbolism on social media or in their neighbourhoods. Nearly half said that they had seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or in other places online.

Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference, said that the results were “both shocking and saddening.” He said it confirmed the need to act while Holocaust survivors are still alive to tell their stories.

He also stated that this was a “wake-up call” which showed the need to understand why the younger generations are not being educated about the Holocaust and learning from the lessons of the past.

The survey is the first to assess Holocaust awareness at the state level. It ranked each state according to three criteria: whether young adults have definitely heard about the Holocaust, whether they can name at least one concentration camp, and whether they knew that six million Jews were killed.

Jews arriving at the Warsaw Ghetto.
Jews arriving at the Warsaw Ghetto.

Wisconsin received top marks with 42% of millennials and Gen Z adults meeting all three criteria. Minnesota was second with 37%. Massachusetts came in third at 35%. Florida (20%), Mississippi (18%) and Arkansas (17%) were the lowest scoring states.

On the national level, 63% did not know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. 36% thought that two million or less were killed.

11% felt that the Jews caused the Holocaust. That number was as high as 19% in New York, 16% in Louisiana, Tennessee and Montana and 15% in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Image by Alexander Blum CC BY-SA 4.0
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Image by Alexander Blum CC BY-SA 4.0

44% were able to name Auschwitz-Birkenau as a concentration camp. Only 3% recognized Bergen-Belsen as one. In Texas, 60% of the respondents were not able to name any concentration camps.

On a more positive note, 64% of the respondents felt that Holocaust education should  be compulsory in schools. 70% felt that it was not acceptable to have neo-Nazi views.

The Claims Conference’s mission is to “provide a measure of justice for Holocaust victims.” They set up a task force which oversaw the survey. The task force included Holocaust survivors, historians and experts from Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Another Article From Us: Rediscovered Civil War Shipwreck Gains International Recognition

The survey collected data from 1,000 interviews across the nation and 200 interviews per state. Interviewees were selected at random from the population aged 18 to 39.