Basic facts not known
During the week of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) released the results of a comprehensive national survey of Holocaust awareness and knowledge among adults in the United States. The survey found that there are critical gaps both in awareness of basic facts as well as detailed knowledge of the Holocaust, and that there is a broad-based consensus that schools must be responsible for providing comprehensive Holocaust education. In addition, a significant majority of American adults believe that fewer people care about the Holocaust today than they used to, and more than half of Americans believe that the Holocaust could happen again.
Major findings of the survey include that 70% of Americans say fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to, and a majority of Americans (58%) believe something like the Holocaust could happen again. The study also found a significant lack of basic knowledge about the Holocaust:
- Nearly one-third of all Americans (31%), and 41% of millennials, believe that fewer than two million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, as opposed to the six million Jews who were killed.
- While there were more than 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, almost half of Americans (45%) cannot name a single one, and this percentage is even higher among millennials (49%).
At the same time, there are encouraging notes in the survey. In particular, there are key findings underscoring the desire for Holocaust education. More than nine out of 10 respondents (93%) believe all students should learn about the Holocaust in school and 80% of respondents say it is important to keep teaching about the Holocaust so it does not happen again.
The findings show a substantial lack of personal experience with the Holocaust, however, as most Americans (80%) have not visited a Holocaust museum.
“This study underscores the importance of Holocaust education in our schools,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice-president of the Claims Conference. “There remain troubling gaps in Holocaust awareness while survivors are still with us; imagine when there are no longer survivors here to tell their stories. We must be committed to ensuring the horrors of the Holocaust and the memory of those who suffered so greatly are remembered, told and taught by future generations.”
The Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study was commissioned by the Conference on Jewish
Material Claims Against Germany. Data were collected and analyzed by Schoen Consulting with a representative sample of 1,350 American adults via landline, cellphone and online interviews. Respondents were selected at random and constituted a demographically representative sample of the adult population in the United States.
The task force led by Claims Conference board was comprised of Holocaust survivors as well as representatives from museums, educational institutions and leading nonprofits in the field of Holocaust education, such as Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Agency and George Washington University. Claims Conference president Julius Berman noted, “On the occasion of Yom Hashoah, it is vital to open a dialogue on the state of Holocaust awareness so that the lessons learned inform the next generation. We are alarmed that today’s generation lacks some of the basic knowledge about these atrocities.”
For more information, visit claimscon.org/study.