Can you name a concentration camp? Poll finds lack of Holocaust knowledge

April 13, 2018

As student marchers, led by their peers from Parkland, Florida, demonstrated against gun violence in Washington, D.C., last month, they gave voice to a message more familiar to those who lived through the Holocaust 70 years ago: Never again!

But on April 12, the internally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day, findings of a study released by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany brought discouraging news: People are forgetting or denying the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis that led up to and continued during World War II.

In fact, a survey of 1,350 U.S. adults via landline, cell-phone, and online interviews, conducted by Schoen Consulting  on behalf of the Claims Conference found that there are many significant gaps in knowledge about the Holocaust, as well as misinformation that is being accepted as fact.

Indeed, the study found that:

  • Nearly one-third of all Americans (31%) and more than 41% of Millennials believe that substantially fewer than six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust;
  • While there were over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, almost half of Americans (45% percent) cannot name a single one—and this percentage is even higher amongst Millennials (66%); and
  • Only 39% know that Hitler was democratically elected by the people of Germany.

The respondents to the survey ascribed to the warning, issued by philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Not only do 70% of Americans believe that fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust today, but a majority of Americans (58%) believe something like the Holocaust could happen again.

Claims Conference President Julius Berman noted, “We are alarmed that today’s generation lacks some of the basic knowledge about these atrocities.”

“This study underscores the importance of Holocaust education in our schools,” said Claims Conference Executive Vice President Greg Schneider stated, “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.”

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