A new study commissioned on behalf of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) and conducted by Nanos Research has found encouraging signs of growing interest in Holocaust education and the desire to fight antisemitism. The study found that among the 1,008 respondents, more than nine out of ten believe it is “important” (63%) or “somewhat important” (30%) to teach young people about the Holocaust, and comparable majorities answered that it is important or somewhat important to teach young people about discrimination, including racism and antisemitism.
The results of the study were comparable to a commissioned report by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which found that over 90% of respondents believe that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school.
Unfortunately, the Nanos Research study also found that the majority of the respondents believe that students are knowledgeable enough about the Holocaust. A majority of respondents (54%) answered that students aren’t taught enough about the Holocaust, which was more than double the number of respondents who answered that students are taught enough about the Holocaust. Furthermore, almost two-thirds of respondents (64%) said that students today are less aware of the Holocaust compared to previous generations.
“The survey results demonstrate the continued value Canadians place on keeping the memory and lessons of the Holocaust alive while pointing to the enduring deficit with respect to Holocaust education that students receive in our school system,” said Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of FSWC. “As an organization committed to closing that deficit by educating our young people about racism, antisemitism and the Holocaust, it is clear that there is much important work left to be done.”
Other studies have highlighted a tremendous lack of knowledge on the Holocaust. A Pew Research Center study found that a majority of respondents know that the Holocaust took place between 1930 and 1950, and that Jews were forced to live in ghettos, fewer than half of respondents - a mere 45% - knew that six million Jews perished in the Holocaust. In addition, only a third of teenagers knew that Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany democratically, compared to 43% of American adults. Overall, almost half of the adults correctly answered three or four of the questions, while around 18% knew the answers to zero, one or two questions.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder is a vocal advocate for the role of education as critical in the battle to combat antisemitism and hatred. In a statement submitted last month to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), President Lauder called for educational curriculums to “include courses and programs to educate students about the history of the Holocaust and the dangers of racism, discrimination, and indifference to the suffering of others.”
During President Lauder’s address to Holocaust survivors, and dignitaries during the commemorative ceremony at the 75th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation on the grounds of the Nazi death camp, Lauder highlighted the need for Holocaust education and the importance of preserving the Holocaust.
The WJC’s joint initiative with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO), AboutHolocaust.org is a crucial venture in this journey, bringing basic facts about the Holocaust to those who know little to nothing about the events that took place. The website also includes the “ask a question” feature, which enables users to ask specific questions about the Holocaust. If the site does not contain information that the user is looking for, the question will be submitted to a Holocaust educator who will provide an answer.
The #WeRemember campaign is another critical project of the World Jewish Congress, geared toward engaging social media users around the world in positing a visual representation of their pledge not to allow the Holocaust to be forgotten or its memory denied. This year’s campaign reached new heights. In its fourth year in 2020, the #WeRemember hashtag became the number one trending topic on Twitter in Germany and Canada, and number two trending topic in Argentina and Belgium and was the fourth most talked about topic on Twitter globally with more than 270,000 total Tweets recorded; dozens of noteworthy posts from politicians, celebrities and leaders from around the world helped to spread the message.