Half of American adults are unaware of basic facts about the Holocaust, including the number of Jews killed and how Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power, according to a recently released Pew Research Center study.
While most respondents knew 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.
Jewish respondents were significantly more likely to answer the questions correctly. For instance, 90% of Jewish respondents knew when the Holocaust happened, and 86% knew that six million Jews were killed over the course of it.
Other recent studies have research similar conclusions for people in the United States and around the world. According to a study commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and conducted by Schoen Consulting in 2018, 41% of millennials in the United States believed two million Jews or fewer were killed during the Holocaust, and around 67% didn’t know what Auschwitz was.
Millennials and adults from France also showed a need for Holocaust education. According to a similar study commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, 30% of French respondents overall, and 44% of millennials believed two million or fewer Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and only 19% of French respondents were familiar with the Dachau concentration camp.
While the studies have revealed a concerning lack of knowledge about the Holocaust, there are encouraging signs of interest in Holocaust education. For instance, over 90% of respondents in the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany study believed that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school.
The Pew Research Center study was published less than a week before International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, when World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder is set to address to Holocaust survivors, and dignitaries during a commemorative ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation, at the site of the former death camp, as well as in the midst of the WJC’s annual We Remember campaign promoting the importance and advancement of Holocaust education. During his speech at, President Lauder will highlight the need for Holocaust education.
In a statement submitted this month to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), President Lauder described education as one of the “the most crucial tools at our disposal to prevent the proliferation of hatred.” In his statement, 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.”