A surprisingly high number of young Americans polled nationwide displayed profound ignorance about the Holocaust, with a sizable percentage even believing that Jewish people were responsible for it, according to the results of a survey released on Wednesday.
In the first-ever survey of young people between 18 and 39 in all 50 states about the topic, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany discovered that nearly two-thirds of those polled did not know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Nearly half could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto. Almost a quarter either did not believe the Holocaust happened, that it was exaggerated, or were unsure. About 12% had not heard about the Holocaust at all, or were unsure if they had.
In a finding that the study described as “particularly disquieting,” nearly 20% of respondents in New York believed that Jews were responsible for the Holocaust, which was the highest percentage in a nation where 11% of young people polled overall believed the same thing.
Another portion of the survey discovered that about half had “witnessed Holocaust denial or distortion on social media,” and 30% had seen Nazi symbols either on social media or in their community.
Despite the otherwise sobering results, 64% of the young people polled believe that Holocaust education should be compulsory in schools and 80% believe continuing to teach about the Holocaust is important, in part to prevent it from happening again.
Gideon Taylor, the president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, said, “The results are both shocking and saddening, and they underscore why we must act now while Holocaust survivors are still with us to voice their stories.”
“We need to understand why we aren’t doing better in educating a younger generation about the Holocaust and the lessons of the past. This needs to serve as a wake-up call to us all, and as a road map of where government officials need to act,” Taylor added.
The study results were met with alarm, condemnation, and ridicule on social media, where terms such as “Holocaust,” “Anne Frank,” “Elie Wiesel,” and “Schindler’s List” trended on Twitter all day. Many blamed an abysmal education system for the widespread ignorance about one of the 20th century’s worst atrocities.
“Thanks a lot, US educators,” Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume tweeted.
Thanks a lot, US educators. https://t.co/YNbTVVXTL1
— Brit Hume (@brithume) September 16, 2020
“We need a national – and global- reckoning to combat the hateful, destructive ignorance of the Holocaust,” tweeted former CBS anchor Dan Rather.
We need a national – and global- reckoning to combat the hateful, destructive ignorance of the Holocaust. https://t.co/XAuolxEf6p
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) September 16, 2020
“We need to fix our education system,” wrote Fox News contributor Sara A. Carter.
Almost Two-Thirds of American Young Adults Don’t Know That 6 Million Jews Were Killed In The #Holocaust
We need to fix our education system.https://t.co/Soc8qpL0hZ
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) September 16, 2020
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt described the survey as “disturbing,” “disappointing,” and “wholly unsettling.”
Almost two-thirds of young Americans don’t know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.https://t.co/aMqXFkSdJi
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) September 16, 2020
Allie Beth Stuckey questioned, “What are people learning in school today?? How can you learn about WWII without learning this? How can you not be required to read Night or The Hiding Place or The Diary of Ann Frank or watch Schindler’s List or visit the Holocaust Museum? Why?”
What are people learning in school today?? How can you learn about WWII without learning this? How can you not be required to read Night or The Hiding Place or The Diary of Ann Frank or watch Schindler’s List or visit the Holocaust Museum? Why? https://t.co/tv74GYQ0JF
— Allie Beth Stuckey (@conservmillen) September 16, 2020
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