A new study found that nearly a quarter of young Americans — 23% — believe that the Holocaust is a myth or that the death toll is exaggerated. One in ten surveyed believe it didn’t happen at all. The US Millenial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey analyzed Americans aged between 18 and 39 to understand their view of the Holocaust.
“The surprising state-by-state results highlight a worrying lack of basic Holocaust knowledge, a growing problem as fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors – eyewitnesses to a state-sponsored genocide – are alive to share the lessons of the Holocaust,” said the press release.
Across the US, 48% of respondents could not name a single one of the more than 40,000 concentration camps or ghettos established during the Holocaust.
“We need to understand why we aren’t doing better in educating a younger generation about the Holocaust and the lessons of the past,” said Gideon Taylor, President of the Claims Conference, in a statement. “This needs to serve as a wake-up call to us all, and as a road map of where government officials need to act.”
Major Survey Findings
Claims Conference collected data with a representative sample of 1,000 interviews nationwide and 200 interviews in each state with adults ages 18 to 39 via landline, cell phone, and online interviews. Participants were selected at random.
When asked how many Jews were killed during the Holocaust, 63% of participants did not know the number was six million. When questioned further, 36% of participants thought the death toll was two million and fewer.
Described as “one of the most disturbing revelations,” the survey found that 11% of US Millennial and Gen Z respondents believe Jews caused the Holocaust.
In addition to testing nationwide understanding, the survey also broke down Holocaust knowledge state-by-state. They calculated a Holocaust “knowledge score” by using a percentage of respondents who had heard about the Holocaust and could name at least one concentration camp, death camp, or ghetto, and knew how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
Florida (20%), Mississippi (18%), and Arkansas (17%) ranked the lowest in Holocaust knowledge, while Wisconsin (42%), Minnesota at (37%), and Massachusetts (35%) topped the list.
A Call for Expanded Holocaust Education
Claims Conference Holocaust task force leader Matthew Bronfman acknowledged that Holocaust education mandates were “an excellent first step,” but fell short. “For the mandates to have a significant effect in classrooms there must be state funding to support the mandates. The Holocaust is a broad topic. Specialized teacher training and thoughtfully developed curriculum are needed for students to benefit.”
The survey also found that 64% of participants believe Holocaust education should be compulsory in school. Additionally, 80% of respondents believe that Holocaust education can aid in preventing it from happening again.
The survey also highlighted how social media has affected respondents’ understanding of the Holocaust. Nearly half — 49% — of participants have seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or online.
Across the US, 30% of respondents said they had seen Nazi symbols on social media platforms or in their community.
The Claims Conference recently launched #NoDenyingIt, a digital campaign in which survivors participate in videos to appeal directly to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In them, they call for Holocaust denial content be removed from the platform.
Claims Conference Executive Vice President Greg Schneider said of the survey, “Not only was their overall lack of Holocaust knowledge troubling, but combined with the number of Millennials and Gen Z who have seen Holocaust denial on social media, it is clear that we must fight this distortion of history and do all we can to ensure that the social media giants stop allowing this harmful content on their platforms.”
A clip from Claims Conference’s #NoDenyingIt can be seen below: