Survey shows US adults under 40 have ‘worrying’ lack of knowledge about Holocaust

A survey released Wednesday concluded that U.S. adults under 40 lack “basic” knowledge of the Holocaust, which left 6 million Jews dead during World War II.

The poll describes itself as the first 50-state survey of Holocaust knowledge among millennials and Generation Z. It was commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, a nonprofit that works to secure material compensation for Holocaust survivors, and includes a national sample as well as a breakdown by state.

In the national survey, 63 percent of U.S. adults between 18 and 39 years old did not know that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, with 36 percent believing “two million or fewer Jews” were killed. 

Forty-eight percent of respondents nationally could not name one of the more than 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe in the 1930s and ’40s. 

Gideon Taylor, the president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, called the survey’s findings “both shocking and saddening.”

“They underscore why we must act now while Holocaust survivors are still with us to voice their stories,” Taylor said. “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.”

Millennials and Gen Z members in Wisconsin scored the highest among other states in Holocaust awareness, while the respondents in Arkansas scored the lowest.

Researchers measured the Holocaust “knowledge score” of respondents who met all three of the requirements: having “definitively heard about the Holocaust,” being able to name at least one concentration camp, death camp or ghetto and knowing that 6 million Jews were killed. 

The highest scoring states included Wisconsin, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maine, Kansas, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Iowa and Montana. The lowest scoring states included Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Researchers said “one of the most disturbing” findings was that 11 percent of respondents nationally think Jews caused the Holocaust. This number rises to 19 percent in New York, which is the state with the highest Jewish population. 

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About half nationally reported seeing Holocaust denial or distortion on social media or online, prompting conference Executive Vice President Greg Schneider to say in a statement that “it is clear we must fight this distortion of history and do all we can to ensure the social media giants stop allowing this harmful content on their platforms.”

A task force including Holocaust survivors, historians and experts from museums, educational institutions and nonprofits, led the study. Researchers conducted the national survey through a representative sample of 1,000 people and the state surveys through 200 interviews for each. The survey’s margin of error was not listed.

Tags Concentration camps Education gen z Holocaust Holocaust education Jews Judaism Millennials

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