'Worrying' Survey Finds That 1 in 10 Americans Under 40 Have Never Heard of the Holocaust

The survey asked millennials and Gen Z about their knowledge of the Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews during World War II

Auschwitz Memorial Commemorates 75th Anniversary Since Liberation
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe at the commemoration. Photo: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty

It was less than a century ago that 6 million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust, but a new survey of millennials and Gen Z shows that the younger generations are largely unaware of the tragedy’s scope.

The nonprofit Claims Conference released the “worrying” findings of a survey of 1,000 young Americans on Wednesday, which found that 63 percent of respondents did not know that 6 million Jews were killed, and 36 percent estimated the figure at 2 million people or less.

Twelve percent of respondents also said they had either “definitely” never heard of the Holocaust, or did not think they had ever heard of it.

The survey bills itself as the first 50-state survey to test the knowledge of millennials and Gen Z, and consisted of 200 interviews in each state with people ages 18 to 39 who were selected at random.

“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,” Gideon Taylor, president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, said in a statement.

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As the survey questions continued, so, too, did the apparent lack of knowledge: 48 percent of respondents were unable to name at least one of the more than 40,000 European concentration camps, death camps or ghettos.

A whopping 49 percent also said that they have seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online.

States were weighed individually in awareness based on three knowledge criteria, including whether the respondent had definitively heard about the Holocaust, if they could name one camp or ghetto, and if they knew that 6 million Jews were killed.

States that scored well include Wisconsin, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maine, Kansas, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Iowa and Montana, while the lowest-scoring state was Arkansas, where just 17 percent of people met the knowledge criteria.

Other poorly performing states include Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi.

In New York, which has the country’s highest Jewish population, 20 percent of respondents said they felt that Jews caused the Holocaust, a figure much higher than the 11 percent nationwide.

Despite the evident lack of knowledge, a majority of respondents said they believed that Holocaust education should be mandatory in schools. It already is in 15 states, including Delaware, Florida and New York, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“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 said.

In addition to Jews, Nazis targeted and killed members of other groups too, including Gypsies (also known as the Roma), people with disabilities, gay people and Soviet and non-Jewish Polish civilians.

Claims Conference, the nonprofit that presented the study, aims to “provide a measure of justice,” including compensation, to Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

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