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Survey Found “Shocking” Lack of Holocaust Knowledge Among Millennials and Generation Z


In a survey conducted in September 2020, researchers found a "worrying lack of basic Holocaust knowledge" among adults under 40, including over 1 in ten respondents who did not recall ever having heard the word "Holocaust."

According to the survey conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), respondents of millennials and Generation Z in all 50 states of the United States had no idea about the basic facts regarding the Holocaust, with 63 percent of those surveyed not knowing that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust with over half of those thinking the death toll was fewer than 2 million.

"The most important lesson is that we can't lose any more time," said Greg Schneider, Executive Vice president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. 

"If we let these trends continue for another generation, the crucial lessons from this terrible part of history could be lost."

The Claims Conference said that the lack of knowledge on the Holocaust in the study is "shocking" and "saddening." 

The survey's data came from 11,000 interviews across the U.S. conducted by phone and online with a random, demographically representative sample of respondents ages 18 to 39. 

The survey was led by a task force that included Holocaust survivors, historians, and experts from museums, educational institutions, and nonprofits.

According to the results, around 90 percent of respondents said that the Holocaust happened, with 7 percent unsure and 3 percent denying its occurrence. The task force noted that the most disturbing trend from the survey was that 11 percent of respondents believed the Jews caused the Holocaust, with the number climbing to 19 percent in New York, a state with a large American Jewish population.

Experts say that part of the problem includes social media, showing that about half of millennial and Generation Z respondents have seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts online, with 56 percent having seen Nazi symbols on social media or in their communities within the past several years. 

Claims Conference launched a digital campaign, using photos and videos of Holocaust survivors to appeal directly to Facebook to remove Holocaust denial posts. Facebook's Community Standards prevent hate speech but does not consider Holocaust denial part of that category.

According to the survey, while most respondents first learned about the Holocaust in school, the survey found that education may not be complete, with 22 percent of respondents associating it with World War I, 10 percent unsure, 5 percent associating it with the U.S. Civil War, and 3 percent associating it with Vietnam.

States like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Massachusetts ranked highest in Holocaust knowledge, even though those states do not require Holocaust education. States like New York, Indiana, and California, which require Holocaust education, were most likely to believe the Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated, at rates higher than 20 percent of the surveyed population.

Around 80 percent of the Claims Conference survey respondents agreed that Americans needed to learn about the Holocaust partly, so it never happens again.

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