Survey finds “shocking and saddening” lack of Holocaust knowledge among millennials and Gen Z

A new survey has yielded “shocking and saddening” results, showing millennials and Gen Z have a “worrying lack of basic Holocaust knowledge,” according to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference).

The U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, which was commissioned by the Claims Conference and conducted by Schoen Cooperman Research, is the first 50-state survey on Holocaust knowledge among millennials and Gen Z, according to a Wednesday press release. 

Through the survey, the Claims Conference calculated Holocaust “knowledge scores” using the percentage of millennials and Gen Z adults who met all three criteria: they have definitively heard about the Holocaust, the can name at least one concentration camp, death camp, or ghetto, and they know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Sixty-three percent of survey respondents did not know 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, Claims Conference says.

Thirty-six percent thought that “two million or fewer Jews” were killed during the Holocaust, and 48% could name a single camp or ghetto established during World War II, despite the fact that there were more than 40,000 of them.

“In perhaps one of the most disturbing revelations of this survey, 11 percent of U.S. Millennial and Gen Z respondents believe Jews caused the Holocaust,” Claims Conference writes. 

Nearly 20% of millennials and Gen Z in New York feel the Jews caused the Holocaust, the survey, which analyzed state-by-state results, found. 

Wisconsin scored the highest in Holocaust awareness, with Arkansas showing the lowest Holocaust knowledge. Seventeen percent of millennials and Gen Z in Alabama did not meet the criteria used in the study to measure Holocaust knowledge. 

Wisconsin, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maine, Kansas, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Iowa and Montana had the highest Holocaust knowledge scores, while Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and Arkansas had the lowest. 

Respondents – adults aged 18 to 39 who were selected at random – were also asked if they had seen Nazi symbols on social media platforms or in their community and 30% said they had. Seventy percent of respondents in Nevada had seen Nazi symbols on social media or in their community. 

Forty-nine percent of millennials and Gen Z have seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online, Claims Conference said, calling the finding “troubling.” 

“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,” said Claims Conference Executive Vice President Greg Schneider. “Survivors lost their families, friends, homes and communities; we cannot deny their history.” 

Fifty-nine percent of respondents indicated they believe something like the Holocaust could happen again, a finding that Claims Conference called “a disturbing sign of the times.” 

“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,” Claims Conference President Gideon 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.”

Claims Conference said the lack of Holocaust knowledge is a growing problem, since only a few Holocaust survivors are alive to share the lessons of the Holocaust.

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