Gideon Taylor, President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), announced in September the release of the U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, the first-ever 50-state survey on Holocaust knowledge among Millennials and Gen Z. 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.
Nationally, there is a clear lack of awareness of key historical facts; 63% of all national survey respondents do not know that six million Jews were murdered and 36% thought that “two million or fewer Jews” were killed during the Holocaust. Additionally, although there were more than 40,000 camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, 48% of national survey respondents cannot name a single one.
The state-by-state analysis yielded a particularly disquieting finding that nearly 20 percent of Millennials and Gen Z in New York feel the Jews caused the Holocaust.
“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,” said Gideon Taylor. “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.”
The study reveals that Wisconsin scores highest in Holocaust awareness among U.S. Millennials and Gen Z. Arkansas has the lowest Holocaust knowledge score, with less than 2-in-10 (17%) of Millennials and Gen Z meeting the Holocaust knowledge criteria.
In what might be considered a disturbing sign of the times, 59% of respondents indicate that they believe something like the Holocaust could happen again.
The states with the highest Holocaust Knowledge Scores are: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maine, Kansas, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Iowa and Montana.
The states with the lowest Holocaust Knowledge Scores are: Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Arkansas.
For a state-by-state heatmap and all results please click here
The Holocaust “knowledge score” was calculated by using the percentage of Millennials and Gen Z adults who met all three of the following criteria: 1) have “Definitively heard about the Holocaust,” AND 2) can name at least one concentration camp, death camp, or ghetto, AND 3) know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
Major Survey Findings
Camps and Ghettos
- Nationally, 48% of U.S. Millennials and Gen Z could not name a single one of the more than 40,000 concentration camps or ghettos established during World War II. This number is reflected in individual state outcomes, with an astounding 60 percent of respondents in Texas, 58% in New York, and 57% in South Carolina, unable to name a single camp or ghetto.
- 56% of national U.S. Millennial and Gen Z respondents were unable to identify Auschwitz-Birkenau, and there was virtually no awareness of concentration camps and ghettos overall. Only 6% of respondents are familiar with the infamous Dachau camp, while awareness of Bergen-Belsen (3%), Buchenwald (1%) and Treblinka (1%) is virtually nonexistent.
Number of Jews Murdered
- When asked how many Jews were killed during the Holocaust, 63% of Millennials and Gen Z nationally did not know six million Jews were murdered. The states with the lowest level of knowledge for the number of Jews killed are Arkansas with 69%, followed by Delaware with 68%, Arizona with 67%, Mississippi and Tennessee with 66%, and Hawaii, Iowa, Vermont, and West Virginia with 65%.
- When broken down further, nationally 36% of Millennials and Gen Z thought that two million or fewer Jews were murdered. Arkansas ranks as the state with the greatest number of Millennials and Gen Z who believe two million or fewer were murdered (37%), followed by 36% in Georgia, Indiana and Ohio; 35% in Minnesota; and 34% in Arizona, Iowa, Kentucky and New Hampshire.
Responsibility for the Holocaust
- In perhaps one of the most disturbing revelations of this survey, 11% of U.S. Millennial and Gen Z respondents believe Jews caused the Holocaust.
- The findings were more disturbing in New York where an astounding 19% of respondents felt Jews caused the Holocaust; followed by 16% in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Montana and 15% in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Nevada and New Mexico.
- Also troubling is the percentage of Millennials and Gen Z that have witnessed Holocaust denial or distortion on social media. Approximately half (49%) of U.S. Millennials and Gen Z have seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online.
- 56% of respondents across all 50 states indicated that they had seen Nazi symbols on their social media platforms and/or in their community. The state with the greatest proportion of respondents who have seen Nazi symbols on social media was Nevada with 70%. Other states with high exposure include: New York with 67%; Arizona and Texas with 64%; and Colorado, South Dakota and Washington with 63%.
- 80% of all respondents believe that it is important to continue teaching about the Holocaust, in part, so that it does not happen again.
- A consistent bright spot across all the survey findings is the desire for Holocaust education. 64% of all U.S. Millennials and Gen Z believe that Holocaust education should be compulsory in school.
“We came to realize that, although a number of states already mandate Holocaust education which is an excellent first step, for the mandates to have a significant effect in classrooms there must be state funding to support the mandates,” said Claims Conference Holocaust task force leader Matthew Bronfman. “The Holocaust is a broad topic. Specialized teacher training and a thoughtfully developed curriculum is needed for students to benefit.”
“Quality Holocaust educations helps students think critically about how and why the Holocaust happened,” said Gretchen Skidmore, task force member and Director, Education Initiatives, Levine Institute for Holocaust Education, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The study of the Holocaust engages students in understanding the fragility of societies, the dangers of antisemitism and hatred, and the importance of promoting human dignity. This history can inform our understanding of our own roles and responsibilities in the decisions we face today.”
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. Survivors lost their families, friends, homes and communities; we cannot deny their history.”
The Claims Conference recently launched #NoDenyingIt, a digital campaign in which survivors, in personal and moving videos posted online, appeal directly to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg imploring him to remove Holocaust denial from his platform. The survey findings underscore the importance the urgent need to understand that Holocaust denial is hate speech and to remove denial of this critical historic event.
A U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey task force led by Claims Conference Board member Matthew Bronfman, was comprised of Holocaust survivors as well as historians and subject matter experts from museums, educational institutions and leading nonprofits in the field of Holocaust education, including Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Claims Conference and George Washington University.
Survey Methodology and Sample
The Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study was commissioned by the Claims Conference. Data was collected in the United States and analyzed by Schoen Cooperman Research, 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. Respondents were selected at random and constituted a demographically representative sample of the Millennial population across each state. For more information, please visit: www.claimscon.org.
About the Claims Conference: The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), a nonprofit organization with offices in New York, Tel Aviv and Frankfurt secures material compensation for Holocaust survivors around the world. Founded in 1951 by representatives of 23 major international Jewish organizations, the Claims Conference negotiates for and disburses funds to individuals and organizations and seeks the return of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust. As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid more than $80 billion in indemnification to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis. In 2020, the Claims Conference will distribute approximately $350 million in direct compensation to over 60,000 survivors in 83 countries and allocate approximately $610 million in grants to over 200 social service agencies worldwide that provide vital services for Holocaust survivors, such as homecare, food and medicine.
SOURCE Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany