North Americans Don’t Know Much About World War II’s Holocaust Anymore

A disturbing number of North Americans — especially younger millennials — don’t know much about the Holocaust. And they vastly underestimate the number of Jews murdered.

That’s the conclusion of two studies commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany in 2018 and 2019. The Holocaust was such a horrific, searing, historic event, and yet today’s younger generations lack knowledge about it. How have we allowed that to happen?

First, let’s revisit history for a moment. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

“The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The Nazis came to power in Germany in January 1933. They believed that Germans were ‘racially superior.’ They claimed that Jews were ‘inferior’ and a threat to the so-called German racial community.”

Because of these despicable beliefs, between 1933 and 1946 Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime brutally exterminated roughly 6 million Jews. This event came to be known as the Holocaust. Healthy people were shipped to concentration camps, where they were subjected to starvation, forced labor, sterilization, sexual slavery, medical experimentation and eventual death. The elderly, the sick and young children were murdered upon arrival at these camps, most often in gas chambers.

Other groups were decimated at the hands of Nazis, as well. Roughly 11 million gay people, people with mental and physical disabilities, black people, Poles, Soviets, Slavs, Romani, Ukrainians, political prisoners and others deemed unacceptable perished during the Holocaust.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany wanted to gauge current understanding of what happened during the Holocaust. It commissioned Schoen Consulting to conduct comprehensive national studies of Holocaust knowledge in the United States and Canada.

Results of the 2018 U.S. study revealed:

  • 11 percent of all U.S. adults (and 22 percent of millennials) haven’t heard of or aren’t sure they’ve heard of the Holocaust.
  • 31 percent of all U.S. adults (and 41 percent of millennials) believe substantially fewer than 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. (They estimate 2 million or fewer.)
  • 41 percent of all U.S. adults (and 66 percent of millennials) don’t know what Auschwitz is.
  • 45 percent of all U.S. adults (and 49 percent of millennials) cannot name a single concentration camp.
  • 70 percent believe fewer people care about the Holocaust than they once did.
  • 58 percent believe something like the Holocaust could happen again.

The 2019 Canadian study revealed similar levels of awareness:

  • 52 percent of Canadian millennials cannot name even one concentration camp or ghetto.
  • 62 percent of Canadian millennials don’t know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
  • 22 percent of Canadian millennials haven’t heard of or aren’t sure whether they’ve heard of the Holocaust.
  • 23 percent of Canadians believe substantially fewer than 6 million Jews (estimating 2 million or fewer) were killed during the Holocaust.
  • 57 percent say fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to.

The concentration camp names so many cannot seem to recall today include Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland; Bergen-Belsen, Germany; Dachau, Germany; Ravensbruck, Germany; Treblinka, Poland; Buchenwald, Germany; and so many more.

Our memories of this terrifying, evil event apparently are fading. But we cannot keep horrors like this from happening again — especially the way the world is trending right now — if two-thirds of the younger generation don’t even know what Auschwitz is. That fact alone should anger each of us. What are they teaching in history classes these days?

“The results of this study should cause great concern about Holocaust education and the gaps we have again uncovered,” Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, said in a press release. “We must do all we can to educate about the horrors of the Holocaust; it is incumbent on us to ensure that those who suffered so greatly are remembered, while their stories are told and taught by future generations.”

Today, once again, a country is keeping desperate people in cages. The U.S. is separating children from parents. The president cheers on the world’s ruthless dictators and strongmen. He insults and belittles those seeking asylum and freedom. Why do these sentiments sound so familiar? We cannot continue to walk this shameful path with this man. He leads this country down a dark road.

It’s happened before, and it can happen again. We must never forget the past, or we are indeed doomed to repeat it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Logaritmo

74 comments

Sarah A
Sarah Ayesterday

Thanks for posting

SEND
Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H14 days ago

thanks

SEND
berny p
berny p16 days ago

Events that happened less than 80 years ago, well there is NO excuse for anyone to not know about them.
Instead of trying to be politicly correct and worrying to much about minorities etc...learn history!
When some american kids asked us..they where 17 years old...why english people did not celebrate thanks giving...I had to explain what thanks giving was about......and I am not american... SO not surprising that they know very little about other countries,other values!

SEND
Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld21 days ago

Karen H.,
Yes, Hitler outlined a complete hierarchy of races in Mein Kampf. At the top was the Aryan race; Nordic and Germanic peoples. This was followed by the Alpine races; Bavaria and Austria. Further down were the Mediterranean Aryans; Italians, Spaniards, and Greeks. Down at the bottom were the Slavs, Russians, and Jew. Many races were considered diluted by mixture with these races, such as Poles and Serbs. He also used the camps to thin out the population of other undesirables, such as those you mentioned.

Anyone who has not gone, should visit the Auschwitz camp. It is a truly heart-breaking eye-opener.

SEND
Karen H
Karen H22 days ago

Many don't know that not just Jews were murdered by the Nazis. Historians estimate the total number of deaths to be 11 million (6 million Jews and 5 million others) that included gay people, priests, gypsies (classified as "racially impure"), people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah's Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters. It wasn't till the 1970s that the West German Federal Parliament classified Roma (gypsy) persecution as being racially motivated, and scholars largely ignored their deaths until the 1980s, so it’s not just the U.S. and Canada that either ignore or don't teach the facts.

SEND
Janis K
Janis K22 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
David C
David C24 days ago

sadly noted

SEND
Brandy S
Brandy S24 days ago

Thank you.

SEND
Callie R
Callie R24 days ago

Screaming 'Social Justice' we remove or destroy all relics of the past that we deem symbols of wrong., then we expect everyone to remember the occuranxe, The Holocause, The Civil War, The World Wars our sons and daughters died in. The freedom marches, sit ins, lynchings, etc. We stop teaching about the Hitlers, Mussolinis and Idi Amins and we become so ignorant of what happens when these types of people achieve poser as to allow the destruction of our own democracy by electing our very president based on hateful rhetoric. Shame on us who do remember!

SEND
Laura R
Laura R24 days ago

Genocide is the current phrase, I guess it's used because it doesn't sound as bad.

SEND