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A quarter of young Americans believe the Holocaust is a myth or exaggerated, reveals survey

12% of the 1000 participants said that they've never heard or don't think they've heard the word "Holocaust" before taking part in the survey

A quarter of young Americans believe the Holocaust is a myth or exaggerated, reveals survey
Cover Image Source: A Jewish man pays his respects in front of the death wall inside Auschwitz Concentration Camp on January 21, 2020, in Oswiecim, Poland. (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)

Content warning: Holocaust

Less than a century after 6 million Jewish people lost their lives in the Holocaust, it appears that today's generations are largely unaware of the tragedy’s scope. The worrying findings of the first 50-state survey on Holocaust knowledge among Americans aged between 18 and 39, revealed that Gen Z and millennial Americans remain hugely ignorant about the greatest crime of the 20th century. Released by the nonprofit Claims Conference on Wednesday, the survey results showed that one in 10 young Americans believes the Holocaust never happened. Meanwhile, 23% — almost a quarter — think of it as a myth or that the number of Jews who were killed is exaggerated.



 

 

According to Vice, 12% of the 1000 participants said that they've never heard or don't think they've heard the word "Holocaust" before taking part in the survey. "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," Claims Conference stated on its website. "Nationally, there is a clear lack of awareness of key historical facts; 63 percent of all national survey respondents do not know that six million Jews were murdered and 36 percent 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 percent of national survey respondents cannot name a single one," it added. Aside from a clear lack of knowledge of what happened in Germany during the Second World War, the survey found that the conspiracy theories spreading like wildfire on social media in recent years have managed to convince quite a few young Americans. 49% of respondents revealed that they had come across Holocaust denial or distortion content on social media.



 

 

Moreover, 11% of respondents believe Jews were responsible for the Holocaust—a number that rises to a disturbing 19% in the state of New York, which has the country’s highest Jewish population. "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, the president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (which commissioned the survey) said in a statement. "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 survey also sought to find the states with the lowest and highest Holocaust knowledge by calculating a "knowledge score" determined by the percentage of respondents from a particular state who had definitively heard about the Holocaust and could name at least one concentration camp, death camp, or ghetto, and knew that 6 million Jews were killed in the genocide. Wisconsin topped the list with 42% followed by Minnesota (37%), and Massachusetts (35%). Meanwhile, Florida, Mississippi, and Arkansas came at the bottom with 20%, 19%, and 17% respectively.



 

 

One bright spot amid all this was that 64% of all U.S. Millennials and Gen Z believe that Holocaust education should be compulsory in school, while "80 percent of all respondents believe that it is important to continue teaching about the Holocaust" in part so as to prevent history from repeating itself. "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 in a statement. "Survivors lost their families, friends, homes, and communities; we cannot deny their history." 

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