Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Joseph Kleinman, a 90-year-old survivor of the Auschwitz and Dachau death camps in Poland wearing a face mask and holding a picture himself as a young boy, on his porch in Jerusalem, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 21, 2020.

A study by the Schoen Cooperman Research company, commissioned by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), indicates that a significant amount of historical misinformation exists out there in the cultural world of young people under 40, from the question of where the Holocaust took place, to which war the Holocaust is associated with, to who caused the Holocaust.

11% of the Millennials and Gen Z respondents believe the Jews caused the Holocaust; 22% believe the Holocaust is associated with World War I; and 48% can’t name a single concentration camp, death camp or ghetto.

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Schoen Cooperman conducted 1,000 interviews nationwide and 200 interviews in each state with adults ages 18 to 39 between February 26 and March 28, 2020. The margin of error for the national sample is 3% and a little higher fr the state by state samples.

The national study finds critical gaps in Holocaust knowledge and awareness. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of US Millennials and Gen Z does not know that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Additionally, a majority of US Millennials and Gen Z (59%) believe that something like the Holocaust could happen again today.

There is little knowledge about concentration camps, death camps, and ghettos other than Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of the more than 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, 48% of respondents could not name any. Only 44% of US Millennials and Gen Z are familiar with Auschwitz, 6% are familiar with Dachau, and awareness of Bergen-Belsen (3%), Buchenwald (1%), and Treblinka (1%) is virtually nonexistent.

Looking at Holocaust denial, respondents were first asked in a yes/no fashion whether or not the Holocaust happened – and 10% said it did not happen or were not sure.

Respondents were then asked which of a series of statements came closest to their view and 23 percent of respondents believe the Holocaust happened, but the number of Jews who died has been greatly exaggerated, is a myth, and did not happen, or are unsure.

Nationally, slightly more than 1-in-10 (12%) US Millennials and Gen Z have never heard or don’t think they’ve heard the word “Holocaust” before.

A full 15% of US Millennials and Gen Z believe it is acceptable for an individual to hold neo-Nazi views.

Approximately half (49%) of US Millennials and Gen Z have seen Holocaust denial or distortion on social media or elsewhere online. Additionally, a majority (56%) of US Millennials and Gen Z say they have seen Nazi symbols in their community and/or on social media platforms within the past five years.

8-in-10 (80%) US Millennials and Gen Z say that it is important to continue to teach about the Holocaust, in part, so it doesn’t happen again. Additionally, 64% believe Holocaust education should be compulsory at school.

Furthermore, 50% say that the lessons about the Holocaust are mostly historically accurate, but could be better. The survey also found that a majority of respondents (59%) believe that something like the Holocaust could happen again today.

Jewish youth participating in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp site in Poland, May 2, 2019.

Camps and Ghettos

Nationally, 48 percent of U.S. Millennial 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 percent in New York, and 57 percent in South Carolina, unable to name a single camp or ghetto.

56 percent of U.S. Millennial and Gen Z were unable to identify Auschwitz-Birkenau, and there was virtually no awareness of concentration camps and ghettos overall. Only six percent of respondents are familiar with the infamous Dachau camp, while awareness of Bergen-Belsen (three percent), Buchenwald (one percent), and Treblinka (one percent) is virtually nonexistent.

Number of Jews Murdered

When asked how many Jews were killed during the Holocaust, 63 percent of Millennials and Gen Z did not know six million Jews were murdered. The states with the lowest scores for this question are Arkansas with 69 percent, followed by Delaware with 68 percent, Arizona with 67 percent, Mississippi and Tennessee with 66 percent, and Hawaii, Iowa, Vermont, and West Virginia with 65 percent.

When broken down further, 36 percent of Millennials and Gen Z thought that two million or fewer Jews were murdered. Arkansas ranks as the state with the lowest awareness of this widely known data point, with 37 percent believing two million or fewer were murdered, followed by 36 percent in Georgia, Indiana, and Ohio; 35 percent in Minnesota; and 34 percent in Arizona, Iowa, Kentucky and New Hampshire.

Responsibility for the Holocaust

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. This number is worse in South Dakota where the number was 12 percent; in Texas and California where it was 13 percent; in Louisiana and Tennessee where it was 16 percent; and in New York where an astounding 19 percent of U.S. Millennial and Gen Z respondents felt Jews caused the Holocaust.

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