Two-thirds of American millennials cannot identify what Auschwitz is, according to a study released on Holocaust Memorial Day that found that knowledge of the genocide that killed 6 million Jews during World War II is rapidly fading among American adults, especially those ages 18 to 34.
Twenty-two percent of millennials said they haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are not sure whether they’ve heard of it – twice the percentage of U.S. adults as a whole who said the same.
The study, conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, interviewed 1,350 American adults in February.
Asked to identify what Auschwitz is, 41 percent of American adults as a whole and 66 percent of millennials could not come up with a correct response identifying it as a concentration camp or extermination camp.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum says that at least 1.3 million people were deported to the camp, run by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland, from 1940 to 1945, and 1.1 million of them were killed. It was the largest concentration camp among many built by the Nazis during their campaign to wipe out the Jews and other groups.
The survey found a low awareness of nations other than Germany where the Holocaust occurred: Just 5 to 6 percent of U.S. adults knew that Jews were killed in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where 90 percent of the local Jewish populations were murdered. Just 37 percent of U.S. adults knew that Jews from Poland were killed; Poland was home to 3.5 million Jewish Holocaust victims.
Respondents indicated much more awareness of modern-day bias against Jews, with 68 percent saying anti-Semitism is present in America today, and 51 percent saying there are “many” or “a great deal of” neo-Nazis in the U.S. today.
Despite the lack of historical knowledge, the survey found a desire for Holocaust education – 93 percent said in response to a question toward the end of the survey that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school. Perhaps because respondents feel that lack of knowledge is a real threat to the future: 58 percent said they believe something like the Holocaust could happen again.
The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.