Study Finds Ignorance About Holocaust Widespread Among U.S. Adults, Students

Ignorance of the Holocaust is rampant among a significant portion of American adults and high-school students, according to a survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee.

Sizable minorities of those questioned said they were open to believing the possibility that the Holocaust never happened at all. However, a majority of both adults and youth believe the Holocaust is relevant today and that it is important for all Americans to know about and understand the Holocaust.

The survey, called “What Do Americans Know About the Holocaust?” and released here Monday, was based on questionnaires filled out by 992 adults and 506 high-school students.

The study underscored that a serious knowledge gap exists in both groups with regard to basic knowledge about the Holocaust.

Thus, for each of four questions measuring basic knowledge of the Holocaust, from over one-third to just under two-thirds of American adults and a majority of high-school students failed to answer correctly.

When asked in an open format, “As far as you know, what does the term ‘Holocaust’ refer to?” 38 percent of adults and 53 percent of high-school students either said they “don’t know” or offered completely incorrect answers.

When asked, “From what you know or have heard, what were Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka?” 62 percent of adults and 48 percent of high-school students answered “concentration camp”; 38 percent of adults and 51 percent of high-school students either said they “don’t know” or answered incorrectly.

Sixty percent of the adults and 53 percent of the students agreed with the statement “The Holocaust makes clear the need for the State of Israel as a place of refuge for Jews in time of persecution.”

When asked, “Approximately how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust?” 35 percent of adults and 28 percent of youths answered “6 million”; 65 percent of adults and 71 percent of students either said they “don’t know” or answered incorrectly.

David Singer, AJCommittee director of research, commented: “The survey findings underscore the serious lack of knowledge that exists for disturbingly large numbers of both adult and youth in the United States with regard to basic knowledge about the Holocaust.

“At the same time, however, a majority of Americans, both younger and older, do acknowledge the importance of knowing about the Holocaust. Providing such knowledge is clearly an urgent desideratum, since a significant majority of Americans, both adults and youth, are open to the idea that the Holocaust never happened,” he said.

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