NEW YORK, July 11 (JTA) — A majority of Argentines say the Holocaust should be remembered, according to a new survey, but few can answer basic questions about it.
The survey results illustrate the widely varying opinions Argentines have toward Jews, said David Singer, the American Jewish Committee’s director of research.
“When you look at this survey, and the attitude toward the Jews, it’s a mixed picture, but it comes out rather positively,” Singer said.
In the survey, 71 percent of Argentines said “we should keep the remembrance of the Nazi extermination of the Jews strong even after the passage of time” — and 62 percent called it “essential” that “all Argentines know about the Nazi extermination of the Jews.”
Yet only one-quarter correctly answered any one of four basic questions about the Holocaust. Questions included identifying Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka as concentration camps, knowing the significance of yellow stars and other symbols, naming the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust and explaining what the word “Holocaust” refers to.
The results came as part of a public opinion survey conducted for the AJCommittee and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Aid Association by Gallup Argentina. The AJCommittee carried out similar surveys in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and other locations earlier this year.
In 1994, a bombing at the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires killed 86 people and injured hundreds. Earlier this year, Argentine officials announced plans to try 20 people for the bombing, though some Jews see the trial as an excuse for the government to close the case.
According to the survey, 52 percent of Argentines believe that the AMIA bombing targeted “Jews generally,” as opposed to just the center or all Argentines. Thirty-seven percent say that “Argentine society” should take the lead in solving the bombing, over the Jewish community, victims’ families or others, according to the survey.
“The people in the AMIA felt gratified by the results in terms of acceptance of the Jews,” Singer said.
Yet 25 percent of Argentines reported that Jews have “too much influence on our society” — 24 percent said “too little” — and just as many Argentines agreed that Jews “exert too much influence on world events” as disagreed.
But more Argentines felt neutral or positive toward Jews than those who reported negative sentiments.
“This is something that we found in other surveys as well,” Singer said. “There’s a stereotype of Jews being power brokers in the world, deeply embedded in many societies.”
When the stereotype is applied locally, he continued, it often doesn’t carry over, as the population considers their friends and neighbors instead of Jews as a whole.
Still, 15 percent of Argentines would “prefer not” to have Jews as neighbors, as compared with 8 percent in a 1992 Argentine survey conducted by the AJCommittee.
Comparison between Argentina and other surveyed countries puts Argentina on the low end of the scale concerning factual knowledge about the Holocaust — Germany scores highest on this measure. In terms of attaching importance to Holocaust education, Sweden comes out on top.
“This put the spotlight on negative things and pinpointed some positive things,” Singer said. “It gives” Argentina “something to work on.”