Survey: Nearly two-thirds of U.S. young adults aren’t aware 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust

Nation/world
Auschwitz survivor Leon Greenman, prison number 98288, displays his number tattoo on Dec. 9, 2004, at the Jewish Museum in London. (Ian Waldie / Getty Images)

Auschwitz survivor Leon Greenman, prison number 98288, displays his number tattoo on Dec. 9, 2004, at the Jewish Museum in London. (Ian Waldie / Getty Images)

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. residents under age 40 don’t know that 6 million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust, according to results of a national survey released Wednesday.

The survey, which claims to be the first to ever cover all 50 states in the U.S., revealed “a worrying lack of basic Holocaust knowledge,” according to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which commissioned the study.

Along with 63% of the millennial and Gen Z respondents saying they did not know 6 million Jews were murdered, 36% believed 2 million or fewer Jews were murdered. More than 1 in 10 respondents claim having never heard the word “Holocaust” before.

The study notes a “particularly disquieting” finding that nearly 20% of respondents in New York felt that Jews caused the Holocaust.

According to the survey, 11% of respondents across the country believe Jews caused the Holocaust, but that figure is slightly higher in California, at 13%.

In California, 59% of respondents did not know 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and 53% did not know what Auschwitz was. But 60% had seen Nazi symbols in their community or on social media in the past 5 years.

The survey included 1,000 people nationwide, including 200 interviews conducted in each state with adults ages 18 to 39 selected by random sampling.  It was led by a task force that included Holocaust survivors, historians and experts from museums, educational institutions and nonprofits.

“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, president of the Claims Conference, 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 organization is a nonprofit that works to secure material compensation for Holocaust survivors. It also seeks to ensure the horrors of the Holocaust aren’t forgotten by future generations, according to its website.

In an interview with NBC News, analysts expressed the urgency of educating U.S. residents on the genocide that killed nearly two of every three European Jews by 1945.

“The most important lesson is that we can’t lose any more time,” Greg Schneider, Claims Conference executive vice president, said. “If we let these trends continue for another generation, the crucial lessons from this terrible part of history could be lost.”

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