Poll: Most Americans believe Holocaust could happen again

Nearly half are unable to name a single ghetto or concentration camp, and 4 in 10 are unsure what Auschwitz was

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The infamous German inscription that reads 'Work Makes Free' at the main gate of the Nazi Auschwitz I extermination camp in Oswiecim, Poland, on November 15, 2014. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images via JTA)
The infamous German inscription that reads 'Work Makes Free' at the main gate of the Nazi Auschwitz I extermination camp in Oswiecim, Poland, on November 15, 2014. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images via JTA)

Most Americans (58 percent) believe the Holocaust could happen again and half think it could happen in the United States, a survey released on Holocaust Remembrance Day showed.

Just over two thirds (68%) thought that anti-Semitism was present in the US, half believed there were many neo-Nazis in the country, and most people thought it was important to continue teaching about the Holocaust and that it should be compulsory in schools.

The study, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, revealed considerable ignorance about the World War ll genocide of the Jews.

Out of 1,350 American adults aged 18 and over who were questioned, 45% were unable to name a single concentration camp or ghetto and 41% were not sure what Auschwitz was.

There were over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, according to researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Łódź ghetto photographer Mendel Grossman clandestinely photographing the deportation of Jews. The photo was taken by Grossman’s assistant, Aryeh Ben-Menachem. (Yad Vashem Archives)

Nearly all respondents had heard of the Holocaust (89%), believed that it really happened (96%), and knew that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were responsible for it.

But just half knew that six million Jews perished during the Holocaust, with a third guessing the toll was two million or less.

More respondents were familiar with Anne Frank (85%), the Dutch teenager who kept a diary while hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, than with the names of the most senior Nazis, bar Hitler himself: propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels (46%); Heinrich Himmler, whom Hitler charged with the Final Solution to eradicate the Jews (53%); and Adolf Eichmann, who oversaw the mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and death camps (45%).

Six in 10 of those asked did not know of any Holocaust survivors and four in 10 had never visited a Holocaust museum and did not know anyone who had.

The survey task force was led by the Claims Conference Board and included Holocaust survivors as well as representatives from museums, educational institutions and leading nonprofits in the field of Holocaust education such as Yad Vashem, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Agency and George Washington University.

Julius Berman (Yeshiva University/JTA)

“We are alarmed that today’s generation lacks some of the basic knowledge about these atrocities,” said Claims Conference president Julius Berman.

Greg Schneider, Claims Conference executive vice president, said, “There remain troubling gaps in Holocaust awareness while survivors are still with us; imagine when there are no longer survivors here to tell their stories. We must be committed to ensuring the horrors of the Holocaust and the memory of those who suffered so greatly are remembered, told and taught by future generations.”

Of the representative sample of respondents, 37% had a college degree or more.

The margin of error was 3%.

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