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Millennials and the Holocaust: How Much Do They Really Know?

By: Lindsay Gordon

On September 16, 2020, Gideon Taylor, the president of the conference on Jewish material claims against Germany, announced shocking news: the results of the survey of millennial Holocaust knowledge and awareness were going to be published worldwide. This had been the first-ever recorded 50-state survey concerning Holocaust knowledge among Millenials and Generation Z, and the results were absolutely appalling. 

The Holocaust was the systemic murder of 6 million Jews (among other groups victimized as well) carried out by Nazi Germany in the years 1941-1945. It is a time period taught throughout many grades in almost every school in the country. Because of that, one would believe that millennials are one of the most knowledgeable generations concerning the subject. However, as the survey shows, this is most certainly not the case.

The survey tested millennials on commonly known facts about the Holocaust. The surveyors calculated the overall Holocaust “knowledge score” by basing it off of the percentage of millennials who could name at least one concentration camp/death camp/ghetto, had definitely heard about the Holocaust before, and knew that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. It was found that 63% of Millenials were unaware that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, 48% of Millenials could not name a camp or ghetto, and an overall 11% of Millenials believed that the Jewish people caused the Holocaust. Although these numbers are extremely disturbing, it is even more disturbing that New York is one of the states with the lowest knowledge of the Holocaust, with 58% of NY Millenials unable to identify a single concentration camp out of the 40,000 that existed during the Holocaust, and with 19% of NY Millenials believing Jewish people were the cause. However, what is even more saddening is that 59% of all respondents believe the Holocaust, or something like it, could happen again. This topic is extremely personal to me because, for the last month, I have been lucky enough to call myself a second-hand witness to the horrors of the Holocaust. I have met with a strong-willed, independent Holocaust survivor who has told me her story of survival throughout her years in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Because of this, reading the results of this survey and seeing how little my generation knows about this topic deeply disturbed me. 

It is imperative that the United States, especially New York in particular, better educate the younger generations about the horrors of the Holocaust. Phrases that are common to hear from Holocaust survivors are “Never forget” or “Never again”. These phrases show that in order to stop something like this from happening in the future, we must learn from the past and never forget the events of the Holocaust. Even little learning steps, like reading a book or watching a documentary about the Holocaust, can make a big difference in one’s awareness of the events. Educating yourself and others about the Holocaust is one of the most important things you can do to make sure a similar genocide never happens again.

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