Many Americans Still Don't Know Basic Facts About The Holocaust, Survey Finds

Only 41 percent of Americans knew what Auschwitz was — but that shouldn't come as a total shock.

Findings of a survey released to coincide Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday took social media by surprise: Two-thirds of millennials did not know what Auschwitz was.

Americans as a whole did not fare terribly better: 41 percent could not define the infamous Nazi concentration camp.

Other stats also revealed a cringeworthy lack of Holocaust knowledge. Eleven percent of Americans (or 22 percent of millennials) either have not heard of or aren’t sure whether they’ve heard of the Holocaust at all, and 31 percent of Americans (or 41 percent of millennials) believe 2 million or fewer Jewish people died in the Holocaust. (Experts believe the real figure is close to 6 million.) 

Millennials were defined as adults ages 18 to 34. 

The survey, which polled 1,350 American adults in February, was commissioned by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, a group that works to secure restitution for Holocaust survivors and their heirs. 

But its findings shouldn’t come as a total shock. The recent poll follows similar findings by researchers over the past several years. 

More than a decade ago, in 2005, the American Jewish Committee and market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres asked 1,005 Americans what Aushwitz, Dachau and Treblinka were, and a higher proportion of respondents ― 46 percent ― said they didn’t know. Only 33 percent were able to correctly say how many Jewish people died in the Holocaust.

In 2014, the Anti-Defamation League released the results of a global poll on attitudes toward Jews and knowledge of the Holocaust taken between July 2013 and February 2014. Of a pool of 53,000 respondents in 100 countries, only 54 percent said they had ever heard of the Holocaust. (Like the 2018 poll mentioned above, the ADL found that adults ages 18 to 34 the world over were generally less aware of mass killings in Europe during World War II.)

In the Americas, the response was more positive: 77 percent of respondents in North and South America knew about the Holocaust.

Just a handful of states ― California, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida, New York, Michigan and Rhode Island ― require students to learn about the Holocaust, according to Education Week.