A new survey shows that the Holocaust is fast fading from public memory. The 50-state poll by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany shows alarming figures of distorted and distanced understanding of the 20th century’s greatest horror. The Claims Conference, which works to improve Holocaust education and compensation for survivors, surveyed millennials and Gen Z nationally.
Nearly two-thirds of US adults unaware 6m Jews killed in the Holocaust – study https://t.co/UAW1WzyjLD
— The Guardian (@guardian) September 16, 2020
Millennials are classified as those who were born in the 1980s until the mid-’90s. Generation Z can be classified as those born between 1995 and 2015. Among these groups surveyed nationally, Claims Conference discovered statistics that add a new dimension to a national understanding of why neo-Nazism and antisemitism could be on the rise.
The findings of a study on young Americans’ knowledge of the #Holocaust are terrifying:
• 23% say it’s a myth/exaggerated
• 10% don’t think it happened
• 12% never heard of it
• 11% think Jews were responsible
• 63% are unaware 6M Jews were killedhttps://t.co/ax45D88HMa
— David Gilbert (@daithaigilbert) September 16, 2020
Nationally, 11 percent (more than one in 10 people among Gen Z and millennials) believe the Jewish people caused the Holocaust. Yet in New York — the state with the largest Jewish population in the country — one in five young people (20 percent) believe Jews caused the Holocaust.
In Louisiana and Tennessee, that number is 16 percent. In Texas and California, it is 13 percent, and in South Dakota, it’s 12 percent. The survey also indicated an enormous lack of awareness of how many people died in the Holocaust or what the death camps were called.
And yet, despite having such a fragile grasp of the Holocaust, 59 percent of these young respondents said they didn’t believe something like the Holocaust could happen again.
Despite access to instant information and efforts to increase Holocaust awareness, the question stands:
- Why is the memory of the Holocaust blurred and fading?
- Why is there a “revival” of antisemitism despite vast amounts of evidence, interviews and data documenting the stories and accounts of vitriolic hatred against the Jewish people?
There are at least three variables shaping the collective memory and awareness of younger generations.
China’s death camps for Uighur Muslims, it means that there’s a grave lack of critical awareness of a fixed point in history enough so that a repeat pattern can be identified in the present. This assumption also includes a lack of knowledge about current events.he first is simply a lack of awareness. For 59 percent to think the Holocaust could not happen again despite comparisons being made between the Holocaust against the Jews and
three hours of that dedicated to social media.econd, a lack of knowledge about current events is theoretically in part likely due to information overload and the lack of a filter between junk social media streams, and valuable vetted information. Gen Z, for example, spends about four hours a day on their smartphones with about
However, as seen in the behavior patterns of older social media users, most users stay in the lane of their niche interests and peer social groups. As with other groups, this produces a type of echo chamber that bounces the same information across users and platforms creating a hive or data bubble.
When pairing this against the data coming out of how easily millennials and Gen Z are targeted and recruited online by rising neo-Nazi groups, the task of educating the next generation becomes even more challenging.
hird, given that Gen Z and millennials are marketed to more effectively by younger public figures, the rhetoric of those figures is critical and more effective in shaping world knowledge than what is demonstrated in a learning-based environment, which is also apparently sorely lacking on this subject.
Just a little over a year ago, then 29-year-old freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) misused the term “concentration camp” while discussing immigration detention centers, then refused to visit Auschwitz. Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has time and again dipped into antisemitic rhetoric tugging at the thick weeds of the most racist tropes against the Jewish people.
Freshman Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is not far behind with her own long list of terror-supporting allies. (Meanwhile D.C. comics just announced that it plans to feature Tlaib and AOC as “heroes” in their new “Wonder Women of History” series.)
It’s not just the freshman congresswomen. Celebrities in pop-culture, along with Islamist activists like Linda Sarsour, are one after the other coming out framing the U.S. as Nazi Germany, and comparing Jews to white supremacists, while others are openly sharing Jew-hating rhetoric on social media and airwaves.
As society responds to a wave of 21st-century hate, the challenge before us is to consider whether improving education is enough to counter hate. And if it seems that education alone is the only impactful way of moving forward, then what does a robust education initiative need to look like?
In the last few years, it was noted that neo-Nazi behavior was on the rise on high school campuses. In response, school administrators brought in Holocaust survivors to increase awareness of both the Holocaust and antisemitism.
However, after Clarion Project spoke with several administrators and tracked the behavior patterns of students, we believe that these efforts are simply not enough. Bringing in a survivor or holding a special seminar at the high school level is most likely “too late” in the game to impact change on minds that have already developed a specific pattern.
The solution may be to start younger and frame education around hate and prejudice in general (but decidedly not in the framework of critical race theory, which only serves to put in place those destructive patterns).