The "selection" of Hungarian Jews on the ramp at the death camp Auschwitz-II (Birkenau) in Poland during German Nazi occupation in May/June 1944. Jewish arrivals were sent either to work or to the gas chamber. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

What's Auschwitz? 2/3 of millennials don't know it was a Nazi death camp, survey reports

(RNS) — Most American millennials don’t know what Auschwitz was, a survey finds.

Despite the slaughter of nearly a million Jews — as well as hundreds of thousands of Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and others — at the World War II Nazi death camp, a survey commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that 66 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 “cannot identify what Auschwitz was.” The figure for all adults was 41 percent.

The survey also found that 31 percent of all Americans and more than 4-in-10 millennials believe that 2 million Jews or fewer were killed during the Holocaust, substantially less than the historically accepted figure, which is closer to 6 million.

“I was astounded by those figures. This just goes to show the world forgets easily, and we pay a dear price for not remembering,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which works to promote awareness of European genocide.

The survey was released Thursday (April 12) on Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed by Israel and Jewish communities worldwide to commemorate the Nazi genocide.

The claims conference said the survey was conducted in late February and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Hier, speaking from Jerusalem, said the survey shows the importance of historical memory and teaching.

“One mistake Americans and millennials make is treating the Holocaust as part of archaeology, (that) it disappeared from the planet, and it will never return,” he said. “I think it’s very dangerous and it’s an important wake-up call for Americans, for the GIs and families of the GIs who fought to eliminate Nazism. It shows the importance of institutions that keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.”

In a statement, claims conference president Julius Berman urged increased efforts toward Holocaust awareness “so that the lessons learned inform the next generation.”

“We are alarmed that today’s generation lacks some of the basic knowledge about these atrocities,” he said.

The group’s executive vice president, Greg Schneider, said the “troubling gaps” underscore the importance of Holocaust education in schools.

“Imagine when there are no longer survivors here to tell their stories.”

Survivors of Auschwitz arrive at the International Monument to the Victims of Fascism at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp KL Auschwitz II-Birkenau on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oswiecim, Poland, on Jan. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)


  1. Don’t single yourselves out or get your panties in a bunch. There’s a lot of history around that era that millenials are generally ignorant of so it’s not personal.

  2. “A survey finds”, my foot!

    WHAT NOW? “[Jews] are alarmed that today’s generation lacks some of the basic knowledge about THESE ATROCITIES … [during the] Holocaust” – BUT NOT THOSE ONES ELSEWHERE & WHENEVER ELSE? How about the assassinations & massacres of Native Americans, Armenians, Serbs, Indonesians, white South African farmers, Chinese, Greeks, Chileans?!

    I think it’s “[JEWS who] pay a dear price for not remembering” these assassinations & massacres of NON-JEWS!


    Oh yeah sure uh-huh, why, “hundreds of thousands of Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and others [got slaughtered] at the World War II Nazi death camp”. But that in passing, wasn’t your point of AGENDA all along, was it now? And oh by the way, you were “not remembering” too good either that the LGBTQ community in Europe at the time were slaughtered, too.

  3. No surprise to see you looking to make the Jewish deaths in the Holocaust a historical footnote. Just like the USSR did. But I’m sure that’s another coincidence.

  4. This is no surprise, at least not in the U.S. The American public school system abandoned any pretense of teaching a comprehensive view of History, as a subject unto itself, years ago.

  5. What does this have to do with religion? Why is this on ReligionNews?

  6. And here’s the rest of those “footnotes” as you call them:

    (1) The massacre of 78,000,000 in China between 1958 and 1961; 1966 and 1969; and in Tibet from 1949 to 1950.

    (2) The massacre of 8,000,000 in Congo between 1886 and 1908.

    (3) The massacre in Turkey of 1,550,000 in 1915; 480,000 between 1916 and 1922; and 500,000 between 1915-20.

    (4) The massacre of 23,000,000 in USSR between 1932 and 1939.

    (5) The massacre of 300,000 in Italy between 1934 and 1945.

    (6) The massacre of 500,000 in Japan between 1937 and 1939.

    (7) The massacre of 12,000,000 in Germany between 1939 and 1945.

    (8) The massacre of 5,000,000 in Japan between 1941 and 1944.

    (9) The massacre of 570,000 in Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1987.

    (10) The massacre of 1,600,000 in North Korea betwen 1948 and 1994.

    (11) The massacre of 500,000 in Indonesia between 1965 and 1966.

    (12) The massacre of 1,000,000 in Biafra from 1967 and1970.

    (13) The massacre of 300,000 in Uganda between 1969 and 1979.

    (14) The massacre of 300,000 in Pakistan between 1970 and 1971.

    (15) The massacre of 1,500,000 in Ethiopia between 1975 and 1978.

    (16) The massacre of 1,700,000 in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

    (17) The massacre of 400,000 in Angola between 1975 and 2002.

    (18) The massacre of 900,000 in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1982.

    (19) The massacre of 600,000 in Iraq between 1980 and 1990.

    (21) The massacre of 400,000 in Afghanistan between 1986 and 2001.

    (22) The massacre of 800,000 in Rwanda in 1994.

  7. Referencing Reeve Robert Brenner, The Faith and Doubt of Holocaust Survivors (Transaction Publishers, 2014), Wikipedia puts out this interesting detail:

    “The perpetrators of the Holocaust did not merely target religious Jews. [In fact] a large percentage of the Jews killed both in Eastern and Western Europe were either nonobservant or had not received even an elementary level of Jewish education.”

  8. School curriculum in general history, which you’re bringing up here, is one thing; but history curriculum covering the Holocaust, which clearly you know nothing about, is another thing altogether. So let someone who knows give you some pointers here:

    According to Paul W. Mathewson in H-Net, November 9, 2015:

    (1) “Holocaust education first began to gain traction in New York and New Jersey in the 1970’s first in Jewish private schools, and then to the local public schools.” However,

    (2) Neither “The Eichmann trial and 7 Day War … [nor] the Diary of Anne Frank … result[ed] in a dramatic increase in Holocaust education.”

    (3) “Illinois was the first state to mandate the teaching of the Holocaust in the state’s public schools in 1989.”

    (4) “Some states ‘encourage’ their schools to teach it. About 15 or so states don’t mention the Holocaust at all in their learning standards. Six states mandate that schools teach it – IN THE CASE OF ILLINOIS IT MUST BE TAUGHT ALONGSIDE ANOTHER GENOCIDE (INTERESTING IN ITS OWN RIGHT). Some address it in history, others in language arts, and many other courses.”

  9. I’d ask you to read my comment again, but whatever. Look closely. I didn’t call any of these footnotes.

  10. That seems like disgruntled BS to me. How history was taught in the past was likewise tainted but then it was sugarcoated. In my limited experience as a parent, all of my children spent time learning 20th century history, which included the holocaust, in public school.

  11. Is your main gripe that schools _in the U.S._ fail at teaching history, or that the failing is with _public_ schools? If the latter, would you say that private schools in the U.S. are better at it?

  12. The Holocaust is taught in the public school where I work.

  13. Didn’t know about this. So thanks, Spuddie. I.O.U. 1.

    “The Third Wave was an experimental social movement created by California high school history teacher Ron Jones in 1967 to explain how the German population could accept the actions of the Nazi regime during the Second World War. While he taught his students about Nazi Germany during his ‘Contemporary World History’ class, Jones found it difficult to explain how the German people could accept the actions of the Nazis, and decided to create a social movement as a demonstration of the appeal of fascism. Over the course of five days, Jones conducted a series of exercises in his classroom emphasizing discipline and community, intended to model certain characteristics of the Nazi movement. As the movement grew outside his class and began to number in the hundreds, Jones began to feel that the movement had spiraled out of control. He convinced the students to attend a rally where he claimed the announcement of a Third Wave presidential candidate would be televised. Upon their arrival, the students were presented with a blank channel. Jones told his students of the true nature of the movement as an experiment in fascism, and presented to them a short film discussing the actions of Nazi Germany.” (From where else, Wikipedia.)

  14. I am not surprised, however, in my observation and study, both as an interested citizen and parent…history is a topic that is sadly neglected for the most part in schools today, and the engagement I have with Millennials, and the assorted “generations” that preceded them underscores that point. The article above provides substantial anecdotal evidence to support that view.

  15. Quite a hot button topic for which one is apt to be scorched no matter their opinion, but I suppose I opened the door. There are doubtless good public schools, but statistics and evidence compiled by the government over decades show a decidedly downward trend in many categories of education. My own education in the 1960’s and 1970’s was clearly not as rigorous as what had come before…as a general rule. I think in many instances private schools are superior, and Catholic schools have a long history of excellent academic rigor. I did well enough in the public schools in my time, and would have done better if I had shown greater ambition, but I was greatly disheartened as a parent by a number, if not all, of the teachers and administrators who saw to the education of my daughter.

  16. For a Christian, you are perhaps the most prideful and insulting it has ever been my displeasure to engage with. You have no idea the extent of my knowledge on this or any other subject. As a fellow believer I have confidence that The Lord will continue to minister effectively in your life, as it is my prayer that he will in mine. However, and henceforth, unless your responses to me show some measure of Christian cordiality, I will give them the consideration they deserve in such a spirit…that is to say, none. I am confessedly angry now, but I will abide by the Apostle’s instruction and not let the sun go down on it.

  17. ADDENDUM – dedicated to brother Edward Borges-Silva’s “extent of … knowledge on this or any other subject” pertaining to Holocaust education:

    “(and me, too, for that matter)”.

  18. I thought everyone heard of that!

    The made for TV movie and novel were staples of high schools back in the day.

    The full movie is available on YouTube and streaming services.

  19. Once the DVD gets here, I’ll be watching this movie:

    “Die Welle (The Wave) is a 2008 German sociopolitical thriller film directed by Dennis Gansel and starring Jürgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Jennifer Ulrich and Max Riemelt in the leads. It is based on Ron Jones’ social experiment The Third Wave and Todd Strasser’s novel, The Wave. The film was produced by Christian Becker for Rat Pack Filmproduktion. It was successful in German cinemas, and after ten weeks, 2.3 million people had watched it. … [However, movie] critics don’t see a stringent necessity for the students, why they should join the movement at all, because their commitment to conformity is not imaginable in West Germany today. The movie, according to the critics, therefore often seems ‘very pedagogically prescribing: you know, what is meant, but you don’t really believe it.’ The critics add, that the pretended serfdom of the Wave-supporters is also undermined by celebrating and tagging excessively. Why the teacher, established as an authority person, becomes a victim of his own staged role play, ‘remains puzzling’, the critics claim.”

    I wonder if that feeling was mutual or shared by critics of The Wave, the short made-for-TV movie you referred to, which, “though more prominently featured as an episode of the ABC Afterschool Special series, … debuted October 4, 1981”.

    Did you buy into that TV movie’s premises & pitch, Spuddie?

  20. Time to stop all of the — “I cant believe millennials don’t know that !!” — fallacies.

    Spare us the gotcha questions. Millennials are actually the most educated generation ever. They don’t need to keep every fact in their head, because they have grown up with the internet at their fingertips — and could easily look up facts about things like Auschwitz on their phones when asked…not blindsided with out of the blue questions. They know Nazi’s were bad, but WWII was 75 years ago…details are on Google, not necessarily at the tip of your tongue.

    It is the Boomer and older generations that we should worry about…their religiosity made a mess — and is what millennials will have to clean up afterwards.

  21. The study of history is not about looking up minutia – that’s an argument a middle-schooler in a hurry to get back to his video games might make. It is about forming a panoramic view of the course of recorded events, noting trends and cycles, recognizing combinations of conditions and events that tend to lead to predicative results, and so on. One can not become an intelligent voter if one is hobbled in this manner by lack of education.

  22. I learned about the German remake over the weekend. I will check it out also.

    There is a much different take on viewing the material from a German perspective. There is a great deal of cultural, historical and experiential distance for Americans which Germans would not have. Americans are far less likely to have distant relatives who were either victims or perpetrators of Nazi crimes.

  23. Knowing Auschwitz specifically is not as important as knowing about the horrors of various genocides over the centuries and how it is carried out whether by the Nazis, the Soviets, the Turks, the British Empire in India and Ireland, the Chinese, the Spanish Empire, religious zealots, tribal rivals, racists, etc. Every month or few weeks there is something about the Holocaust on TV, the movies or public radio with a new story or angle. The media should also include stories about these other genocides.

    Of course the general ignorance of the American people about history, geography, economics, current events and politics is shocking in general and has been for generations.

  24. One set of genocides does not diminish another. As with the Holocaust it is really up to the survivors to tell their own stories and preserve the history. Lest it be forgotten or distorted by others.

    This is why so much effort has been made in places like Rwanda, Cambodia, and Bosnia to preserve the physical artifacts of genocide and collect oral history.

    ” The media should also include stories about these other genocides.”

    You are arguing from both a position of willful ignorance. There is a plethora of films on those subjects.

    See: Hotel Rwanda, Sometime in April, Shot through the Heart, Welcome to Sarajevo, The Promise, Men Behind the Sun*, The Killing Fields, Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten, Enemies of the People, Act of Killing, The Devil Came on Horseback, Screamers (2006)….the list goes on.

    *Maybe skip that one, its very gruesome

  25. It could be worse.

    The prior generation was the one which engaged in dishonest presentation of history in the form of Holocaust Denial. It wasn’t definitely laid to rest until 2000.

  26. Whataboutism generally tells the world poor things about the speaker.

  27. True. Good thing I wasn’t engaging in it.

    But think for a moment as to who are the people in the role of educating the Millennials. The prior generation. The one which I had mentioned. If Millennials aren’t learning this stuff, the blame can be placed on their teachers. The people most commonly complaining about Millennials not knowing various things. 🙂

  28. No one denies that the Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers introduced some of the most horrendous educational experiments imaginable and dumbed standards down almost to the point of no return. I’ve pointed that out a number of times only to have liberals tell me I’m too critical of the educational system. So which is it for you?

    Certainly whoever failed to teach you civics had no business in a classroom, but nothing is stopping you from educating yourself a bit now if you could only turn off the tv and put down the phone. Few millenials care do that, though, because they have the same juvenile notion that DP just vocalized — that history is just a matter of looking up factoids. “Most educated generation ever” my foot. They have access to more information AND more garbage than any other generation, all right, and are utterly unable to tell the difference.

  29. “I’ve pointed that out a number of times only to have liberals tell me I’m too critical of the educational system. So which is it for you?”

    Depends on the context. Its not so much an either/or as much as it is more focused criticism. But frankly you are the last person to be leveling that kind of criticism.

    “Certainly whoever failed to teach you civics had no business in a classroom, but nothing is stopping you from educating yourself a bit now if you could only turn off the tv and put down the phone.”

    I take that insult from you as a badge of honor, considering you are one of the least honest, most “party line” oriented person on the subject. 🙂

  30. I have never read any credible account, and I read at least fairly extensively, in which any person of judgement would accept the denial of the Holocaust as a reasonable argument. I have known precisely Two Christians whom I generally otherwise respect who have forwarded arguments dismissing the Holocaust and I was properly astonished.

  31. Huzzah! Give that Lady a cheroot. 🙂

  32. I may be wrong, but I think Shawnie5, was allegorically referring to the Millennials in the quoted passage (3rd paragraph of your above post). But that would require clarification by her.

  33. “It’s the teachers’ fault” is hardly a focused criticism. Actually I don’t think you even know what you’re criticizing — certainly nobody claimed the millennials got this ignorant all by themselves.

    But as for your last remark… that’s one sentiment (about the only one) I can relate to, for experience has taught me that the biggest liar in the woodpile is invariably the one who goes around constantly calling people liars. So, thanks back.

  34. Would love one, actually, but bad for the complexion. Your kind words, even when admonishing, are always the best recompense. ?

  35. Shawnie is so hostile to me personally, that I can’t tell half the time what she is trying to say other than a putdown.

  36. Kindly remember that I didn’t address you at all.

  37. I have only met two Holocaust deniers myself, the parents of a former boyfriend, both of them lapsed Catholics. I was likewise astonished and disgusted. Spuddie’s reference to Holocaust denial was quite a catapult out of left field.

  38. The whole point, is that it is not a reasonable argument. It is a form of malicious trolling. Nobody in their right mind considers it credible. It is done to further an antisemitic agenda.

    But somehow David Irving made a living doing it and had writings put out by a mainstream publisher until his skewering in the UK courts.

  39. LOL! Riiiiight. That was what you were doing /s

  40. I addressed DP, not you. I’ve already heard your entire repertoire more times than I care to remember.

  41. put it to rest there was no camps of death for jews.. but tyhe jews had camps of death for europoeans eisenbhowers death camps they ran the soviet gulags and revolution,controlled slave trade still do./you better find out for yourself what these have done and are doing.

  42. sorry i know more on this than all of you, your mind control is obvious you dont know squat its called the jew mind screw and you all have it.

  43. you guys are smug in your ignorance and are revol;ting to behold,you better wise up with trhe truth,which pof course you know not and wouldnt if it hit youse upside your haid

  44. I will check this gentleman out, I’m not familiar with his efforts.

  45. Admittedly, I thought so as well. Yet I will look up David Irving to whom he alludes. I would image, with no disrespect intended, that Spuddie, being Jewish, would have his antennae more finely attuned to such things.

  46. My thanks, I endeavor even handed kindness to friends and (dare I say it) foe alike. I’m genuinely grieved when the discourse here spirals down into invective; when guilty of it, and thus convicted by the Spirit of God, I typically plead my transgression and the favor of pardon. As the Proverb says, “A soft answer turneth way wrath.” Sadly, it is not 100% effective.

  47. They infested the internet early on. But after being laid bare and picked apart in public with the Irving/Lipstadt Trial in 2000; they were pretty much ridiculed into obscurity. That was until white supremacy online got a boost as of late.

  48. Oh look, one of those Russian trollbots we all hear about.

  49. I’ll check the link, but I already took a different route which substantiated both your remarks about him, and the veritable cottage industry of holocaust deniers that exist; Yet the consensus remains that these folks are ultimately marginal outliers who are not taken seriously by the bulk of scholars and those interested in the topic.

  50. Their point is not so much to be taken seriously but to engage in malicious trolling behavior.

  51. Two Thirds Of American millennials and Israelis don’t know what “The Trail Tears” or ” Wounded Knee” was about either.

    American Genocide was masked as “Manifest Destiny.”

  52. I hear quite a bit about trolls; the practice is anathema to me, but surely something lies deeper here. Is it in the final analysis an implacable anti-Semitism?

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