Tags: Israel | doug schoen | holocaust | jews | israel | nazis

Doug Schoen: More Holocaust Education Still Needed

the former auschwitz-birkenau nazi death camp in poland
The former Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Poland (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 29 January 2020 11:55 AM

On Jan. 27, the world commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a date chosen to mark the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

As the world paused to remember the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis, I asked myself the question — have we lived up to our promise of "never forget, never again?"

Sadly, the answer appears to be no, according to a new Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness survey conducted in France — home to the world's third largest Jewish population, after Israel and the United States. The survey, conducted by my firm on behalf of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), shows a general lack of Holocaust awareness and in-depth knowledge about the Holocaust among the French population overall, and particularly among the younger generation.

The results from our survey in France are hauntingly similar to results from past studies we have conducted in the United States, Austria, and Canada — which not only found that detailed knowledge about the Holocaust in these countries is alarmingly lower than expected, but that there is a direct correlation between how much someone knows about the Holocaust and his or her likelihood to reject anti-Semitic attitudes or condone neo-Nazism.

Our survey reveals this connection. In France, just 3% of those with detailed knowledge about the Holocaust — such as knowing that 6 million Jews were killed — said it was acceptable to hold neo-Nazi beliefs, compared to 15% of French adults who do not know this critical fact.

Indeed, these Holocaust studies have been conducted over a span of two years (2018-2020) during which anti-Semitic incidents and sentiment have risen to levels not seen since the heyday of Nazism — both in Europe and here in the United States.

Long a beacon of hope for world Jewry, the United States has become ground zero for drastic upticks in anti-Semitic attacks and sentiment.

In 2018, the Anti-Defamation League recorded a record 1,879 anti-Semitic attacks in the United States. 2018 was also the year in which the deadliest attack on Jews in American history took place during an atrocious massacre at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue.

In the New York metropolitan area, the past two months have seen a spate of anti-Jewish attacks, including the killing of two Jews in a Kosher supermarket in New Jersey and the stabbing of five Jews inside a Rabbi's home in New York.

Americans recognize the growing problem of anti-Semitism in the United States — as do citizens in other countries. Seventy percent of French respondents and 68% of American adults believe there is anti-Semitism in the United States today.

In the eyes of the world, America has become unsafe for Jews.

Amidst our new reality of near-daily physical and verbal assaults targeting Jews, it is not surprising that many have started to wonder if "never again" is realistic.

Findings from our latest Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness study in France and the 2018 U.S. Holocaust study show majorities in both nations believe that another Holocaust is indeed possible. In the United States, 58% of respondents, and 54% of French respondents believe that "something like the Holocaust can happen again."

Highlighting the frighteningly concerning situation of Jews today, 35% of French respondents believe the Jewish people specifically are at risk for another mass genocide. It is clear that many French citizens feel that Jews still face a catastrophic event.

The pessimistic perception of Jewish safety is coupled with a drastic loss of empathy for the Holocaust and its victims — a troubling sign indicating that as people are less interested in the Holocaust, Jewish safety is endangered. A full 70% of American adults say "fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to." In France (59%) and across all four countries studied, there are large majorities who believe this as well.

Efforts to increase Holocaust awareness have fallen flat, as the belief that the Holocaust is a myth or that the number of Jews who died is greatly exaggerated is still prevalent in France — a country that was occupied by the Germans and saw 75,000 French Jews deported to German camps. Our survey found that nearly one-quarter (23%) of French Millennials and Gen Z, as well as 10% of all French adults believe this dangerous misconception.

Despite recognition of the problem, no concerted effort has been made to stop it.

What then, can be done to combat what has become a global crisis of rising anti-Semitism?

Emphatically underscoring the failure of current Holocaust education, one-quarter of French Millennials and Gen Z — defined as those between 18 and 38 years old — say they have not heard or do not think they have heard of the Holocaust.

Results from our studies in the United States and France show that while dangerous knowledge gaps exist in Holocaust knowledge, the most worrisome are the gaps seen in Millennials and Gen Z.

Indeed, when it comes to detailed knowledge of a key Holocaust fact, an overwhelming majority — 69% — of French Millennials and Gen Z did not know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, while a smaller but still substantial majority (57%) of all French adults surveyed did not know the number of Jews killed.

Distressingly, Americans show a similar lack of knowledge on this critical Holocaust fact. Sixty four percent of American Millennials and Gen Z, along with 51% of all American adults surveyed did not know the correct number of Jews that perished in the Holocaust.

While there is no magic solution to anti-Semitism, there is wide acknowledgment that Holocaust education is crucial in combating the world's oldest and most vile hate.

Positively, our research has found that 80% of U.S. adults and 82% of French adults feel it is important to teach about the Holocaust so it does not happen again.

Further, there is extensive desire in both America (88%) and France (75%) for Holocaust education to be compulsory in schools.

France is already a step ahead of the United States, as one of the eight countries that have national laws requiring the teaching of the Holocaust. By contrast, only 11 U.S. states mandate Holocaust education in schools.

This is simply unacceptable. It is past time for standardized and mandatory Holocaust education in all 50 states. Laws must provide funding, and guidelines should be established to integrate new, comprehensive lessons into existing history curriculums.

Simply increasing Holocaust awareness is not enough. We must enhance Holocaust lessons and create detailed learning plans to ensure students receive the essential historical, geographical, and fact-based context to dispel the dangerous misconception that the Holocaust is either a myth or that it has been greatly exaggerated. Governments, teachers, and Holocaust organizations must come together to create these curriculums.

When the horrors of the Holocaust were exposed, the world made two promises to the Jewish people: "never again" and "never forget." The world must recommit to its vows to the Jewish people. Only through strengthening Holocaust education can we uphold our promise of never again.

The France Holocaust Knowledge & Awareness Study was conducted by Schoen Consulting on behalf of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Schoen Consulting conducted 1,100 interviews with French adults aged 18 and over from November 9-16, 2019. The margin of error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.1%. The full findings are available here.

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On Jan. 27, the world commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a date chosen to mark the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. But a new survey reveals we have not lived up to our promise of “never forget, never again.”
doug schoen, holocaust, jews, israel, nazis
Wednesday, 29 January 2020 11:55 AM
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