One in 20 adults in the UK do not believe the Holocaust really happened, while one in 16 feel it has been exaggerated, a jaw-dropping new survey has shown.
In a poll commissioned by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT), more than 2,000 Brits were asked about the world’s worst genocide – and their level of knowledge has shocked educators.
Five percent fell into the ‘Holocaust denial’ category, while eight percent said it had been exaggerated, demonstrating how antisemitic conspiracy theories perpetuated online had filtered into the general psyche.
“Such widespread ignorance and even denial is shocking,” said HMDT chief executive Olivia Marks-Woldman.
“Without a basic understanding of this recent history, we are in danger of failing to learn where a lack of respect for difference and hostility to others can ultimately lead… We cannot be complacent.”
Among the less cynical, almost two thirds either did not know how many Jews were murdered or else grossly underestimated the number. One in five thought less than two million had died.
“I find these figures terribly worrying,” said Steven Frank, a Holocaust educator and one of only 93 children who survived the Theresienstadt camp.
“People don’t have a solid understanding of what happened during the Holocaust and that’s one of the reasons I am so committed to sharing what happened to me.”
He added: “At one of my talks, I met someone who said the Holocaust didn’t happen. The only way to fight this kind of denial and antisemitism is with the truth. I tell people what happened, what I saw and what I experienced. Education is so important. If we ignore the past, I fear history will repeat itself.”
It was not all bad news – 84 percent said it was important to know about the Holocaust so we can learn the lessons from it, 76 percent felt more Holocaust education was needed, and 25 percent felt it could never happen again.
However, Marks-Woldman said genocides “have been carried out across the world in the last 70 years,” adding: “Each of us has a responsibility to know what happened. The need for Holocaust Memorial Day has never been so pressing.”