British Holocaust educators reacted in horror this week after a major survey found that a third of Europeans know “little or nothing” about the Shoah.
The CNN/ComRes study, which showed that five percent had “never heard” of the Holocaust, polled more than 7,000 Europeans, with more than 1,000 respondents each in Austria, France, Germany, the UK, Hungary, Poland and Sweden.
The poll showed a bleak picture across the continent, with four in ten Austrians saying they knew “very little” about the Holocaust, despite Austria being Hitler’s country of birth.
Particularly striking is the lack of knowledge shown among younger Europeans, with one in five aged between 18 and 34 left with blank faces at the mention of the Holocaust.
The survey also highlighted worrying views about Jews, with one in four saying Jews had too much influence in business and finance, while almost as many felt Jews has too much influence in conflict and wars around the world. One in five said the same about Jews’ influence in media and politics.
Even more alarmingly, one in five said antisemitism was simply a response to the everyday actions of Jews, while a third said Jews “use the Holocaust to advance their own positions or goals”. More than a quarter felt antisemitism in their own country was a response to Israel’s actions.
CNN said the results “uncovered complicated, contrasting and sometimes disturbing attitudes about Jews, and some startling ignorance,” with British educators among those left aghast.
“It confirms a worrying increase in the number of people who believe traditional antisemitic tropes or hold antisemitic views, as well as a disappointing lack of knowledge about the Holocaust,” said Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust.
She said “education is key” to combating hatred and intolerance, adding that survivors “do an incredible job of sharing their testimonies, but they cannot do this forever… We will redouble our efforts”.
Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem, said the results – within living memory of the Holocaust – were “deeply concerning”.
A spokesman said: “While Holocaust education plays an indispensable role in combating antisemitism, it must also be augmented by effective government legislation and enforcement”.
CNN is a US media group that commissioned the survey after a far-right sympathiser went on a killing spree in a Pittsburgh synagogue last month.
The alleged killer is thought to believe an online conspiracy theory that Hungarian-born Jewish philanthropist George Soros is behind the migrant ‘caravan’ making its way to the US from Central America.
- OPINION – Shakira Martin, NUS President:: Auschwitz trip inspires me to redouble efforts in antisemitism fight
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.
We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.
Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”