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.