Nationwide survey shows holes in Holocaust knowledge among young adults

A map from Claims Conference’s website showing the percentage of survey respondents who could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto. (Screenshot)

A new nationwide study shows a lack of Holocaust knowledge among American adults under 40.

The report, commissioned by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, a nonprofit working to secure material compensation for Holocaust survivors globally, included findings on each of the 50 states, plus national findings.

The Claims Conference did not survey the District of Columbia because it is not a state, said a representative of the organization. The District is home to 706,000 people, more than the 550,000 residents of Wyoming, which was surveyed.

Overall, Wisconsin scored the highest in Holocaust awareness and Arkansas the lowest.

Maryland was among the 10 states with the lowest Holocaust knowledge. The survey found that 55 percent of Maryland respondents could not name a single concentration camp, death camp or ghetto. Sixty-five percent said they did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

In Virginia, 48 percent could not name a concentration or death camp, or ghetto. And 63 percent were unaware of the extent of Jewish loss of life in the Shoah.

Respondents were asked if Jews caused the Holocaust. Thirteen percent in Maryland and 11 percent in Virginia said yes. Fifteen percent in both states said it is acceptable to hold neo-Nazi views. And about half of respondents from the two states said they have witnessed Holocaust denial.

“Anytime you see gaps in Holocaust knowledge, that’s cause for concern,” said Gretchen Skidmore, the director of education initiatives at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum who advised on the study, told WJW.  “But most alarming is the high percentage of respondents saying that the Jews were responsible for the Holocaust or that the Holocaust is a myth or exaggerated. And this kind of Holocaust denial is a form of anti-Semitism. And to see and confirm that it’s on the rise, it’s dangerous.”

The study was conducted by Schoen Cooperman Research from Feb. 26 to March 28. Two hundred adults ages 18 to 39 in each of the 50 states were surveyed for The U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey. Another 1,000 people from across the country were also surveyed. Responses were collected over the phone and online from adults chosen at random and representing the demographics of their state.

“The results are both shocking and saddening and they underscore why we must act now while Holocaust survivors are still with us to voice their stories,” said Claims Conference President Gideon Taylor in a press release. “We need to understand why we aren’t doing better in educating a younger generation about the Holocaust and the lessons of the past. This needs to serve as a wake-up call to us all, and as a road map of where government officials need to act.”

In response to the study, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington released a press release sharing its “shock and dismay” at the results.

“The children of Maryland, Virginia and D.C. are the future of our region. It is our responsibility to teach them about the consequences of hatred so they have the tools and understanding to build and sustain a tolerant, welcoming society for all in Greater Washington,” said JCRC Executive Director Ron Halber in the press release. “We have to do better.”

Skidmore said there is a need for increased Holocaust education, especially because of disinformation on social media. She said she wants people to reach a point “where they can think about not only how the Holocaust happened, but why the Holocaust happened.”

Other findings of the study include:

  • 28 percent in Maryland and 22 percent in Virginia believe the Holocaust happened, but that the number of murders has been exaggerated or that it is a myth or did not happen or not sure that it happened.
  • 39 percent in Maryland and 40 percent in Virginia did not know the Holocaust was associated with WWII.
  • 56 percent in Maryland and 54 percent in Virginia believe that something like the Holocaust could happen again.
  • 54 percent in Maryland and 57 percent in Virginia have seen a Nazi symbol in their community or on social media in the past five years.
  • 43 percent in Maryland and 53 percent in Virginia have never visited a Holocaust museum in the U.S.

The full results of the study can be viewed online at

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