According to a study published Thursday by the Jewish advocacy group Claims Conference, 41 percent of Americans and 66 percent of American millennials –individuals specifically 18 to 34 years old- cannot say if Auschwitz was a concentration camp or a death camp. As the Claims Conference pointed out, the lack of knowledge of such a significant world event is likely due to a growing literacy deficiency in educational institutions, especially since the younger generation knows the least. But if we forget history, aren’t we doomed to repeat it?
Lamentably, this situation clearly shows that many adults in the United States don’t know some of the simpler details of the Holocaust, which the survey released on Holocaust Remembrance Day also revealed that one-fifth of Americans don’t know anything about it.
Claims Conference, also self-described as The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, expressed that there are some critical gaps both in awareness of basic facts as well as detailed knowledge of the Holocaust.
In addition, this institution pointed out that there’s a broad-based consensus that schools must be responsible for providing comprehensive Holocaust education, and revealed that more than half of Americans believe that this horrific event could happen again.
As everyone knows, Auschwitz was based in German-occupied Poland and was probably the most well-known of extermination camps and concentration camps used by the National Socialists.
What seems quite ironic is that despite the believed probability of a tragic repeat, 39 percent of respondents don’t even know that Adolf Hitler was technically elected in democratic fashion after failing a more traditional coup.
Believe it or not, many U.S. adults also believe that the number of Jews that were brutally murdered in the mass genocide was two million or less when the official statistics confirmed the corroborated and oft-cited number of six million.
Moreover, the survey showed that 70 percent of Americans say that fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to.
Experts believe that this particular detail shows that as temporal proximity decreases, so too does the interest for recent history.
Apparently, specific knowledge of Auschwitz, and some other aforementioned facts, aren’t the only details of Holocaust education suffering.
Lamentably, roughly 45 percent of Americans and 49 percent of millennials can’t even name a single concentration camp in general.
However, the survey showed that most adults really want to learn more about it, or at least have students do so.
The survey revealed that 80 percent responded in the affirmative when asked if it is important to keep teaching about the Holocaust in order to prevent it from happening again.
Additionally, 93 percent of survey participants agreed with the statement that every single student should learn about this tragic event while at school.
Certain states in American have some form of legislation mandating a certain degree of Holocaust education in the public schools. These states are New Jersey, California, New York, Illinois, and Florida.
In addition, lawmakers representing 20 different states have tried to introduce some bills to do the same. Nevertheless, with the latest findings from the institution, more may need to be done.
According to different reports, the findings were part of a project helped by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, George Washington University, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Israel, and others.
Apparently, some schools across the United States are making efforts to change this terrible situation.
One of the greatest examples came from private school Northfield Mount Hernon in Massachusetts, which decided to invite organizer and owner of the award-winning exhibit of 300 World War II documents Danny Spungen, to enlighten the students on both the intricacies and fundamentals of the Holocaust.
The private school, along with Spungen and some other influential speakers showed different films they thought were quite significant. One of these was The Counterfeiters, a 2007 Oscar winner for best foreign language movie that shows the secret Nazi scheme of currency forging.
Also in attendance were Peter Petschauer and Zohara Boyd, both retired professors with very different stories.
On one hand, Petschauer’s father was a former German officer who tried to volunteer for the army on different opportunities and worked in administrative roles for the Nazi regime.
On the other hand, Boyd was part of the first ghetto that the Nazis established when they invaded Poland, a clear act of aggression part of their scandalous Lebensraum campaign.
Both Boyd and Petschauer gave a diverse set of recollected data for the students and claimed that this was a tragic event that should never be forgotten.