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January 22, 2020 12:08 pm

Acceptance of Antisemitism Up, Holocaust Awareness Down, Among French Millennials on Eve of Auschwitz Liberation Commemorations

avatar by Ben Cohen

A member of the French Jewish community attending a commemoration ceremony for the July 1942 mass deportation of Parisian Jews. Photo: Reuters / Jacques Brinon.

A new survey of the French public published on Wednesday has revealed widespread ignorance of the basic facts of the Nazi Holocaust along with a more permissive attitude toward antisemitic beliefs, particularly among younger people.

The study — commissioned by the the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany — showed that 25 percent of  French millennials had never heard, or could not recall if they had heard, of the Shoah, as the Holocaust is known in France.

Among the same age group, one in five respondents agreed with the statement that “it is acceptable for an individual to hold antisemitic views.”

Asked whether they believed that the Holocaust was a myth, or that the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis had been exaggerated, 23 percent of millennials — nearly one-quarter of respondents in their age group — were in agreement.

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Julius Berman —  president of the Claims Conference — said that the French poll was a further illustration of “the disturbing trend of Holocaust ignorance we are seeing globally.”

The situation “demands increased education,” Berman said in a statement.

The majority of respondents who were aware of the Holocaust  were nonetheless unaware of its key facts — particularly the total of six million Jews who were exterminated.

Some 57 percent of respondents in all age groups were unfamiliar with the six million figure, while a full 69 percent believed that the number of dead was two million or less. Among millennials specifically, 44 percent said they thought that less than two million Jews had been murdered.

Knowledge of France’s own role during the Holocaust was similarly patchy and distorted. Asked whether France was a victim or a perpetrator or both during the Nazi occupation, 20 percent answered that France had been solely a victim, while 58 percent said it had been both. The smallest proportion — 11 percent — said that France had been solely a perpetrator.

Just two percent of respondents were aware of the existence of the Nazi concentration camp at Drancy — a suburb northeast of Paris — from where thousands of French Jews were deported to the German death camps in Poland. Three in four respondents overall did know of the July 1942 mass roundup of Jews in Paris by French police, but among millennials, the figure dropped to 56 percent.

The French survey followed three earlier studies by the Claims Conference on Holocaust awareness in the present day. Polling carried out in 2019 in the US, Canada and Austria  found “critical gaps” in Holocaust awareness, with millennials identified across all countries as the demographic with the least knowledge of Nazi crimes during World War II.

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