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Over Half of UK Population Doesn’t Know Six Million Jews Were Killed in Holocaust, Study Shows

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The arrival of Jewish refugee children in London, Feb. 1939. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A new survey found disturbing levels of ignorance about the Holocaust in the United Kingdom, including a majority who did not know that six million Jews were murdered.

The study by Schoen Cooperman Research, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), found that 89 percent of UK respondents know about the Holocaust, though only 75 percent understand that it refers to the genocide of European Jews.

The survey further showed that over half (52 percent) of respondents did not know that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Nine percent believe two million Jews were killed, while 13 percent put that number at one million or less.

The newest findings were compared with separate Claims Conference studies of four other countries — France, Austria, Canada, and the United States — that showed similar results, with over 50 percent of participants unaware of the true number of Holocaust victims.

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Among the UK respondents surveyed, an ignorance of certain details that characterized the Nazi-perpetrated genocide was also evident. The only concentration camp most could name was Auschwitz (63 percent), with the second, Bergen-Belsen, far behind at 14 percent. Thirty-two percent either did not know or gave an incorrect answer.

The numbers were worse in the US, with 45 percent of those surveyed unable to name a single concentration camp or ghetto.

In both the UK and the US, however, there was an awareness of the dangers presented by ideologies like Nazism. Fifty-eight percent of US respondents said something like the Holocaust could happen again, and 56 percent of UK counterparts agreed.

Holocaust denial was quite low, with no more than 10 percent of respondents from the US, UK, Austria, France, and Canada calling the genocide “a myth” or “greatly exaggerated.”

In the UK, knowledge of the British government’s reaction to the Holocaust was low. Nineteen percent said, incorrectly, that Britain took measures to save Jews once it became aware of their mass murder. A further 15 percent accurately said that the government took no immediate action but pledged to punish the Nazis following the war. Thirty-five percent were “not sure.”

Contrary to historical fact, moreover, 67 percent of respondents wrongly stated that Britain allowed all or some Jewish refugees into Britain during World War II.

There was also profound unfamiliarity with “Kindertransport,” a British rescue operation that transferred thousands of Jewish children to the UK following the Kristallnacht pogroms. A full 76 percent of respondents either did not know or were mistaken about what it was.

There was strong support, however, for Holocaust education. Eighty-eight percent said it was important to teach about the Holocaust in order to prevent another one, while 83 percent said all children should be taught about it and 72 percent said UK schools should devote more resources to the subject.

“We are very concerned to see the profound gaps in knowledge of the Holocaust in this and in previous studies, including about events connected to the UK,” said Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference.

“Yet it is very powerful to see the overwhelming majority of UK respondents say the Holocaust should be taught in schools,” he added. “This is where we need to focus our energy.”

Greg Schneider, the executive vice president of the Claims Conference, said it was “particularly disappointing to find that the Kindertransport, an important historic chapter that reflected the best of humanity and should serve of a beacon of hope in the darkest of times, is being forgotten.”

“Now more than ever it is critical that we find new and innovative ways to perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust through education,” he urged.

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