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January 25, 2023 12:17 pm
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23 Percent of Dutch Millennials Believe Holocaust is Myth: New Survey Elicits Shock In Netherlands

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avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A street in Amsterdam, Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Dutch Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz led a chorus of outrage Wednesday over a just-released report showing widespread lack of awareness from Dutch citizens about the Nazi atrocities of World War II against Jews, especially among Millennials and Gen Z.

The survey revealed that 23 percent of Millennials and Gen Z, and 12 percent of all respondents, believe the Holocaust is a myth or that the number of Jews killed have been largely exaggerated — a figure that was higher in the Netherlands than in any country previously surveyed and asked the same question by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), which conducted the report.

“This is not only shocking, it is also very serious,” Yeşilgöz said according to the Het Patrool newspaper. “As a society we have a lot of work to do. And soon too.”

Among the survey’s findings, 53 percent of all Dutch respondents and 60 percent of Millennials and Gen Z surveyed “did not cite” the Netherlands as a country where the Holocaust took place. There were several transit camps in the Netherlands used to deport Jews to Nazi concentration camps, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, but more than half (59 percent of all respondents and 71 percent of Millennials and Gen Z) could not name a single transit camp that was located in their country.

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“This country is broken,” said Harm Beertema, a Dutch politician with the Party for Freedom.

More than half of those surveyed (54 percent of all respondents and 59 percent of Millennial and Gen Z) did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Additionally, only 17 percent of Millennials and Gen Z said the Dutch were collaborators during the Holocaust, and over half of those surveyed believed that most Dutch people were only victims during World War II.

“Almost eight decades after the end of the Holocaust, we are in the midst of a generational shift,” Richelle Budd Caplan, director of international relations and projects at the International School of Studies at Yad Vashem, told The Algemeiner. “As the survivors pass away, who will transmit the torch of Holocaust remembrance and education to future generations? How will the world continue to commemorate and learn from this history? Will the Holocaust become an all too distant memory, a one-off lesson relegated to the pages of history? These questions are particularly pertinent in light of this new survey highlighting just how little is actually known about the Holocaust amongst Dutch Millennials and Gen Z. This worrisome ignorance feeds an alarming, dark and diverse trend crossing the globe, encompassing Holocaust denial, distortion and the whitewashing of history.”

The survey also included questions about arguably one of the Holocaust’s most famous victims — German teenage diarist Anne Frank, who hid with her family in Amsterdam for two years in a secret annex before they were discovered by the Nazis. While most Dutch respondents (89 percent) were familiar with Frank, 32 percent of Millennials and 27 percent of all adults surveyed do not know that she died in a concentration camp.

“This is a worrying development and underlines the importance of Holocaust education in Dutch education,” The Anne Frank House said in a statement on Wednesday about the survey’s findings.

A Bright Spot: Holocaust Education

The survey also showed that although many of the Dutch respondents lack in their own Holocaust knowledge, they support Holocaust education. Two-thirds (66 percent) of everyone surveyed and a majority of Dutch Millennials and Gen Z (57 percent) agreed that Holocaust education should be mandatory in school, and 77 percent of all respondents said it is important to continue to teach about the Holocaust.

“It does not come as a surprise that the Dutch in general and the younger generation in particular do not have sufficient knowledge of the history of the Holocaust. But I am shocked, because the numbers are even higher than we thought they would be,” Emile Schrijver, survey task force member and general director of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam, told The Algemeiner. “What is also shocking is that, apparently, the way in which we teach Holocaust is totally insufficient.”

“It is too easy to move the responsibility towards our teachers,” Schrijver added. “We should equip them properly to teach Holocaust and we should define the minimal parameters of what we feel our children should know.” Schrijver pointed to the 2024 opening of the National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam as a sorely-needed tool in Holocaust education.

Caplan told The Algemeiner she hopes more Dutch educators will take part in professional development trainings and apply to study in Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies to learn how to teach about the Holocaust and combat Holocaust distortion. She explained, “It is incumbent upon us to buttress our efforts worldwide to combat Holocaust denial and distortion.”

Dutch Holocaust survivor Max Arpels Lezer — whose mother was taken to the Westerbork transit camp and then deported to Auschwitz — said in a released statement he is “upset and deeply concerned” by the survey’s findings and that “many of my countrymen do not even know their own national history.”

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