In what is truly the most depressing news I’ve seen in a long time, a new study shows that Americans’ knowledge of the Holocaust is shockingly poor, a trend that gets worse among millennials.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that 31% of Americans believe fewer than two million Jews were killed; the number was actually around six million. Yet 93% think the Holocaust should be taught in schools, and 96% believe the Holocaust occurred. The study, released on Holocaust Remembrance Day, was conducted by Schoen Consulting in February, and the questions were developed in consultation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial center.
But the most shocking figure: 66% of millennials, who made up 31% of the sample, don’t know what Auschwitz was, which suggests that knowledge of the Holocaust is slipping away over the generations. I guess, therefore, I should explain: Auschwitz-Birkenau was a network of concentration and extermination camps built by the Nazis in Poland, where at least 1.1 million people were killed. Most of them were Jews, but not all: Roma and Soviet POWs also died at Auschwitz, as well as around 140,000 Poles, for whom the camp was initially set up. Almost everyone who was sent there was killed immediately, mostly in gas chambers; at the height of its operations, 6,000 Jews were gassed there every day.
I mean, fuck, it feels crazy to have to explain that, but apparently a good chunk of people reading this—statistically speaking—probably do not know what Auschwitz was!
It’s hard to know how to explain this phenomenon, although the simple passage of time is certainly a factor. It’s also surely a sign that American children are not being educated properly. Perhaps that’s partly due to the massive focus (and funding advantage) on STEM subjects, often to the detriment of humanities funding, coupled with the massive underfunding of schools in general. It’s also likely because our education system is so overwhelmed with the push for standardized testing, which leaves subjects like history and foreign languages behind.
Can’t wait to live in a world run by internet-addled kids raised on algorithmic YouTube suggestions and memes, who know how to code but not what the Holocaust was. Gonna be great.