I am proudly Jewish. Most of my classmates are aware of my heritage. While I’m not the most religiously devout Jew, I go to the synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Every year my family hosts Passover for a group of friends. A majority of my Jewish heritage and pride comes from the Jewish community, which is only magnified by the fact that I live in a small rural Wisconsin town. As a result, I am engaged in a lot of Jewish advocacy work surrounding information and research into Judaism as a culture and religion.
Through my research, I came across a startling article titled “Survey finds ‘shocking’ lack of Holocaust knowledge among millennials and Gen Z,” I thought to do the same in my very small town. National and local scales are different, with those in my area all being raised somewhat similarly. Still, there was no knowing for certain what the result would be unless I did it myself.
In total, I got 59 responses (16 from freshmen, 12 from sophomores, 12 from juniors, 13 from seniors, and 6 unmarked.) As I conducted this survey physically through paper, I hopefully thought I wouldn’t have anything spectacularly bad to report. I was wrong.
Onto the results.
Do you know what the Holocaust is?
Of all students, 66% answered yes (69% for freshmen, 67% for sophomores, 58% for juniors, 77% for seniors, and 50% for unmarked.) That indicates that ⅔ students could recognize the name and/or describe it.
How many Jewish people were killed?
Of all students, 17% answered correctly; 6 million (19% for freshmen, 0% for sophomores, 8% for juniors, 38% for seniors, and 17% for unmarked.) Remarkably, 37% of all students answered that they either didn’t know or thought the number was below 1 million.
How many Jewish people are there in the world?
Of all students, 0% answered correctly; 0.2% or around 15 million. According to the Jewish Agency for Israel, the global Jewish population was 15.3 as of 2022 and 15.3 as of 2021. From there, the Data Commons (using data from the World Bank) estimates the global population at 7.88 billion as of 2021. I divided 15.2 million by 7.9 billion and got 0.192405063% which can be rounded to 0.2%. These results are corroborated by Wikipedia. Of all those who responded, over health (around 53%) wrote ‘I don’t know,’ or didn’t answer.
Can you name one concentration camp?
Of all students, 39% were able to write at least one. (19% of freshmen, 50% of sophomores, 17% of juniors, and 69% of seniors.) Of that 39%, all answered Auschwitz (except for one person who put down both Auschwitz and Dachau.) As a side note, only 35% of respondents spelled Auschwitz correctly. It is important to know, as remarked by the aforementioned survey that inspired me, “Over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos were established during World War II,” yet my results were less than theirs where “nearly half of U.S. respondents could not name a single one.”
Ultimately the efforts of this survey tell an important story. We need to remember genocides. We need to know how they start, what leads to them, what it looks like to be in one, and how they end. Otherwise, we become complicit in genocide. We forgive Hitler for all he did to slaughter Jewish people around the world. This is not a political issue, it is not a national issue, it concerns everyone. Let the results of this survey and others serve as a reminder that there is so much more for all of us to know and to educate ourselves on.
If anyone is curious about the exact specifications of the data I recorded, you can find it all here.