A new report released Wednesday details just how little younger generations of Americans know about the Holocaust, especially those in Arkansas.
The U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey breaks down state-by-state what Millennials and Gen Z know about the deaths of Jews by the Nazis during World War II. It was commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
Gideon Taylor is president of the group and spoke with KUAR’s Michael Hibblen about the report.
HIBBLEN: First, tell me about the goal of this study.
TAYLOR: We’re trying to understand is just what is the level of knowledge in the different states in the United States to get a sense of how much knowledge there is about the Holocaust, and the results were deeply concerning.
HIBBLEN: And you have an established criteria here. First, briefly explain what that is.
TAYLOR: So what we do is we look at some key factors around the Holocaust to try and understand what the younger generation understands about the events that happened. For example, one of the findings was that 56% in Arkansas were not able to name a single concentration camp or ghetto. So for example, Auschwitz — the symbol of man’s inhumanity to man, a name that for many of an older generation is symbolic of the Holocaust and is understood as that powerful, important, iconic symbol — they had never heard of or couldn’t name. And that’s deeply concerning, not because of the lack of historical knowledge, but because what it says is that there just is a diminishing understanding of those terrible events. The concern is not just simply about the knowledge, but what does it mean for understanding the lessons of the Holocaust, what happened, the genocide, and what can we learn from it in the future. That’s why we think it’s important that people, and particularly young people, understand what happened so we can learn from it.
HIBBLEN: It has been roughly eight decades since World War II, and when you no longer have many people alive who were involved in the conflict and there’s not a sharing of stories… My grandfather served, but I’m nearing 50-years-old and he’s long gone. When people are no longer around and having that direct connection, I think unfortunately things like this become almost the same as the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. It seems like such a distant history when you no longer have direct connections.
TAYLOR: Right, I think that’s the biggest challenge. There are still Holocaust survivors alive who are there at the moment, but are becoming a smaller and smaller group of people who can tell these stories and tell them in their own voices. I think what the survey showed us and what one of the goals of the survey is to educate us in how to address this issue. This is a local issue in addressing these gaps in knowledge of this critical moment in history and of human nature and human responsibility. It’s local, it depends right on each date, each school board, individual schools, and teachers who work so hard and have so much on them need to be supported. I think that’s what comes out from the survey, is that this is a very local issue and it needs sort of a sustained commitment from local communities, state-by-state, and then even community by community to educate ourselves about the Holocaust and the lessons of the Holocaust.