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Holocaust study: Two-thirds of millennials don’t know what Auschwitz is

Polish leaders place candles at the Monument to the Victims at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau on Jan. 27, 2018. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

This post has been updated.

Two-thirds of American millennials surveyed in a recent poll cannot identify what Auschwitz is, according to a study released on Holocaust Remembrance Day that found that knowledge of the genocide that killed 6 million Jews during World War II is not robust among American adults.

Twenty-two percent of millennials in the poll said they haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are not sure whether they’ve heard of it — twice the percentage of U.S. adults as a whole who said the same.

The study, conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, interviewed 1,350 American adults in February and recruited by telephone and an online non-probability sample.

Asked to identify what Auschwitz is, 41 percent of respondents and 66 percent of millennials could not come up with a correct response identifying it as a concentration camp or extermination camp. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum says that at least 1.3 million people were deported to the camp, run by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland, from 1940 to 1945, and 1.1 million of them were killed. It was the largest concentration camp among many built by the Nazis during their campaign to wipe out the Jews and other groups.

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Auschwitz was among the death camps that Nazi Germany set up in occupied Poland. Soviet soldiers liberated Auschwitz in 1945. (Video: National Archives)

Respondents indicated much more awareness of modern-day bias against Jews, with 68 percent saying anti-Semitism is present in America today, and 51 percent saying there are “many” or “a great deal of” neo-Nazis in the United States today.

Despite the lack of historical knowledge, the survey found a desire for Holocaust education — 93 percent said in response to a question toward the end of the survey that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school (that being said, the survey was all about the Holocaust, so responses might be inflated after spending so much time on the subject). Perhaps because respondents feel that lack of knowledge is a real threat to the future: Fifty-eight percent said they believe something like the Holocaust could happen again.

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