A frightening number of Europeans have no clue about the Holocaust, poll finds

DCNFHanna Bogorowski, DCNF

(Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
  • A survey of more than 7,000 Europeans across the continent revealed the memory of the Holocaust is fading quickly. 
  • One in 20 Europeans surveyed have never heard of the Holocaust.
  • One in five French citizens between the ages of 18 and 34 have never heard of it either.
  • Nearly one in five respondents believe anti-Semitism is a response to the Jewish people’s own behavior.

A survey of more than 7,000 Europeans across the continent revealed the Holocaust might soon no longer be a household term, as one in 20 Europeans admitted they’d never heard of the event that involved the mass murder of nearly 6 million Jews, 7 million Soviets and 2 million non-Jewish Polish civilians.

CNN/ComRes poll released Tuesday interviewed more than 1,000 people each in Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Poland and Sweden, and revealed a lack of knowledge about the Holocaust and attitudes toward Jews, as well as Muslims and other minority communities.

While the Holocaust is arguably one of the most tragic events in the past century, one in 20 Europeans admitted they’d never heard of it.

The number of respondents who have never heard of the Holocaust escalated among younger people in France, where one in five people between the age of 18 and 34 responded they’ve never heard of the historic event.

The CNN/ComRes poll uncovered complex attitudes toward Jews in Europe regarding Israel, Jews, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism as they relate.

About one in five respondents believe anti-Semitism in their countries “was a response to the everyday behavior of Jewish people,” while nearly 30 percent of respondents think anti-Semitism is a result of Israel’s actions.

One-third of respondents, presumably those who were aware of what the Holocaust is, think Israel uses the tragedy “to justify its actions” while one-third also believe Jewish people use the Holocaust to advance their own agendas, according to CNN.

At the same time, Europeans believe it’s important to preserve the history of the Holocaust and commemorate the events to avoid it from occurring in the future. Two-thirds of Europeans believe this, as do 80 percent of respondents in Poland specifically, the poll says.

About one-third of the Europeans surveyed, with figures higher amongst Germans, Austrians, Poles and Hungarians especially, think commemorating the Holocaust distracts from other, more current tragedies.

The survey also got a glimpse of European attitudes toward other minorities.

ARBEIT MACHT FREI, Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Oswiecim, Lesser Poland, Poland, April 2015. Getty.

“While 10% of Europeans admitted they had unfavorable views of Jews, 16% said they had negative views of LGBT+ people, 36% said they had unfavorable views of immigrants, 37% said that about Muslims, and 39% said it of Romani people,” the poll found.

The CNN/ComRes poll interviewed 7,092 adults online in seven countries between Sept. 7 and 20. Data was weighted to be representative of each country based on age, gender and region.

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