September 18, 2020

The Holocaust Goes Down the Memory Hole

Nearly two-thirds of young adults are woefully ignorant about this monstrous crime.

Somewhere, David Irving is probably smiling. Irving, the British author, historian, and noted Holocaust denier, has no doubt seen the news that nearly two-thirds of young American adults don’t know that six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis in World War II, and about half of them couldn’t name a single concentration camp — not even the Auschwitz of Arbeit Macht Frei infamy.

As Jon Brown reports, “In the first-ever survey of young people between 18 and 39 in all 50 states about the topic, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany discovered that nearly two-thirds of those polled did not know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Nearly half could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto. Almost a quarter either did not believe the Holocaust happened, that it was exaggerated, or were unsure.”

The survey points to the profound historical ignorance of far too many Millennial and Generation Z adults, but clearly the more scathing indictment is saved for the adults in charge of our educational system — adults who are either woefully inept or willfully blind. What on earth are they teaching our children? Or are only certain politically correct genocides — such as those of black Americans or Native Americans — worthy of classroom discussion these days?

Fox News’s Brit Hume was a bit more succinct and a lot more sarcastic in his critique: “Thanks a lot, US educators.” (Not to quibble, but Mr. Hume forgot the scare quotes around the word “educators.”)

Allie Beth Stuckey, herself a conservative Millennial, was more indignant: “What are people learning in school today?? How can you learn about WWII without learning this? How can you not be required to read Night or The Hiding Place or The Diary of Anne Frank or watch Schindler’s List or visit the Holocaust Museum? Why?”

No wonder young people are so busy tearing down American monuments. They’re ignorant of real evil.

Big Tech bears some blame, too, especially given that it sees fit to censor President Donald Trump and his advisers, and inconvenient conservative, libertarian, and Republican political speech more generally, all while allowing actual falsehoods to stand. As Claims Conference Executive Vice President Greg Schneider said of the survey, “Not only was their overall lack of Holocaust knowledge troubling, but combined with the number of Millennials and Gen Z who have seen Holocaust denial on social media, it is clear that we must fight this distortion of history and do all we can to ensure that the social media giants stop allowing this harmful content on their platforms. Survivors lost their families, friends, homes and communities; we cannot deny their history.”

The survey, which includes an interactive map of scores from all 50 states, shows Wisconsin, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maine, Kansas, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Iowa, and Montana, respectively, to have the best scores for Holocaust knowledge, and it gives a dubious distinction to New York, where a worst-in-the-nation 19% of Millennials and Gen Zers believe that the Jews themselves were responsible for the Holocaust.

If there’s a bright side to this sorry story, it’s that 64% of those surveyed believed that Holocaust education should be mandatory in our schools.

So that’s a start. Though, perhaps, as Steve Berman writes, we should take a page from today’s social justice playbook: “If two thirds of Gen Z young adults think schools did a very poor job of informing them about the Holocaust, then schools should rethink the way they present that information (or rather, don’t present it). Perhaps we should stand on street corners with signs [that say], ‘Jewish Lives Mattered.’”

Never again? Only if we teach our children real history.

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