AJC Survey: Half of Americans Don’t Know How Many Jews Died in the Holocaust

Jewish twins were kept alive to be used in Dr. Josef Mengele’s medical experiments. These children from Auschwitz were liberated by the Red Army in January 1945. Credit: USHMM/Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography via JNS.org.

Only 53% of Americans over the age of 18 answered correctly that approximately six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, according to an American Jewish Committee public opinion survey released ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday.

“Lacking knowledge can open pathways to trivialization and denial of the Holocaust that can also contribute to rising antisemitism,” AJC CEO Ted Deutch said. “As we mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 78 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, it is imperative that Americans continue to learn about the most documented, planned genocide in modern history—the Nazi extermination of one-third of the Jewish people.”

About three-fourths (76%) of respondents knew that the Holocaust occurred between 1930 and 1950. Ten percent were unsure of the time period while 1% said it was between 1890 and 1910. Ten percent chose between 1910 and 1930 while 2% said it took place between 1950 and 1970.

When asked how Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, 39% correctly said it was through a democratic political process, but 24% chose not sure. Thirty-four percent said he came to power by violently overthrowing the German government, 1% said it was through hereditary succession and 2% said it was by agreements with neighboring countries.

According to the AJC, education is a key factor in Americans’ knowledge of the Holocaust.

“Broadly, those who have completed higher levels of education (some college, college graduates, or more) are more knowledgeable than those who have a high school education or less,” the AJC found. “Overall, 34% of those with a college degree and 28% of those who have completed some college answered all four questions correctly, compared with just 17% of those who have a high school degree or less education.”

On the question of how many Jews were killed, 42% of those with a high school degree or less education correctly answered approximately six million, compared with 62% of those who have completed at least some college and 59% of college graduates. Additionally, 76% of those who have a high school degree or less education correctly answered the question on Auschwitz, compared with 89% of those who completed some college, and 91% of college graduates.

The survey was conducted by the SSRS non-partisan public opinion research firm on a nationally representative sample of 1,004 general population adults ages 18 or older. It was included as part of a larger national AJC survey of the general U.S. population on antisemitism.

This survey — alongside an AJC poll of American Jews — will be available next month as part of the AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2022 report.


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