A Holocaust survivor lights a candle at an Auschwitz crematorium.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
More than 20% of Canadian young adults aged 18 to 34 have never heard of the Holocaust, according to a study released on Thursday.
The study, “Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey of Adults in Canada,” was released as part of a larger report published by the Azrieli Foundation, in partnership with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The Canadian study found major gaps in the awareness of basic historical facts and detailed knowledge of the Holocaust.
It was revealed that over half of those surveyed (54%) were unaware that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Of the millennials who were interviewed – researchers defining millennials as those aged 18 to 34 – this number significantly increased to 62%.
Furthermore, 22% of millennials said that they hadn’t heard or were not sure if they had ever heard of the Holocaust. An alarming 52% of millennials were unable to name even one concentration camp or ghetto.
Nearly a quarter of Canadians (23%) believe that less than 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, with some stating they believed the number stood at only two million. Another quarter (24%) said they were unsure of how many Jews were killed.
The survey also revealed that nearly six out of 10 Canadians (57%) say that fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to.
Significant gaps in knowledge about the Holocaust included that while there were more than 40,000 camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, 49% of Canadian respondents were unable to name a single one.
Moreover, 32% of respondents believed that Canada had an open immigration policy for Jewish refugees fleeing Europe. In reality, Canada had one of the worst records of any democracy, allowing only 5,000 Jewish refugees.
LATE LAST year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized almost 80 years later for Canada’s refusal to admit Jewish refugee passengers of the St. Louis in 1939, a ship that was carrying nearly 937 Jewish refugees from Germany.
In May 1939, the German liner sailed from Hamburg, Germany, to Havana, Cuba. The Cuban government refused to accept the refugees, as did the US and Canada. The St. Louis passengers were finally permitted to land in Western European countries.
“We refused to help them when we could have,” Trudeau said. “We contributed to sealing the cruel fates of far too many places like Auschwitz, Treblinka and Belzec. We failed them. And for that, we are sorry.”
Responding to the findings of the survey, Naomi Azrieli, chairwoman and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation, said: “When we heard about the first Claims Conference study by Schoen [Consulting] in the US, we were keen to know how we were doing in Canada.”
“I was shocked and disappointed to see the Canadian results,” Azrieli said. “Clearly, there are gaps in our education system that must be filled, because as it stands now, as a society, we are not preparing the next generation to learn from the past.”
Claims Conference President Julius Berman noted that: “Here we have yet another study showing that Holocaust education falls woefully short, and we must work together to correct this global issue. As the UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, we are reminded of how important education is if we are to ensure that the atrocities of the Holocaust never happen again.”
Despite this, 82% of respondents believe that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school, while 85% said it is important to keep teaching about the Holocaust so that it does not happen again.
Data was collected in French and English and analyzed by Schoen Consulting with a representative sample of 1,100 Canadian adults.