Teens do not foresee another Holocaust

New survey: Teens aware of anti-Semitism, majority also thinks Israel under some threat of destruction.

Holocaust generic (photo credit: Jonathan Beck)
Holocaust generic
(photo credit: Jonathan Beck)
On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israel's 60th anniversary, a new survey of Israeli teenagers released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that most do not believe another Holocaust against the Jewish people could take place. But a majority thinks Israel is under some threat of destruction. The telephone survey of 500 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 conducted in late March also asked how they felt about traveling to Poland to learn about the Holocaust by visiting historic sites and former concentration camps. The poll found that while the trip had a profound impact on the vast majority of teens who participated, those who opted not to go cited "a lack of finances" as the main reason for not participating. "Lack of interest" was the second most-cited reason. A growing number of Israeli youth - 30 percent - believes that "Israel is under a serious threat of destruction," compared to 24% in 2007, while 52% said they believed Israel was facing "a certain threat of destruction," a slight decline from 59% in 2007. More teenage girls were convinced Israel was under serious threat than teenage boys, the survey found. On the question of whether a second Holocaust of the Jewish people was possible, 9% said there was a real possibility, compared to 6% in 2007; 30% said there was a certain possibility and 59% said a second Holocaust was impossible. While most teens still relate to anti-Semitism as an historical event rather than a present-day issue, there has been a significant increase in awareness of contemporary anti-Semitic manifestations, 27% - up from 9% in 2007. Iran was associated with anti-Semitism by a much larger percentage of those surveyed - 14% - compared to 1% in 2007. "Israeli teenagers understand anti-Semitism in the context of history and not as something they might encounter in their daily lives. Yet there is a growing awareness of contemporary anti-Semitism and threats to Israel's existence," said Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL's US national director. "As the YouT4ube generation, they are much more aware of attacks on Jews and the Jewish State." The survey findings were released in Jerusalem by the ADL's Israel Office on Wednesday as a follow-up to a 2007 survey on Anti-Semitism Awareness Among Teenagers in Israel. Among the survey's main findings this year, it appeared the vast majority of teenagers had some awareness of global anti-Semitism (91%). If anti-Semitism does occur somewhere in the world, then 69% believed that Israel should react, regardless of the severity of the incident. Teenagers are less likely than adults to perceive foreign criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, the survey also found. A parallel survey of adults was undertaken for comparison purposes. Most Israeli teens (80%) have never encountered anti-Semitism personally, while more of the adults polled said they had encountered anti-Semitism in one form or another. The average Israeli teen believed he only had a small or reasonable amount of knowledge and tools to react in the face of anti-Semitism. Most of their awareness of anti-Semitism has come from the classroom, but half of those polled said they should be learning more. The adults polled were even more convinced that the kids should be learning more about anti-Semitism in schools. Interestingly, however, 18% of the adults were not able to answer the question and said they just didn't know how much about anti-Semitism was taught in the schools. The poll found that 65% of teenagers said school was their source of knowledge about anti-Semitism, down from 76% in 2007. A total of 39% cited TV programs, 19% cited the Internet, 25% cited newspapers and 11% cited parents. The educational trips to Poland were very beneficial, the teens polled said. However, there was a huge discrepancy between the 15- and 16-year-olds who said they were interested in going on a trip and the number that actually went their senior year. Two-thirds said they planned to participate in a trip to Poland, but less than 10% actually went. More than 70% of those said that the journey strengthened their ties to the Jewish people. Among 17-year-olds who didn't go to Poland, 31% said it was due to finances, 17% said it was out of fear, 15% cited bad timing, 11% cited lack of interest and 3% said it was for ideological reasons. The rising cost of the trips has sparked protests on the part of parents and a debate as to how to alleviate the costs. When asked, "What comes to your mind when you hear the term 'anti-Semitism?'" close to 50 associations were given. The most common answers included: Holocaust (32%), Nazis (26%), Germany (17%), Iran (14%), hatred of Jews (13%), infinite hatred (10%), Jews (9%), racism (8%), Hitler (8%), Arabs (7%), France (4%) and terror (2%). The ADL commissioned Market Watch to carry out the research. Telephone interviews were conducted among 500 randomly chosen teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 (inclusive) on March 27-28, 2008. The survey's margin of error was plus or minus 4.4%. A similar survey was conducted in March 2007.