Holocaust. Auschwitz concentration camp
Holocaust. Auschwitz concentration campiStock

Most American adults know when the Holocaust happened and are familiar with Auschwitz, but fewer are knowledgable about the number of Jews murdered and how Hitler came to power in Germany, according to a new American Jewish Committee (AJC) public opinion survey.

Only 53 percent of Americans over the age of 18 answered correctly that approximately six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, while 20 percent replied they were not sure, 13 percent chose approximately three million, and 11 percent chose more than 12 million.

The survey, released ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, was based on questions asked of a sample of 1,004 adults from the general population, and was included as part of a larger national AJC survey of the general U.S. population on antisemitism.

“Lacking knowledge can open pathways to trivialization and denial of the Holocaust that also contribute to rising antisemitism,” said AJC CEO Ted Deutch. “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 quarters (76 percent) of respondents knew that the Holocaust occurred sometime between 1930 and 1950, with 10 percent not sure, 1 percent saying it was between 1890 and 1910, 10 percent saying between 1910 and 1930, and 2 percent saying between 1950 and 1970.

When asked how Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, 39 percent correctly said it was by a democratic political process, but nearly one quarter (24 percent) chose not sure. Over a third (34 percent) believed he came to power by violently overthrowing the German government.

The majority (85 percent) accurately described Auschwitz as a concentration and death camp for Jews. But 12 percent were not sure.

Only 26 percent of survey respondents answered all four questions correctly, while 30 percent got three correct and 25 percent had two correct.

According to the AJC survey, education is a “key factor” in Americans’ knowledge about 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,” AJC found. “Overall, 34 percent of those with a college degree and 28 percent of those who have completed some college answered all four questions correctly, compared with just 17 percent of those who have a high school degree or less education.”