Released just days ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, this survey represents the fourth in a series of global surveys conducted by the Claims Conference to determine the current status of Holocaust knowledge around the world. Similar to previous surveys conducted in the United States, Canada and Austria, outcomes from the France study indicate alarming gaps in knowledge of historical facts about the Holocaust.
“Once again, we are seeing a significant lapse in understanding about the Holocaust, a history that is critically important,” Berman said of the France survey. “Our current education is not ample; it is failing us and the disturbing trend of Holocaust ignorance we are seeing globally demands increased education.”
Matthew Bronfman, Claims Conference Task Force Chair for the Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, commented, “It is devastating to learn that younger generations do not understand the impact of the Holocaust. It was an attempted extermination of an entire people. Without knowledge, how can we ensure that prejudice and unchecked hatred are confronted?”
To that end, the France study indicates that more than half of those polled (52 percent) believe that something like the Holocaust could happen again in Europe, an unsettling finding. Worth noting, 36 percent of French respondents feel that something like the Holocaust could happen in the United States, a sentiment that mirrors findings in the previously conducted Austria survey which indicated 47 percent felt that something like the Holocaust could happen in the United States.
Similar to the Austria survey, France survey respondents revealed a conflict about their country’s Holocaust legacy. An overwhelming number of French respondents (58 percent) believe that France was both a victim and a perpetrator of the Holocaust.
There is a clear age gap when it comes to awareness of France’s Holocaust history, including events related to the Vel d’Hiv’ Roundup – with just 56 percent of Millennials and Gen Z aware of the historical mass arrest compared to 74 percent of French respondents overall. Also shocking is the level of knowledge about the Drancy internment camp, located in a suburb of Paris, with a mere two percent of all French respondents knowing about the camp.
On an encouraging note, 82 percent of respondents believe it is important to continue teaching about the Holocaust in part so that it doesn’t happen again. Further, 79 percent of French respondents indicate that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school, while 75 percent believe it should be compulsory in school. The desire in France for Holocaust education mirrors the findings in the previous U.S., Canada and Austria studies, indicating a consensus, in those countries, for the need for Holocaust education.
Robert Ejnes, Executive Director, of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) stated, “This study shows remarkable information that needs to be taken with attention. Much has been done in France for the education of the Shoah, but we all know that education has to be repeated again and again and adapted to speak to each generation. We therefore stress the importance of an always- adjusted education and the necessity of the dedication of every actor to work together to obtain sustainable results in our society.”
Greg Schneider, Claims Conference Executive Vice President remarked, “As we mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it is distressing to see a waning level of knowledge about the Holocaust. It is rare to find anything that we can all agree on globally, but this agreement on the need for Holocaust education must be our call to action.
(Note: *The term ”Shoah” is used in place of “Holocaust” in France)
A survey task force, led by Claims Conference Board member Matthew Bronfman, consisted of Holocaust survivors, as well as representatives from museums, educational institutions, and leading nonprofits in the field of Holocaust education, including the following: Yad Vashem; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah; Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), the Claims Conference; and George Washington University.
The Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study was commissioned by the Claims Conference. Data was collected in French and analyzed by Schoen Consulting, with a representative sample of 1,100 French adults via landline, cell phone, and online interviews. Respondents were selected at random and constituted a demographically representative sample of the adult population in France.