Americans barely know anything about the Holocaust anymore.
People, communities — even entire nations — reap what they sow. Our priorities eventually have consequences — good or bad.
Knowing history continues to be near the bottom of America’s priority list. As a result, we don’t know some pretty basic things about our own country, much less the world. I’ve talked about the recent studies that show how little Americans know about the Constitution, that over one-third of us cannot name a single right protected by the First Amendment.
Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, and a new study was released that finds a sad number of American adults know very little about the Holocaust. The stats are especially disturbing among Millennials (age 18 to 34).
41 percent of Millennials and 31 percent of Americans overall believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed during the Holocaust. The real number killed was over six million.
Do you know what Auschwitz was? 66 percent of Millennials and 41 percent of all American adults don’t know. Let that sink in — two-thirds of Millennials don’t know anything about Auschwitz.
61 percent of Americans don’t realize that Hitler was democratically elected. You can bring up Hitler next time someone wants to talk about abolishing the electoral college.
The fact that 96 percent of respondents say they believe the Holocaust happened almost sounds like it’s supposed to come as a relief — we sure don’t know anything about the Holocaust, but hey, at least we think it probably happened. This is tragic.
Today, there are around 400,000 Holocaust survivors still living. Yet, what they went through is already fading from our cultural memory.
The most overused cliché about history is that if we don’t know it, we’re doomed to repeat it. Knowing human nature, we’re probably doomed to repeat it anyway. But at least if you know history, there’s a chance you might be able to resist repeating it.
In an era of constant saber-rattling around Israel, the world obviously hasn’t learned the lesson of the Holocaust. Apparently, we’re not learning it in America either — last year, anti-Semitic incidents in the US surged 57 percent.
Where do we go from here? We need to resolve, right now, not to go over the cliff with the rest of humanity.
JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images