A disturbing 80 percent of young Americans are unaware of basic facts about the Holocaust

The gate leading to the Auschwitz death camp.
(Image credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

A nationwide survey out Wednesday reveals millennials and Gen Z Americans have a disturbing ignorance of the Holocaust.

For what organizers are calling the first nationwide Holocaust knowledge survey, 1,000 Americans age 18 to 39 — 200 from each state — were asked if they knew about the systemic murder of more than 6 million Jews and other minorities during World War II. Just 17 percent of them were aware of basic facts regarding the Holocaust, while not many fewer, 12 percent, didn't think they'd even heard the word Holocaust before, the survey found.

Among the most shocking findings was that 63 percent of respondents said they didn't know 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. About a third of them — 36 percent — said they believed 2 million or fewer Jews were killed. A bit less than half of those surveyed couldn't name even one of the 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos, while 56 percent didn't recognize the name of the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Perhaps most disturbingly, 56 percent of respondents say they've recently seen Nazi symbols and propaganda used in their communities or on social media.

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In all, just 17 percent had heard of the Holocaust, knew 6 million Jews were killed, and could name a concentration camp, constituting what the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany called a basic knowledge of the genocide. Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, and New York had the lowest Holocaust knowledge scores of all the states. Still, 80 percent of respondents say it's important to learn more about the Holocaust so it doesn't happen again. Find the whole survey here.

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Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn is a graduate of Syracuse University, with degrees in magazine journalism and information technology, along with hours to earn another degree after working at SU's independent paper The Daily Orange. She's currently recovering from a horse addiction while living in New York City, and likes to share her extremely dry sense of humor on Twitter.