A shocking new survey carried out by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has found that 5% of the British public deny the Holocaust with many more not understanding the extent of the genocide.
The 5% figure means that one in 20 do not believe the Holocaust happened. A further 8% believe the Holocaust is exaggerated. Additionally, the vast majority of Brits (64%) either did not know how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust or grossly underestimated the figure.
According to the survey, which polled 2,000 people in the United Kingdom, almost 19% believe that less than 2 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust and 45% of people surveyed said they did not know how many were killed. The actual figure is six million.
Fortunately, the vast majority of people in the UK do see the importance of Holocaust education with 86% of those polled said it was important to teach Holocaust in schools and 76% said more should be done to educate people.
In England, public schools are legally mandated to teach the Holocaust to pupils. Such a requirement does not exist in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, although it is understood to be widely taught within the curriculum.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: “Such widespread ignorance and even denial is shocking.”
She added: “The Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation and has implications for us all… Without a basic understanding of this recent history, we are in danger of failing to learn where a lack of respect for difference and hostility to others can ultimately lead.
“With a rise in reported hate crime in the UK and ongoing international conflicts with a risk of genocide, our world can feel fragile and vulnerable. We cannot be complacent.”
Holocaust survivor Steven Frank, who was among just 93 children who survived the Theresienstadt camp, told the Jewish Chronicle that the scale of ignorance was “terribly worrying”.
“People don’t have a solid understanding of what happened during the Holocaust and that’s one of the reasons I am so committed to sharing what happened to me.
“At one of my talks, I met someone who said the Holocaust didn’t happen. The only way to fight this kind of denial and antisemitism is with the truth – I tell people what happened, what I saw and what I experienced. Education is so important. If we ignore the past, I fear history will repeat itself.”