“Holocaust” etymologically means “sacrifice by fire for God.” It’s a strange word for what was a mass murder, which had no purpose other than utter destruction. Entire families of an entire generation were not sacrificed by fire to please God; they were murdered by the worst of humanity and for worst of science. Many insist on the word Shoah, which means catastrophe.
An unsurprising new poll has revealed that few Americans, and few Millenials, know anything about the events of the Shoah. The New York Times writes,
For seven decades, “never forget” has been a rallying cry of the Holocaust remembrance movement.
But a survey released Thursday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, found that many adults lack basic knowledge of what happened — and this lack of knowledge is more pronounced among millennials, whom the survey defined as people ages 18 to 34.
Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. And 52 percent of Americans wrongly think Hitler came to power through force.
The saying goes “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In Europe, even before the last survivors have passed, history is already repeating itself. In Paris recently a Holocaust survivor was murdered in her own home, the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. Not only was the 84-year-old woman stabbed eleven times, but she was then burned beyond recognition. The Times of Israel reported on the crime, comparing it to another similar attack on a Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, in her home last year.
France has been Ground Zero for anti-Semitic attacks in a continent not exactly unfamiliar with the phenomenon. Twelve years ago a young Jewish man, Ilan Halimi was kidnapped, tortured and killed in Paris. In 2012, seven were killed, including children at a school in Toulouse, France. The Times of Israel called those attacks the beginning of a wave of terror in the country; though one could argue it began with Halimi’s murder in Paris, a brazen attack which French authorities initially refused to attribute to anti-Semitism.
In her story on the disappearing knowledge of the Shoah among Americans, especially Millenials, Maggie Astor spoke with a number of historians and curators of Holocaust Museums and memorials, who suggested more personalized experiences; hearing directly from survivors whenever possible.
To be sure, ignorance of the slaughter of millions of Jews stems from ignorance of all history, not just that of that era. Americans know less and care less about history; it’s no coincidence the History Channel has somehow morphed into the alien chasing channel.
The sad truth about the study isn’t just that Americans don’t know about how anti-Semitism led to the mass death of Jews, but also that they don’t care. How many know of the continued attacks on Jews in the present day in Europe; at schools, grocery stores, restaurants, synagogues, and even their own homes? The news isn’t even met with a shrug here, so why should historical accounts of the murder of Jews elicit anything more?