Just over half of Britons did not know that 6 million Jewish people were murdered during the Holocaust, and less than a quarter thought that 2 million or fewer were killed, a new survey has found.
The study also found that 67% of UK respondents wrongly believed that the government allowed all or some Jewish immigration, when in fact the British government shut the door to Jewish immigration at the outbreak of the war.
When respondents were asked about the Kindertransport, an initiative set up between 1938 and 1939 to rescue nearly 10,000 Jewish child refugees and bring them to Britain, 76% said they did not know what the historic effort was.
The survey, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also found that the overwhelming majority of respondents (89%) said they had definitely heard about the Holocaust, and about three-quarters knew that it involved the mass murder of Jewish people.
A majority of UK respondents (57%) also believe that fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust today than they used to, and 56% believe that something like the Holocaust could happen again today.
Most respondents in all four nations in the UK – Wales (66%), Northern Ireland (61%), England (55%), and Scotland (54%) – believe something like the Holocaust could happen again today.
When polled about education, 91% of respondents in Northern Ireland believe it is important to continue to teach about the Holocaust. The numbers were similar in the other regions, – 88% in England and Wales, and 86% in Scotland.
The organisation carried out a similar study last year on young Americans between the ages of 18 to 39 and found 48% could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto established during the second world war.
The figure was slightly better for UK respondents, with 32% unable to name a concentration camp or ghetto, including Auschwitz.
The study surveyed 2,000 UK adults aged 18 and over between 29 September and 17 October 2021.
Gideon Taylor, the president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, said: “We are very concerned to see the profound gaps in knowledge of the Holocaust in this and in previous studies including about events connected to the UK. Yet, it is very powerful to see the overwhelming majority of UK respondents say the Holocaust should be taught in schools.”
“Eighty-eight percent believe that it is important to continue to teach the Holocaust, in part so it does not happen again. This is where we need to focus our energy. Education will not only fill the gaps in Holocaust knowledge, but it will also make for better, more empathetic citizens.”
It came as new figures from the Office for Students showed that 95 UK universities have signed up to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. This is thought to represent a considerable increase over the past year, after research from the Union of Jewish Students published in September 2020 found that just 28 universities had adopted the definition.
Last year, the former education secretary Gavin Williamson threatened sanctions against universities that failed to adopt the IHRA definition. The definition has stoked controversy among academics, some of whom worry that its conflation of anti-Jewish prejudice with political debate over Israel and Palestine could stifle academic freedom.
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