Two per cent of secondary school children believe Auschwitz was a brand of bread or beer, a survey has revealed.
Research, conducted on behalf of the London Jewish Cultural Centre and the Miramax film company, shows many pupils aged 11 to 16 have only a “patchy” understanding of the Holocaust, despite its presence on the national curriculum.
One in four youngsters did not know Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp, with one in 10 believing it to be a country bordering Germany.
Stephanie Rose, director of LJCC’s Holocaust and anti-racism education department, said there is “an assumption that British kids understand what happened; but thousands clearly don’t”.
A north-south divide also emerged in the results.
When asked “what was Auschwitz?” only 58 per cent of children in Yorkshire gave the correct answer, compared to 82 per cent in London and the south-east.
In the north-west, 29 per cent of youngsters questioned thought the Final Solution referred to peace talks at the end of the war. Only 16 per cent in London and the south-east gave the same answer.
Ms Rose said Holocaust education improved when pupils had direct contact with survivors and that the disparity in results could be due to the larger number of survivors available to speak at schools in the London area.
Although many of those questioned could correctly identify Hitler, a small number believed a picture of him to be Winston Churchill or Albert Einstein. Pupils do not learn about the Holocaust in class until the age of 13. It is not known how many of the 1,200 children questioned last month were old enough to have taken part in such lessons.
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “Last year the HET enabled 30,000 students to hear the powerful testimony of a Holocaust survivor, took 3,000 students and teachers to visit Auschwitz, and provided resources and support to thousands of schools in the UK.
“While having not seen the survey in full, these findings suggest that our work is succeeding but clearly there is more to be done.”
The survey coincides with Monday’s DVD release of the film The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, made by Miramax.