More than half of Austrians don't know how many Jews died in the Holocaust, study finds

On Yom Hashoah, Claims Conference finds 58 per cent of people in the country believe far fewer than six million Jews perished


A new survey to mark Yom Hashoah has found major gaps in awareness of the Holocaust among Austrians, but reason for encouragement as well.

The survey of Austrian adults, commissioned by the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, found that 58 per cent of respondents thought far fewer than six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

It also found that 36 per cent believe people talk “too much” about the Holocaust. In addition, 28 per cent believe many Austrians helped rescue Jews, when in fact only 109 Austrian individuals are recognized as rescuers by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and archive.

But on an encouraging note, 82 per cent of those surveyed — and 87 per cent of younger respondents — said they believe all schools in Austria should teach pupils about the Holocaust.

It’s “not enough to believe it — we must do more to make it happen,” Greg Schneider, Claims Conference Executive Vice President said in a statement accompanying the survey’s release on Thursday.

The Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study, based on interviews conducted from February 22 to March 1 this year was released on the eve of Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls this year on May 2.

A task force of Holocaust survivors and educators, including representatives from Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Claims Conference and George Washington University, consulted on the survey. Data was collected in German and analysed in New York.

The results come amid increased concern about antisemitism in Europe and the United States. In the most recent incident, a self-professed right-wing extremist fired an assault weapon inside a Chabad synagogue in San Diego, California on April 27, killing one person and injuring three others, including the rabbi.

“Today, there is a tsunami of antisemitism that we have not seen since the 1930s, in Europe and the US,” Mr Schneider said. “It’s deeply disturbing. The Holocaust started with words, with talking about ‘the other,’ and dehumanising.

“When you see that it quickly flips to state sponsored antisemitism and genocide, you become more committed to Holocaust education, understanding that it can come back.”

In 2000, Austria’s ministry of Education, Science and Research established an online Holocaust education programme that develops curricula, provides teacher training and oversees educational projects on the national and state level, with help from other foundations (

Much has improved since then, but one cannot drop one’s guard, Martina Maschke, chair of, said in an interview before the survey’s release.

“As historian Yehuda Bauer always said, the Holocaust is a pradigmatic genocide: You can learn everything from it. For this and other reasons there will never be enough Holocaust education.”

The recent survey follows two others — in the US in 2018, and Canada earlier this year — which found similarly disappointing levels of Holocaust awareness.

Other findings of the Austrian survey included:

  • 36 per cent of Austrians overall, and 42 per cent of Millennials and Generation Z, believe two million Jews or fewer were killed during the Holocaust;
  • 58 per cent were aware of Mauthausen, a Nazi concentration camp that was located in Austria, 100 miles from Vienna.
  • 68 per cent believe Austria was both a victim and a perpetrator of the Holocaust;
  • 82 per cent say all pupils should learn about the Holocaust in school: three-quarters feel this should be compulsory, and say that this education is important in part to prevent such crimes from recurring.

That last point echoed the results of the two previous surveys: 88 per cent of US-Americans, and 72 per cent of Canadians were committed to Holocaust education.

This support is “very encouraging,” survey task force chair Matthew Bronfman said.

“Holocaust education combats ignorance, denial and revisionism,” which creep back as “memories wane and we no longer have firsthand eyewitnesses with us.”

For the Austrian survey, data was collected from a randomly selected, demographically representative sample of 1,000 Austrian adults via land line, mobile phone, and online interviews.

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