Survey: Most Austrians don’t know 6 million Jews were killed in Holocaust

A Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness survey of adults in Austria shows over half think that 2 million Jews or fewer were killed.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany published a survey Thursday, which is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, revealing that a majority of Austrians have little knowledge of the genocide, its perpetrators and victims.

Known more broadly as the Claims Conference – the organization that negotiates aid for Holocaust survivors with the German government and distributes it worldwide – its survey queried 1,000 Austrian adults about their knowledge of the Holocaust.

According to the report’s summary, “More than half (56 percent) of those surveyed did not know that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. That number rose to 58 percent among Millennials and Gen Z.”

The report describes as one of its “most startling statistics” the fact that many Austrians believe fewer than one million Jews were killed. “One-quarter of Austrian respondents (25 percent) believe that one million or fewer Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. The number is even higher among Millennials & Gen Z, almost one-third of whom (30 percent) believe that one million or fewer Jews were murdered.”

“More than one-third (36 percent) of Austrians overall – and 42 percent of Millennials and Gen Z in Austria – believe two million Jews or fewer were killed during the Holocaust,” the report said.

Austrians’ knowledge of their country’s complicity in the Holocaust was also lacking. Forty-five percent chose the answer that their country had “not actively resisted” the Nazis’ takeover of their country in 1938, with only 32 percent saying that Austrians had given Germany’s annexation, called the Anschluss, their full support.

A large majority, 68 percent, still believe that Austria was both a victim and perpetrator of the Holocaust, with only 13 percent acknowledging that their country was only a perpetrator.

In addition, when asked to name a death camp, concentration camp or ghetto they had heard of, 42 percent of the respondents could not name Austria’s Mauthausen, a notorious concentration and slave labor camp complex that operated from 1938 through the very end of the war and lies about 100 miles from Austria’s capital, Vienna.

And while just over half (51 percent) knew that Adolf Eichmann, one of the top organizers of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem,” was a perpetrator of the Holocaust, only 14 percent knew he was Austrian. Meanwhile, eight percent thought he was either a bystander or victim while the rest – a whopping one third – wasn’t sure who he was.

The results, said senior executives of the Claims Conference, point to the massive need for Holocaust education, especially among the younger generations.

Austrians’ lack of knowledge is not relegated to their country alone, as a U.S. survey conducted by the Claims Conference last year also revealed extensive ignorance of the subject. Two thirds of American Millenials, for example, did not know that Auschwitz was a concentration camp, and 22 percent had not even heard of, or were not sure if they’d heard of the Holocaust.

At the time, the Conference’s Task Force chair, Matthew Bronfman said, “We must take a look at these results and determine where and how best we can begin teaching the next generation these critical lessons which must resonate for decades to come.”

In response to the most recent survey, he said “We are failing to teach our young people and the consequences will be devastating.”