Here’s the good news: Most Americans accept the reality of the Holocaust. Most Americans can also tell you what the Holocaust was — if not precisely, then something at least close.
And according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, atheists and agnostics are as knowledgeable about the Holocaust as Jews — and all of those groups know far more than Christians.
The survey, which builds on an earlier study about religious knowledge, asked participants four multiple-choice questions relating to the Holocaust:
- When did the Holocaust happen? (Answer: Between 1930-1950. 69% got that right.)
- What were Nazi-created ghettos? (Answer: Parts of a city/town where Jews were forced to live. 63% got that right.)
- In total, about how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust? (Answer: Approximately 6 million. 45% got that right.)
- Which best describes how Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany? (Answer: A democratic political process. 43% got that right.)
Of those four questions, Jewish participants got an average score of 3.2 correct. Atheists and agnostics? 3.1 apiece.
Christians? A pathetic 2.1.
It gets even worse for them when you look at each question.
None of this is to say one group is “smarter” than the other. But the fact that there’s such a difference between the groups suggests that pastors don’t discuss the Holocaust nearly as much as they should. I’m tempted to say that, given today’s political realities, some Christian leaders are hesitant to bring up the clearest example there is of actual religious persecution since it might weaken their own argument that they’re victims of it. Or maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the people least likely to accept reality are also the least likely to know basic facts about history.
Whatever the reason, these numbers are embarrassing. That’s true for everyone, but it’s true for some groups more than others. The fact that the “hardest” question is the one about how Hitler rose to power also means we may be doomed to repeat history.
Here’s a silver lining, though: Some factors increase the likelihood of getting these questions right. They include having a formal education, visiting a Holocaust museum, or personally knowing someone who’s Jewish.
In other words, everyone is capable of having this knowledge. Some people just choose to ignore it.
(Featured image via Shutterstock)