Survey results pose educational challenge
BRITISH JEWS should not be alarmed by the YouGov survey’s findings, according to historian Professor David Cesarani.
He said the results represented “a challenge I think we are geared up to meet because we do have Holocaust Memorial Day, the Holocaust is taught in British schools, there are more centres for studying than ever before in universities, and the subject is routinely treated on television and films.
“Obviously I am disappointed that a quarter of young people appear to be ignorant of the Holocaust, but I fear that reflects much more a general ignorance of history. The figures show that we cannot be complacent, but that we should not beat our breasts either.”
However, Anne Frank Trust executive director Gillian Walnes said that youthful ignorance of the Holocaust was “certainly a surprise. As well as educational programmes, there have been many films and TV programmes over the past few years on this subject, which would have included this age group.
“This proves that, sadly, there is still a lot of informative work that all the Holocaust education organisations still have to do.”
At the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, director Dr Edie Friedman discerned “many gaps” in public knowledge and called for greater government involvement in anti-racist education.
Lynne Misner of Holocaust educational organisation Act for Change warned that the responses “show the danger of what can happen if the Holocaust is not spoken about in schools”.
A Department for Education and Skills’ spokesperson said the JC’s findings “underline the importance of teaching young people about the Holocaust. That is why learning about it is a compulsory part of the National Curriculum for history.
“[The curriculum] is designed to ensure that pupils acquire a proper grasp of historical knowledge, including the key events, developments and personalities that have shaped the past, including teaching of the Holocaust.”
A Department for Communities and Local Government representative said that HMD and the Holocaust Educational Trust had made a “great impact” on Holocaust education. The government was earmarking a further £1 million to the HET’s Lessons from Auschwitz course in his efforts to ensure “that the horrendous crimes, racism and victimisation committed during the Holocaust are neither forgotten nor repeated. It is essential that we continue to hear the voices of survivors.”