One in five French youths ‘never heard of Shoah’
As the Second World War fades from living memory, a CNN poll reveals growing antisemitic attitudes in Europe
A FIFTH of French young adults have never heard of the Holocaust, according to the startling conclusions of a survey on an antisemitism conducted across Europe.
The investigation found antisemitic attitudes were pervasive across the continent, with many believing Jews had “too much” influence in business, finance, politics and the media.
Responding to questions posed for CNN by the pollster Comres, a third of Europeans in the countries surveyed said they knew “just a little” or nothing at all about the Holocaust.
The figure was even higher among young people. In Germany, which has spent decades educating generations on the horrors of its wartime past, 40 per cent of young adults said they knew “little or nothing about the Holocaust”.
Meanwhile in France, which is home to Europe’s largest Jewish population, 20 per cent of young adults said they had never heard of it.
“The results are shocking, and indicate deeply held prejudices against Jews not only persist but are widespread,” said CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward, who worked on the investigation.
“The lack of knowledge about the Holocaust is particularly surprising, given that tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors are still alive and the Second World War ended less than 75 years ago.”
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust remembrance centre, said it was “deeply concerned” by the figures and said they proved the need to raise awareness.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among those expressing dismay over the findings.
He said in a televised interview: “I’m concerned, because I think antisemitism is an ancient disease and when it rears its ugly head, it first attacks the Jews, but it never stops with that, and then it sweeps entire societies, as happened obviously in mid-century Europe.
“First in Germany and then throughout all of Europe and the consequences were horrible.”
France’s minister for gender equal-
ity Marlène Schiappa said the figures were “alarming”.
She said: “In France, the increase in antisemitic acts, as well as the increase in homophobic acts, is an urgent concern for the government.
“We will work together to produce counter-speeches and to deconstruct prejudices.”
The survey — which was completed before last month’s mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 worshippers dead — revealed a mixed picture of attitudes in which:
Many Europeans radically overestimate the number of Jews in the world;
More than half think their governments needed to do more to fight antisemitism;
A quarter of respondents believe antisemitism is a response to the actions of Israel.
A small majority of Europeans — 54 per cent — believe Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state, although a third believe the country uses the Holocaust to justify its actions.
Only 7 per cent of respondents were correct that Jews make up under 1 per cent of the global population.
One in seven people polled thought Jews made up more than 20 per cent of the world’s population — which would amount to 1.44 billion people. In fact, the latest estimate is that there are 14.7 million Jews in the world, or less than 1 per cent of the global population.
Only 7 per cent of respondents identified the correct proportion.
But Mr Netanyahu also praised European governments’ work to combat antisemitism in their countries.
“I spoke to Merkel, Macron, May and others — they’re putting up a fight,” he said, referring to the leaders of Germany, France and the UK.
“I saw Viktor Orban in Hungary — he’s opened up a centre against antisemitism. I saw Sebastian Kurz in Austria — he just held a conference against antisemitism, and that’s encouraging.”
Avner Shalev, Yad Vashem’s chairman, said his centre had been intensifying its education work in recent years: “We have created numerous tools to further our educational efforts, in order to ensure a deeper understanding about the Holocaust and antisemitism.”
More than 10,000 people worldwide had joined its online course entitled Antisemitism — From its Origins to the Present, he added.
ComRes interviewed 7,092 adults for CNN in seven countries in Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Sweden and Austria in September 2018