Survey of North American Teens on the Holocaust and Antisemitism

No Canadian province or territory mandates Holocaust education as part of their secondary school curricula. In the United States, only 22 states require Holocaust education as part of their secondary school curricula.

 

While some teachers introduce Holocaust education through history or literature, many students first encounter the Holocaust and other state-sanctioned and systematic mass murders through nontraditional sources, such as though comic books, social media accounts, video games, and television shows.

 

We used a pre/post-treatment survey to assess what 3,593 teens across Canada and the United States know and think about the Holocaust and antisemitism. Our treatment was a two-day virtual conference called Education Days, organized by Liberation75. 

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Based on the data we collected, we came to the following conclusions:

STUDENTS HAVE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT JEWS AND ANTISEMITISM

  • 69.28% of students understand that Jews are defined as belonging to an ethno-religious group.

  • 53.98% of students understand that antisemitism is hatred that is directed toward the Jewish people.

STUDENTS HAVE WITNESSED ANTISEMITISM

  • 42% of students said they unequivocally witnessed an antisemitic event even though the vast majority of study participants self-identified as non-Jewish. 

  • The anecdotes students shared about these events were disturbing and occasionally violent. In addition to the traditional antisemitic tropes, examples included hearing jokes about Jewish people being put into ovens, celebrations of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and hateful comments on social media or gaming platforms.

STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL

 

  • Before the educational treatment, 80% of respondents reported that they had heard of the Holocaust; however 40% of these students heard about the Holocaust on social media.

STUDENTS HAVE BEEN IMPACTED BY HOLOCAUST DENIAL

  • 32.90% of students don't know what to think about the Holocaust, think the number of Jews who died has been exaggerated, or question whether the Holocaust even happened.

LEARNING ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST HAS A POSITIVE IMPACT

  • After experiencing the educational treatment, students were 9% more likely to act if they observed an antisemitic event occurring.​

STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM EDUCATIONAL MANDATES

  • When asked how often respondents believe Jews experience antisemitism in the place where they live, respondents from Florida (where educational mandates exist) responded 'a lot' 17% more often than respondents from Ontario (where no such mandate exists). 

  • Florida students were more likely (+3.93%) to agree that the Holocaust occurred and less likely to express questioning or denial than students from Ontario schools.

  • Florida students were more likely to state that the Holocaust could happen again (+11.75%) and less likely to state that it could not (-4.46%).

STUDENTS WANT TO LEARN MORE

  • Students want to become more literate in Holocaust and genocide studies. 

  • 92.64% of Ontario students said they wanted to learn more about the Holocaust, and 87.19% reported interest in learning about other genocides.

 

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Given these results, we are calling on provincial and territorial governments across Canada to mandate more robust teaching of the Holocaust and antisemitism within curricula to ensure our youth know about the dangers of what happens when hate goes unchecked and we don’t stand up for each other. Many Canadian and international organizations have developed and organized curricular resources that Canadian teachers can use to implement this policy.

 

We strongly believe that Holocaust and genocide literacy results in a student body more likely to prevent bullying, discrimination, and other intergroup conflicts at early, nonviolent stages, as well as a generation of future leaders positioned to prevent and mitigate conflict at late, violent stages.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

MEDIA CONTACT: Marilyn Sinclair at (416) 801-8456 or marilyn@liberation75.org.

This study was conducted by Dr. Alexis Lerner, Presidential Data Postdoctoral Fellow at Western University, on behalf of Liberation75.

 

This study was made possible in part through the generous financial support of the Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate, a Government of Ontario initiative designed to build a more inclusive society, where communities are protected against racism, discrimination, and hate.