New Study Reveals Nearly One Quarter of Dutch Millennials and Gen Z Believe the Holocaust Was a Myth or Exaggerated
Only Half of Respondents Are In Favor Of Recent Efforts By Dutch Public Figures to Acknowledge and Apologize for the Netherlands’ Failure to Protect the Jews During the Holocaust
NEW YORK, NEW YORK: January 25, 2023—The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) today released a Netherlands Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, including a breakdown of Millennial and Gen Z respondents, exposing a disturbing lack of awareness of key historical facts about the Holocaust and the Netherlands’ own connection to Holocaust history.
The Claims Conference has conducted seven surveys across six countries examining Holocaust knowledge and awareness worldwide.
Denial and Distortion
The number of Dutch adults who believe the Holocaust is a myth was higher than any country previously surveyed; 12% of all respondents believe the Holocaust is a myth or the number of Jews killed has been greatly exaggerated, while 9% are unsure. These numbers are higher among Dutch Millennials and Gen Z, where nearly one-quarter (23%) believe the Holocaust is a myth or the number of Jews killed has been greatly exaggerated, while 12% are unsure.
Misperceptions About Holocaust Death Toll
More than half of all respondents (54% of all respondents and 59% of Millennial and Gen Z) do not know that six million Jews were murdered, and 29% believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Alarmingly, this number grew to 37% of Millennials and Gen Z who believe that two million or fewer Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
Neo-Nazism and Antisemitism
22% of Millennials and Gen Z feel it is acceptable for an individual to support neo-Nazi views and 13% are unsure. 12% of all Dutch respondents feel it is acceptable and 11% are unsure.
National Responsibility and Acknowledgement
When asked whether they support or oppose recent efforts by Dutch public figures to acknowledge and apologize for the Netherlands’ failure to protect Jews during the Holocaust, only 44% of Dutch Millennials and Gen Z support and half (50%) of all Dutch respondents support.
Although there were several transit camps in the Netherlands used to deport more than 70% of the country’s Jewish population to concentration camps, and one of the most recognizable names of the Holocaust, Anne Frank, was in hiding in Amsterdam, a majority of Dutch respondents (53% of all respondents and 60% of Millennials and Gen Z) “did not cite” their own country as a country where the Holocaust took place.
Dutch Jews wearing prison uniforms marked with a yellow star and the letter “N”, for Netherlands, stand at attention during a roll call at the Buchenwald concentration camp. Photo: USHMM
“Survey after survey, we continue to witness a decline in Holocaust knowledge and awareness. Equally disturbing is the trend towards Holocaust denial and distortion,” said Gideon Taylor, Claims Conference President. “To address this trend, we must put a greater focus on Holocaust education in our schools globally. If we do not, denial will soon outweigh knowledge, and future generations will have no exposure to the critical lessons of the Holocaust.”
One of the most iconic names associated with the Holocaust, Anne Frank, lived in hiding in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. While most Dutch respondents (89%) were familiar with Anne Frank, 32% of Millennials and 27% of all adults surveyed do not know Anne Frank died in a concentration camp. All of this indicates a need for better context within the current curriculum and a more robust Holocaust education program overall.
Photo: Anne Frank House
Greg Schneider, Claims Conference Executive Vice President, said, “One of the more troubling trends we continue to see in these surveys is the rise in numbers of people who believe the Holocaust was a myth or that the number of Jews murdered is exaggerated. In the Netherlands survey, 23% of Millennial and Gen Z respondents believe that the Holocaust was a myth or that the number of those murdered was greatly exaggerated. The numbers overall regarding denial and distortion are also higher compared to other countries we have surveyed. This is a denigration to those who lost their entire family during the Holocaust. On a positive note, this survey, like all of the surveys we have conducted, indicates a strong desire for improved Holocaust education in schools across the world.”
While many of the identified gaps in Holocaust knowledge among Dutch adults are shocking, there is a clear desire for Holocaust education. Two-thirds (66 percent) of Dutch respondents and a majority of Dutch Millennials and Gen Z agree that Holocaust education should be compulsory in school. And, 77 percent of all respondents say it is important to continue to teach about the Holocaust, in part, so it does not happen again.
Max Arpels Lezer, a Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands, said, “As a Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands, it is important to me that future generations learn about and understand the history of the Holocaust. I am upset and deeply concerned by these findings. That many of my countrymen do not even know their own national history. Without education, future generations will not understand the full impact of the Holocaust in my country. It is of utmost importance for us who survived that the future generations carry forward our testimonies even when we are gone.”
Emile Schrijver, survey taskforce member and General Director of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam, said, “While many of the historical facts related to the Holocaust in the Netherlands are not known, I am encouraged by the number of respondents to this survey that believe Holocaust education is important. We know that we can work together with educators to ensure the trends we see in Holocaust denial and distortion and the rise in antisemitism are countered by a robust curriculum of Holocaust education. This must be our focus moving forward.”
Matthew Bronfman, Claims Conference Task Force Chairman, said, “The ongoing Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness surveys continue to build a strong case for Holocaust education. As we explore the base of knowledge about the Holocaust around the world, we are competing with the rapid growth of social media and the platforms those channels provide to those who would deny and distort the history of the Holocaust. Now more than ever, we need to be lending support to teachers in their current efforts around Holocaust education and expanding their resources so we do not lose this battle to the detractors.”
Eddo Verdoner, National Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism, the Netherlands, states, “It is shocking to see that 23% of Millennials and Gen Z believe the Holocaust is either a myth or has been exaggerated. This points to a growing gap in knowledge and awareness. We must do better in our schools to fight Holocaust distortion wherever we find it. Additionally, 66 percent of all respondents and 57% of Millennials and Gen Z feel Holocaust education should be compulsory in school, while that’s the majority, the survey shows the importance of a more robust effort to engage future generations in Holocaust history.”
Read the National Coordinator’s Work Plan (Dutch only)
Holocaust Denial and Distortion
When asked whether they knew people who believe the Holocaust did not happen, concerningly, nearly one-quarter (24%) of respondents in the Netherlands, including 32% of Dutch Millennials & Gen Z, say they know at least a few people who believe the Holocaust did not happen.
There is widespread agreement that Holocaust denial and Holocaust distortion are problems in the Netherlands today. After a brief description of Holocaust denial, more than 6-in-10 (62%) of all Dutch respondents say that Holocaust denial is a problem today.
Neo-Nazism and Antisemitism
Dutch respondents believe that neo-Nazism is more prevalent in the U.S. than in the Netherlands. While 20% say there are a great deal or many neo-Nazis in the Netherlands, 44% say there are a great deal or many neo-Nazis in the U.S.
65% of all Dutch respondents believe there is antisemitism in the Netherlands today and 16% are unsure, while 53% of Millennials and Gen Z believe there is antisemitism in the Netherland today and 21% are unsure.
A majority of respondents (53%) believe something like the Holocaust could happen again, including 44% of Dutch Millennials and Gen Z. This is about average across all countries studied where adults surveyed believe something like the Holocaust could happen again (U.S. (58%), U.K. (56%), France (54%), Austria (45%), and Canada (45%)).
More than three-quarters of Dutch respondents (77%) say that it is important to continue to teach about the Holocaust, in part, so it doesn’t happen again. This includes 62% of Dutch Millennials and Gen Z. When compared to other countries surveyed, Holocaust education is considered important across all populations in the U.S. (80%), the U.K. (88%), France (82%), Austria (75%), and Canada (85%).
Two-thirds (66%) of Dutch respondents, and a majority (57%) of Dutch Millennials and Gen Z believe that Holocaust education should be compulsory in school. Additionally, 64% of all respondents say that educators in the Netherlands should be given more professional development opportunities and resources to teach about the Holocaust. Note: This is the lowest of all of the countries surveyed, including adult respondents in the U.S. (88%), Canada (72%), Austria (76%), and both France and the U.K. (75%).
The Netherlands Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey taskforce was led by Claims Conference Board member Matthew Bronfman and comprised of historians and subject matter experts from museums, educational institutions, and leading nonprofits in the field of Holocaust education, including Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Claims Conference, and the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam. Taskforce members include: Richelle Budd Caplan, Director of International Relations and Projects at the International School of Studies at Yad Vashem; Dan Michman, Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem; Emile Schrijver, General Director of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam; Tad Stahnke, Director of International Educational Outreach at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Michael Feuer, Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University; David Marwell, Director Emeritus, Museum of Jewish Heritage; and Holocaust survivor Sidney Zoltak.
Survey Methodology and Sample
The Netherlands Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey was commissioned by the Claims Conference. Data was collected by Schoen Cooperman Research, with a representative sample of 2,000 interviews with adults aged 18 and over between December 1 and December 20, 2022, across the Netherlands. The margin of error on the Netherlands sample of 2,000 is +/- 2%.
The Netherlands Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey was funded by the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future and the German Federal Ministry of Finance as part of the Holocaust Education Program.
Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey — Executive Summary
Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey — Dual Topline Results
Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey — All Adult Topline Results
Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey — Cross Country Topline