Why don't English people know more about the Holocaust?
November 10, 2021 2:57 AM   Subscribe

A recent survey commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany [Guardian] suggests that just over half of British adults did not know that 6 million Jewish people were murdered during the Holocaust. On the other hand, 89% had heard of the holocaust, and between 88% believe it is important to continue to teach about the Holocaust.

Which is interesting, because the Holocaust has been part of the National Curriculum in history since its inception in 1989 and that seems unlikely to change. All, or almost all adults under the age of 45 in England had been taught about the Holocaust by the age of 14. The rise of Nazi Germany and the Second World War is the most commonly taught period for GCSE and A-Level school leaving exams in history at 16 and 18. The BBC and other channels have commissioned major documentaries, dramatisations and other programming about different aspects of the Holocaust, both in the past (The World at War: Genocide) and more recently (The Windermere Children). Both Schindler's List and Shoah have been broadcast in recent years. And the Yesterday channel features programmes about the Nazis and WW2 almost every day. There are national ceremonies for Holocaust Memorial Day. Before the pandemic, travelling to European sites commemorating or explaining the holocaust was easy; one of the major sites of popular city break destination Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House.

So, why don't British people know more facts about the Holocaust, and does that matter?

Andy Pearce of UCL Institute of Education has written a paper contextualising the history of holocaust education in England and Wales, that explore possible answers.
posted by plonkee (64 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd kind of like to see the questions, I guess? Prior to this post I could say with certainty that millions died in the Holocaust, and that it was an attempt to perpetrate genocide against Jewish people, but also the Roma and what we'd now refer to as LGBTQ+ people. But if I were asked "how many million Jewish people exactly," I don't know if I could get that question right.

I don't think that means I'm not serious about being anti-Holocaust, or knowing the Holocaust happened, or ardently believing that nothing like this should ever happen again. Far more than 12% of people would probably go on record as believing that the earth is only a few thousand years old, or that Group ____ is genetically inferior to Group ____, or that science is the devil and we should all combat disease through prayer and horse medicine, so 88%+ of people being aware of it and thinking it should be taught feels like good news in these times.
posted by Shepherd at 3:48 AM on November 10, 2021 [41 favorites]


What Shepherd said. Last year a similar report was going around on an American survey and I dug up this link, which shows some of the questions. A lot of us don't have off the top of our heads the total population of our countries or states. I don't know how many people total died in any war, either.
posted by metasarah at 4:28 AM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


I was indeed taught about the Holocaust in school in the UK during the late 90's/early 00's. We almost certainly learned the exact numbers and had those put into context. But now, 20 years later, can I remember those exact numbers if I was asked? Probably not.

Personally I'd prefer to have more emphasis in the curriculum on the atrocities committed by the British Empire around the world, such as the Boer concentration camps, the famines in India which were overseen by Churchill and killed millions, the Amritsar massacre, etc. But that would require the British establishment to be willing to own up to said atrocities, so is unlikely to happen.
posted by fight or flight at 5:04 AM on November 10, 2021 [25 favorites]


I did history till i was 16 and never got past 1900. MY GCSE was in British socio-economic history 1700-1900, and remarkably barely even mentioned the empire, never mind its impacts. We did some stuff on the holocaust in English literature, but that was less big on numbers. My impression is that WW2 is way more common in teaching school level history now.
posted by biffa at 5:16 AM on November 10, 2021


It’s not a matter of ‘top atrocities’, but rather a lack of context - the Holocaust turns into another number to be memorised, not the wholesale destruction of a culture. I’m not surprised to see that the academy schools are even worse at teaching this stuff, because they’re basically trying to churn out STEM graduates for a military-industrial complex.
posted by The River Ivel at 5:16 AM on November 10, 2021 [13 favorites]


I don't think I was taught about the Holocaust in (Australian, 1980s) high-school at all. It was sort-of assumed that you knew about it. I mean: I did. I'd watched The World At War and still had nightmares about the scenes with bulldozers shifting stacks of emaciated corpses.

TBH: I thought the 6M figure was for the lot, not just Jewish victims, so I probably would've failed this test, while still being rather anti-holocaust (and indeed anti-antisemetic).

Personally I'd prefer to have more emphasis in the curriculum on the atrocities committed by the British Empire around the world

Best of luck with that. The Australian govt is still fighting against teaching what happened here.
posted by pompomtom at 5:22 AM on November 10, 2021 [3 favorites]


I attended a Jewish private school from kindergarten to eighth grade, so the number "six million" is permanently etched into my brain. Then again, it wasn't until much later that I learned about the millions of other people the Nazis also murdered, so my youthful education certainly had its own lacunae.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:28 AM on November 10, 2021 [33 favorites]


TBH: I thought the 6M figure was for the lot, not just Jewish victims, so I probably would've failed this test, while still being rather anti-holocaust (and indeed anti-antisemetic).

Nope, it’s about 11 million total.
posted by sock poppet at 5:31 AM on November 10, 2021 [8 favorites]


Found a list of casualty numbers. Staggering.
posted by Miss Cellania at 5:45 AM on November 10, 2021 [3 favorites]




Ta sock poppet.

I suppose mass-murders must be rated, but I'm not sure my brain really groks the (quite obvious numerical) difference. I freak out at your common-or-garden mass shooting. Moral-perspective clipping, if you will. To paraphrase: "One death is a tragedy, but OMFG WTFF?".
posted by pompomtom at 5:56 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


bffa: Oh shit.
posted by pompomtom at 5:56 AM on November 10, 2021


My kids have learned quite a lot about the Holocaust at school, and were discussing it over dinner yesterday. They certainly know more about it than I did at their ages.

Of course, they know nothing whatsoever about the atrocities conducted by the British during the years of Empire. I mean, we basically pioneered concentration camps.
posted by pipeski at 5:58 AM on November 10, 2021 [3 favorites]


A source I've consulted on this in the past is the Holocaust Encyclopedia at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website: "Documenting Numbers of Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution."
posted by Wobbuffet at 6:01 AM on November 10, 2021 [3 favorites]


I'm also Jewish, so 6 million is very familiar to me. I keep reminding people about the 5 million additional people killed who weren't Jewish.

It makes sense that if it isn't personal, the number wouldn't stick.

Also, the deaths weren't as well recorded as I thought. Apparently there were a lot of small death camps and labor camps which weren't recorded.

The thing that surprised me, and which I found out relatively recently, is that most of the Jewish deaths from the Holocaust happened in Poland, not Germany. More Jews, less warning, probably less opportunity to flee. Jews I mention to tend to already know this.

The one I can never remember is the number of people killed in the western half of the war, about 50 million I think. It's a thing I push because I think war is normalized even when it's a war of choice. Do you think Napoleon is a mass murderer? Why not?

I wonder if there's an age difference about knowing 6 million. I think I used to see more mention of the number.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:05 AM on November 10, 2021 [8 favorites]


I think it was on Metafilter at some point but I have found this 20 minute interactive video to be one of the best visualizations of the deaths due to WWII I've come across. It starts with military deaths, then the Holocaust and other civilian numbers are discussed starting at 07:30.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:14 AM on November 10, 2021 [5 favorites]


I believe New Study Reveals U.K. Respondents Believe Two Million or Fewer Jews Were Killed in the Holocaust (a slightly odd title) by Claims Conference is their press release/summary and although has few direct questions, it has more detailed than most of the popular press coverage.

In terms of the knowing the 6 million number, "only" (still much too high) 22% of respondents thought it was 2 million people killed or less, 30% thought it was more than 2 million but less than 6 million, and I suppose 48% of people knew/guessed the answer or didn't know at all (I don't see a break out of no answer/don't know for this question). So up to 78% of people were in the decent guess range, perhaps?
posted by skynxnex at 6:19 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


I agree with Nancy Lebovitz - the six million figure seems to have been mentioned much more often when I was growing up than now. Possibly in all those documentaries about the war that were continually on the TV when I was a child in the 60s. No idea why mention of the number would have declined, though.
posted by Fuchsoid at 6:21 AM on November 10, 2021


The thing that strikes me about this is that as a Jewish kid I (and other kids at my Reform temple and Saturday school) learned facts and heard sermons about the Holocaust over and over exhaustively.

The stated reason why we were continuously reminded of the horrors was "There are people in the future who will not be able to believe that this happened without evidence so we must preserve that evidence and make sure that people NEVER FORGET."

A couple of times survivors came to temple and showed us their tattoos and spoke of what they lived through. We also visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I can still see and smell the shoes.

So yeah those numbers were drilled into me very intentionally and I will never forget.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 6:25 AM on November 10, 2021 [28 favorites]


I wonder if there's an age difference about knowing 6 million. I think I used to see more mention of the number.

The 6M number stuck for me when I thought I was thinking of, apparently, either 11M or 17M.

It's a thing I push because I think war is normalized even when it's a war of choice. Do you think Napoleon is a mass murderer? Why not?

I'll admit that I somewhat admire Napoleon (for the Code, for the initial anti-monarchism, and for his generalship), but he was mostly just a war-criminal (under current law, just like almost every other European head of state at the time)(not counting that whole grapeshot-into-civilians incident).
The beginnings of the Napoleonic wars were not a "war of choice" for France. That's Russia and Austria.

In power, he'd take anyone. The Grande Armee weren't 'French', they were also everyone who joined up on the way. Sure, most of them just wanted some bread and/or adventure, but France was just resisting tyranny at that point, no?

To me the horror of the Holocaust is the genocide (we're killing you for who you are, not what you did) and obviously the industrialisation of it.

Napoleon may have been a mass murderer but he wasn't a genocidist. Again: moral-clipping going on here.
posted by pompomtom at 6:38 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


In its own way, the Proud Boy T-shirt advertises the number.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:43 AM on November 10, 2021


When I was a kid I was led to understand that deaths were mostly recorded. Then I saw my family tree, and what happened to my ancestors in Warsaw. We don't even have names for some of the little kids, because all of the people who knew them were killed. I think in one instance we have a picture but no name.

pompomtom nails it. These weren't cloistered communities of "others" being destroyed; these were families that were integrated into everyday society being murdered. It was a reminder that you can never assimilate enough. They'll still kill you.
posted by phooky at 6:50 AM on November 10, 2021 [21 favorites]


I'm in Toronto, Canada, and growing up in the 80s I think we were taught about the Holocaust from late elementary school onwards. That being said, if I was surveyed I would have said that 5 million Jews were murdered, so would have been a part of the majority that didn't know the real number.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:09 AM on November 10, 2021



When I was a kid I was led to understand that deaths were mostly recorded. Then I saw my family tree, and what happened to my ancestors in Warsaw.


Historian Timothy Snyder wrote of what he calls 'the paradox of Auschwitz' , by which he means in part that a result of it becoming the symbol of the Holocaust and the focus of education has been that the deaths of millions by shooting at the side of pits or in the Action Reinhard death camps (where most of the Warsaw Jews were murdered) are forgotten.
posted by thelonius at 7:13 AM on November 10, 2021 [12 favorites]


I learned, but I went to a high school in Chicago in a neighborhood with (at least at the time) a large Jewish population; some of my classmates had victims and survivors in their family trees, and we occasionally had Holocaust survivors (such as Robert Clary) come and talk to us. The incident and court case in Skokie, a nearby suburb that was also home to Holocaust survivors, and which led to the "Illinois Nazis" subplot in The Blues Brothers, was fresh on peoples' minds. But in terms of the WWII era in general, I don't think that we even got to that in school.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:21 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


The thing that surprised me, and which I found out relatively recently, is that most of the Jewish deaths from the Holocaust happened in Poland, not Germany.

Yes. Partly that's because it does make sense to build big camps in newly occupied land, and partly because the current borders of Poland are west-shifted compared to where they were before 1939.

My things I've realised more recently: the extent of Roma persecution, the number of people killed in Einsatzgruppen shootings, the differing experiences of Western European and Eastern European Jews, the number of people who can't be traced, the loss of age-cohorts.

There's an episode of Who do you think you are? with Esther Rantzen where among other things she traced the origins of her family to Warsaw. It turned out that she hadn't grasped that the Holocaust effectively meant that there were no Jews in Warsaw, she was unsurprisingly upset.

I've known for a long time that, small initiatives apart (eg Kindertransport, the domestic worker scheme), the British did very little to help Jews fleeing Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia before the war and that a lot of people were incredibly anti-Semitic. We do tend to present ourselves as being on the right side of history, and I think that although we definitely weren't on the wrong side in the same way that Nazi Germany was, that's too easily conflated with having mainly done the right things.
posted by plonkee at 7:26 AM on November 10, 2021 [16 favorites]


i'm a jewish person and much of my ancestry was wiped out in the holocaust so there is obviously a personal aspect to my knowledge and understanding of the tragedy, but I often feel that the biggest disappointment with holocaust education is the failure to put it in the context of its execution within an 'advanced', western nation, one in which many jews (and other minorities) saw as their home.

the reason everyone needs to remember the holocaust is not simply to sympathize and empathize with the minorities who were brutally murdered (though that's important too), but to understand that this happened in one of the most advanced western societies and to groups who, while long hated throughout europe, faced destruction somewhat arbitrarily. this was basically the nadir of western civilization and it isn't even a hundred years old. it needs to be understood as a failure of that civilization, not simply as some random lashing out at long ostracized minority populations.
posted by AlbertCalavicci at 7:31 AM on November 10, 2021 [83 favorites]


We don't even have names for some of the little kids, because all of the people who knew them were killed. I think in one instance we have a picture but no name.

My ancestors on my mum's side were in Warsaw too. Some ended up in the camps, some in the ghettos, some managed to escape to the US and the UK. My mum has been doing work on the family tree and has uncovered bits and pieces, sometimes a name and a date of birth if they're lucky, sometimes just a vague mention of a cousin or a brother. I believe the ones who stayed in the ghettos were shoemakers. There's a family story of one of my grandmother's uncles intervening in the abuse of a pregnant woman in the Warsaw ghetto, which resulted in him being shot and killed.

The bitterest irony is how many of the records of their existence come from the authorities who oppressed them (censuses of the ghetto, records of admittance to the camps, etc).
posted by fight or flight at 7:32 AM on November 10, 2021 [6 favorites]


Any discussion of the commonalities and differences between incidences of mass murder risks devolving into a competition of suffering. However, understanding the Holocaust necessarily requires understanding the ways in which it is was unique. Here's one attempt to discuss that. (An abridged version is copied below, but the original is only about a page.)

- The "Final Solution" was designed to exterminate every single Jewish man, woman and child.
- Jewish birth (actually mere evidence of "Jewish blood") was sufficient to warrant the punishment of death.
- The extermination of the Jews had no political or economic justification.
- The people who carried out the "Final Solution" were primarily average citizens. Germans could work all day in the concentration camps and then go home and read Schiller and Goethe while listening to Beethoven.

Other examples of mass murder exist in human history. But none of those other catastrophes, Fackenheim argues, contain more than one of the characteristics described above.

posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:11 AM on November 10, 2021 [21 favorites]


In Poland, the most-taught figure is 6 million, but pre-war Polish citizens - of which 3 million Jews, natch, but also Poles, Roma, Belarussians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians etc. In school we read first-person accounts of concentration camp inmates that can be pretty traumatising for primary-school kids really, but too important to omit, especially with the recent rise in antisemitic right-wing nazis who somehow also worship WWII anti-Nazi resistance.

There are definitely Jews in Warsaw still, including an active Yiddish theatre whose musicals kick butt and a giant annual Jewish culture festival (still annoyed I missed this year's). The Warsaw Jewish community was especially heavily assimilated and many survivors came back, despite difficulties in regaining their possessions and pogroms in eastern Poland, until they and their children were persecuted and the majority forced to emigrate after March 1968. They* are even more stubborn than Poles, mind you, so there's still quite a few around. The main Polish newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, was founded by a Jewish Pole, for example.

* Technically we, ethnically, though my particular branch has been Christian since around 1870, we suspect for economic reasons. Totally Jewish last name though.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 8:29 AM on November 10, 2021 [12 favorites]


And who can imagine what a million means, really? The figure is just too large to grasp, reminding me of that penny-cutting Obama budget cuts visualization.
posted by Rash at 8:43 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


It must be so surreal for the people who lived through this and managed to wrap their minds around what was happening at the time now have to wrap their minds around the fact that we'll be struggling to make people remember and care about this for the rest of time. I would feel like... this? This is what we're having trouble remembering and caring about??

One thing I've noticed about being an adult and actually now having watched history being reported in real time is the difference between how history is described, especially at school growing up, and how it feels while it's happening, the difference being that while history is happening it's all like "How could this be happening? This is so strange? This makes no sense? I can't really believe this" But learning about history in school it really felt like "And here was the orderly progression of events, that everyone knew was going to happen, and then it did happen, and this was always how it had to be, and everyone was fine with it" It's like the way we teach history has no relation to how people experience events, maybe that's what makes it so easy for kids to tune it out.
posted by bleep at 9:17 AM on November 10, 2021 [16 favorites]


For American high schoolers, given the popular mythology of the US role in WWII in endless revisitations, I'd like to see Inside the Vicious Heart become a standard text. It's framed from the perspective of the American soldiers liberating the camps and it's extremely grim and I can't imagine anyone brooking any denial bullshit after reading it. Much moreso than reading Number the Stars or The Devil's Arithmetic as a kid; or later Night or Survival in Auschwitz or Man's Search for Meaning (not to take anything away from those, they're important too).

I especially dislike using Schindler's List as an educational text, and even moreso when the inevitable classroom screening of movie supplants actually reading the book (as tends to happen in American high schools).

I don't know if there's an equivalent text to Inside the Vicious Heart from the British perspective.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:35 AM on November 10, 2021 [6 favorites]


There are definitely Jews in Warsaw still

To explain, in the Esther Rantzen programme I referenced above, she asked what had happened to the Jewish Quarter that her great-great-grandparents had lived in during the 1700s and 1800s, and was completely floored by the idea that it was destroyed by the Holocaust. Despite knowing that many, many people died she seemed to have had a very limited understanding of the devastating impact of the Holocaust on Jewish communities in Europe.

For people that are interested, the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam (founded 1930) is fantastic for giving a sense of what was lost, and makes a good addition to the Anne Frank House.
posted by plonkee at 9:37 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


I don't think I learned that number in school (Scotland, 1980s, elite public [private] school). But then, I don't think I had a history or any form of non-language arts class after age 13 or 14. History was still taught as dates, battles and great men (+ Florence Nightingale and Queen Victoria, of course). I think the latest event we touched on was the Crimean War.

I don't think British culture is good at acknowledging atrocities. I never learned about the millions who died of famine due to the East India Company's neglect, but I sure learned about the Black Hole of Calcutta at school. I never learned about the Clearances as a systemic erasure of Gaelic culture, but I did learn that lots of people moved to "found" Australia, New Zealand and Canada. I wasn't taught how all those items we saw in school trips to museums ended up there, either.
posted by scruss at 9:44 AM on November 10, 2021 [8 favorites]


I was taught about the Holocaust, and given the 6 million Jewish deaths number, but not always the larger context of Roma, political prisoners, disabled, LGBT+ victims as well. Also notably not covered was the unwillingness of the US, UK, and other countries to take refugees (alongside some victim-blaming for not “wanting to leave”), nor the enthusiast collaboration of segments of the French population.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:49 AM on November 10, 2021 [7 favorites]


The 6 million figure is also in the lyrics of Bob Dylan's 'With God on their Side'.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:04 AM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


In power, he'd take anyone. The Grande Armee weren't 'French', they were also everyone who joined up on the way. Sure, most of them just wanted some bread and/or adventure, but France was just resisting tyranny at that point, no?

Bit of a derail but no. You can kind of argue Napoleon's first campaign (1796) was in defense of the revolution (though France declared war on Austria and not vice versa). By 1798 he was in Egypt which was very much irrelevant to the security of France. The Grande Armee was refers primarily to the army in the imperial period, after Napoleon had destroyed the Republic, which was one with an aggressive and, well, imperialistic foreign policy.
posted by mark k at 10:54 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


A relatable way to think of the numbers might be, about the population of London in 1990.
posted by sjswitzer at 11:16 AM on November 10, 2021 [4 favorites]


There's an episode of Who do you think you are? with Esther Rantzen where among other things she traced the origins of her family to Warsaw. It turned out that she hadn't grasped that the Holocaust effectively meant that there were no Jews in Warsaw, she was unsurprisingly upset.

Stephen Fry had a couple of similar moments on his own episode. His maternal grandparents came to England in the 30s from the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, because his grandfather had gotten a fluke job offer. There was a picture of some relatives that had been left behind, and no one knew their names or confirmed what had happened to them; he discovered their names and then was able to track down their diverse fates (or, rather, their individual death dates in Auschwitz). And he just goes to pieces after reading that because "it's someone you know is in your family, and suddenly you see their name next to that fucking word 'Auschwitz'...."

But there's also a touching moment where he tracks down the building in Vienna where his great-grandparents had lived before being sent to the ghetto - and was stunned to see their names on a whole list on a plaque put up by the front door. They check with someone in the building to ask about it - and she tells him that the current residents had all decided to put it up to commemorate those who had been living there and been evicted during the Holocaust, and he also goes to pieces but for a very different reason.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:18 AM on November 10, 2021 [19 favorites]


I never learned about the Clearances as a systemic erasure of Gaelic culture, but I did learn that lots of people moved to "found" Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

scruss - shockingly, this is still exactly how the National Museum of Scotland treats the Clearances ie. barely at all. I went there with my dad 2 or 3 years ago specifically in search of their display on the Clearances. There was an entire floor about people emigrating to Canada, the US, Australia etc, but only one brief, passing sentence that mentioned deliberate land clearance as one of many reasons people emigrated, easily missed in a cabinet full of other things. An event that you would think is one of the most formative episodes in Scottish history, gets one passing mention in its national museum, in small type in the back of a cabinet. We even asked a curator, who looked embarrassed and mumbled something about how they could only discuss things that they had objects for and they didn't have many objects relating to the Clearances.

I hope that's not too much of a derail but yet another example of just how bad we still are at discussing large-scale human atrocities.
posted by penguin pie at 11:19 AM on November 10, 2021 [8 favorites]


Six million murdered Jews is the only World War II stat that reliably sticks in my brain. Can't remember exactly when it first got there, but it's probably one of the few things I've retained from history taught in primary school (state school, Victoria, Australia, 1966 - 1973).
posted by flabdablet at 11:22 AM on November 10, 2021


I hope that's not too much of a derail but yet another example of just how bad we still are at discussing large-scale human atrocities.

....And have always been - isn't there a story about Hitler waving away concerns about how the world would react to the Holocaust by saying that "no one remembers the Armenian genocide any more either, they'll forget about this too" or something like that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:23 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


I grew up in New York City and nearby in the 1970s. We definitely heard about the Holocaust and got the 6 million number.

Years later, in college, our group hosted Harlan Ellison to give a talk. At one point during the rant he named some Nazi death campus - not Auschwitz - and demanded to know who didn't recognize the names. A very nerdy computer science friend put up his hand and Ellison just lit into him... then ordered him to study. My friend did.
posted by doctornemo at 11:29 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


Somehow in my normally very regressive Catholic Illinois grade school, they not only taught us about the Holocaust, but made us watch video of naked emaciated corpses being bulldozed to clean out the camps after liberation. I can still see it in my mind (and gladly so) 40 years later. They also had reels of people's faces melted by the atomic bombs in Japan. It was absolutely correct to show this to the kids as they enterd 7th grade, and I hope they still do.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:35 AM on November 10, 2021 [3 favorites]


By "gladly so" I mean so that I remember the absolute inhumanity of fascism and war.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:36 AM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


How many people would know how many people died in the Cambodian genocide? At least most people learn something about the Holocaust in school.
posted by ssg at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2021 [7 favorites]


adding to Mr. Know-it-some's comment, this is something I only recently learned.. and that is the totality of the Nazi plan re: the Final Solution. They were prepared for North America, for example, and we know they had willing collaborators ready to make this happen.
posted by elkevelvet at 11:57 AM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


I thought this was interesting in the Pearce article: "research shows that, when teaching about the Holocaust, teachers have a penchant for nebulous, generalised, overarching learning objectives instead of ones more suited to their subject discipline, and they are dismissive of the possibility – even the need for – exercises in evaluation or assessment". Later on (p20) he talks about teachers using the Holocaust to discuss racism generally rather than antisemitism, which "meant students were unlikely to grasp its historical particularities or come to grasp its specific causal factors". He also makes the point that the govt's academisation policy is at odds with its desire to mandate the curriculum (p43).
posted by paduasoy at 12:08 PM on November 10, 2021 [4 favorites]


Australian GenX here, the six million figure has been in my brain since forever but I don’t know how I learned it. I was a voracious reader and had read Anne Frank and Esther Hautzig’s ‘The Endless Steppe’ before I was 10 so it may not have been at school.

The university where I work is currently doing a Holocaust awareness survey in Australia. It’s intended to feed into a wider strategy to incorporate better Holocaust education into the curriculum. The state government has been receptive, which is a win - albeit just one of many that will be needed.
posted by andraste at 12:41 PM on November 10, 2021 [5 favorites]


The Holocaust was not part of the JMB 'O' Level History syllabus I studied/was taught circa 1979-81 in England.

(However I know rather more about it than I was happy about on account of growing up Reform Jewish, attending a synagogue with members who spoke with a marked German accent and had numbers tattooed on their arms, and spending a day at Yad Vashem.)
posted by cstross at 12:59 PM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


andraste, I aso read The Endless Steppe, as well as Kyra Petrovskaya Wayne's Shurik, about surviving the Siege of Leningrad. They were both very formative for me—one of the most moving experiences I've had at any kind of public monument or the like was visiting the memorial/burial ground of the Leningrad dead when I was a young adult. I'd read and re-read Shurik so many times as a child, and had studied the war since then, that it was a powerful instance of realizing the reality of something I'd read about.
posted by Orlop at 2:26 PM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


British History GCSE certainly focussed on the 6 million Jews killed in the holocaust, but failed to include the information that almost 6 million non Jews were killed in the holocaust in any way that I recall. All 'undesirables' were subject to the same fate, be they judged to be disabled, socialist, Roma, Jewish, other ethnic backgrounds or LGBTQ+ and etc. The problem with this approach is that it removes an opportunity to create bonds between the marginalised groups that were persecuted, and results in people believing that 6 million people were killed in the holocaust.

When I was working at a school once I was asked to help a GCSE history teacher with the technical side of his presentation to a school assembly regarding the holocaust. He was a nice guy, but his second slide said something like '6 million people were killed in the holocaust', which I had to point out was not historically accurate.
posted by asok at 2:28 PM on November 10, 2021 [5 favorites]


I was taught 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust and 11 million others died by nazi hands, 17 million+ total. I was also taught that that was 1/3 of all Jewish people alive, and 2/3s of European Jews.

It's the latter fractions that really stick with me.

My maternal grandfather's family and much if not all of his small Jewish village in the Republic of Poland were killed, not in the Holocaust, but in a pogrom prior to WW2, one of many pogroms of Jewish folk.
posted by gryftir at 3:36 PM on November 10, 2021 [3 favorites]


I think the main reason I know the 6M number is that I've been part of various antifascist and antiracist initiatives, where you learn to know your enemy, and those guys just love to harp on that number and how unlikely it is, or stuff like "6 gorillion", etc.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:30 PM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


I was taught 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust and 11 million others died by nazi hands, 17 million

I believe it is 6 million Jews and 5 million others for a total of 11 million. I am open to someone correcting me. I teach the Holocaust so I hope I'm right.

6 million Jews and 5 million others is a phrase my students hear A LOT.
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:33 PM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


People Ive talked to here about the Holocaust seem to know the 6 million number and yet most are completely unaware that any other groups were killed. It a real failing IMO of the way this is taught here that most students walk away not knowing about the other victims.
posted by Mitheral at 4:46 PM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


11.2 millions total from my source, just over 6 million Jewish people. Most were not machined gunned as even the solders shooting went mad, Himmler himself saw it was inefficient and harmful to solders that evil &$_+(66. Many of the first victims were the mentally ill and aged under the guise of Aktion 4.The German people knew about it and tried to intervine. Heydrich just shipped them out.
I remember my father telling me Hitler killed 6 million people it was hard for me to imagine one person killing that many people and he explained to me he got others to do it for him. I was 7 years old.

"How many people would know how many people died in the Cambodian genocide? At least most people learn something about the Holocaust in school."
an excellent question is

as it is hard to put an exact figure on it anywhere between 850,000 to 2 million most scholars agree 1.5 million cambodians were outright murdered or starved and work to death between 1975 and 1979. The thing about the Cambodian genocide is that it is classified an "Autogenocide is the arbitrary or ideologically inspired mass murder of a country's citizens by its own ethnic group against its own ethnic group. Auto comes from the Greek reflexive pronoun while genocide comes from Greek genos meaning "race, tribe" and the Latin word -cidere meaning "kill".
In the United States the Holocaust is studied on the college level since 1991 to present as a singular subject, generally. I took Holocaust in 1993 it was the most difficult class I ever took in my life and there were many a days when we had to break because of the emotion. we even had a panel with various topics and I chose the topic of did Hitler order the genocide because there is scant little evidence on paper etc. one wonders if you even really have to prove that Hitler ordered it to me it doesn't matter because I know he did I think this is why himmlerer tried very hard to cover up the genocide. To me it's one of the most horrific events in human history. I've had the honor and privilege to meet and interview over 20 survivors. Each had a unique story of courage heroism utter evil unexplainable unmentionable heinous acts towards human beings yet a lot of these folks had such Grace humility thanks gratitude a light within them that seems to shine brighter than 10,000 Suns. my uncle is a pow in Germany and when the Russians liberated him they had some time to walk around and my uncle walked down the road about 3 Mi and came across a sub camp of Ravensbrück. he never talked about it ever. he felt ashamed because he felt he had it very good and comparatively he did, this creates a survivor's guilt that has affected many people civilian and soldier something they live with the rest of their lives.

I recommend "The Cunning of History"
by Rubenstein. here is a copy in PDF.

Shoah
posted by clavdivs at 6:02 PM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


There are approximately 5.8 million Jews in the United States today. So, if you're in the US, another way to wrap your head around the scale is to just think about every living American Jewish person you know, or have ever known, or have heard of. All gone.
posted by mtVessel at 9:32 PM on November 10, 2021 [6 favorites]


Also pays to keep in mind that the US still contains at least thousands of people who think of that as a desirable state of affairs.
posted by flabdablet at 10:40 PM on November 10, 2021 [5 favorites]


I was born and live in the United States of Amnesia and was not taught about the Holocaust in primary or Catholic high school.
Leon Uris taught me about it in his books "Exodus" and "Mila 18" which I read before high school.
posted by DJZouke at 5:37 AM on November 11, 2021


andraste: I read ‘The Endless Steppe’ in high school for lit (or maybe English). I hated it so much. It's still "The Endless Book" in my mind. I had a block of chocolate and every chapter I completed earned me another square. That's just me being a teenage boy, of course. I was reading actiony shite like Alistair Maclean at the time - a small step up from Biggles.

WRT TFA ‘The Endless Steppe’ confused me a lot at the time because I knew of the Holocaust, and I knew of Op Barbarossa and the Eastern Front and how the Western Front was essentially a sideshow once the USSR was involved. What I didn't know was the antisemitism spread so far, so I was confused about why the USSR were doing the same sort of shit as the Nazis. I had thought the Soviets crushed the Nazis in part to save the Jews.

Because apparently I'm an idiot.

I suppose my point is: I was completely unaware that antisemitism was a thing outside of Nazism. Nothing I'd been taught had told me about the history of it, why there were so many collaborators in Nazi-occupied nations etc.

At the time I read that book my best mate for years (from primary school) was Jewish, but we'd never discussed it, and if you'd asked me I would've said I'd never met a Jewish person.

So again: High-school curricula need to include the Holocaust, Himmler, and the history of antisemitism that allowed so many to ignore it until it was far too late.

(I'm just worried that studying Himmler would be some sort of object example in some schools).
posted by pompomtom at 6:57 AM on November 11, 2021 [3 favorites]


the thing about the nazi holocaust of jewish ppl that makes it really unique, and helps it be more than just a number to memorize, is that it was an industrialization of murder. an advanced, modern, bureaucratized state doing spreadsheets and timetables and hiring functionaries and building factories for the express purpose of murdering an entire group of people, and leaving no survivors. this, to me at least (and due to family relations affected in it who are still alive (!) perhaps i am biased), is what sets it apart from other genocides and may help teach it and stick it in the minds of students forever.
posted by wibari at 7:25 PM on November 11, 2021 [2 favorites]


To be honest, I could care less that people cannot exactly name the number of Jews and others murdered in the Holocaust when we're in a state where anti-vaccination nutters think they have the right to wear a yellow star because ThEy'Re BeInG pRoSeCuTeD.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:01 AM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]


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