Nearly half of Americans in a survey believe Holocaust could be repeated

January 10, 1991|By Susan Hansen | Susan Hansen,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- A large segment of Americans think the Holocaust could happen again, according to a new survey, which found 42 percent believe it likely that the Jewish people will face a similar threat in coming years.

Of that number, 17 percent said they considered another Holocaust

"very likely" to occur somewhere in the world, and 25 percent rated it as "somewhat likely."

The survey of attitudes toward the Holocaust -- in which an estimated 6 million European Jews perished -- also found that younger Americans tend to be significantly less informed. Only half of those polled under age 35 said they knew either a good deal or a fair amount about the Holocaust, compared with

70 percent of those over 50.

Still, the survey's sponsors -- the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council -- said they were encouraged overall by the high level of awareness among respondents. The survey, conducted by the polling firm Yankelovich Clancy Shulman, consisted of telephone interviews with 885 adult Americans, less than 3 percent of whom were Jewish.

Of those polled, 55 percent rated the Holocaust as one of the most significant events in world history -- second only to American slavery, at 61 percent. More than 70 percent said the Holocaust was still relevant today -- and substantial majorities said the experience should offer lessons concerning several current issues, including the activities of hate groups within the United States, the resurgence of anti-Semitism in East

ern Europe and tensions between Israel and its neighbors.

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said it was essential or very important for teachings about the Holocaust to be incorporated into U.S. school curricula.

The emergence of people who claim the Holocaust did not happen -- including a recent candidate for U.S. Senate in Louisiana -- has made public education all the more important, said Harvey M. Meyerhoff of Baltimore, chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Council.

"In 20 years, the eyewitnesses to this immense tragedy -- survivors, liberators and rescuers -- will be gone," said Mr. Meyerhoff, who is overseeing construction of a new Holocaust museum in Washington. "A new generation will be born into a world that has no witnesses to the Holocaust."

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