Holocaust Knowledge Keeps Dwindling

Two new studies have appeared indicating the lack of justice for Jews and even the lack of knowledge of the hideous truth about the Holocaust.  One is a comprehensive national survey in the U.S. of Holocaust awareness and knowledge among U.S. adults, using a sample of 1,350, which was commissioned and issued in spring 2020 by the Claims Commission, CC, in the U.K.  The second is a report on the massacre of Jews at the ravine of Babi Yar (Babyn Yar), outside Kiev (Kyiv), capital of Soviet Ukraine.

Though there are encouraging notes in the CC survey, it finds significant gaps in awareness of basic facts and detailed knowledge of the Holocaust.  Most of the respondents said they had heard of the Holocaust — three quarters had definitely heard of it and another 10% probably had.  Yet 10% said the Holocaust did not happen, and 23% said it was a myth, or was greatly exaggerated, or they were not sure.

There was more agreement on responsibility for the Holocaust.  Of the whole number in the survey, 83% thought Adolf Hitler had caused it, and 67% thought the Nazis were responsible and Germany 36%.  However, three significant and disturbing facts are found.  One is that these figures were lower for Millennials than for the general group.  This confirms other studies indicating that younger people are less aware of or less interested in the realities of the persecution of Jews.  The second is that more than 11% of U.S. adults (15% Millennials) under 40 believe that Jews caused the Holocaust, and 28% thought the Holocaust is a myth.

A third is unexpected ignorance of reality, in spite of the number of books, films, and TV programs that deal with the issue of the Holocaust.  During World War II, there were over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe, but 45% of those surveyed could not name a single one.  Of those who could name an infamous camp, about 56% were unable to identify the exact nature of Auschwitz: 40% said it was a concentration camp (Millennials 22%), 23% thought it was a death camp (Millennials 11%), and 1% said it was a labor camp.

There is also a lack of precision about the number of Jews killed.  Sixty-three percent did not know that six million were murdered, and 36% thought two million or fewer were killed.

Three comments may be made. One can conclude there are indeed considerable gaps in awareness of basic facts, let alone details, of the Holocaust.  Fewer people are interested in the subject than used to be the case.  Secondly, younger adults are less interested than their elders and have less accurate information.  Thirdly, the main source of information for those surveyed is the social media, which often publish and perpetuate ideas of denial or false information of the Holocaust.  This raises again the difficult question of whether limits on free speech should be imposed.  Should social media be required to remove false or biased content from their websites?  Accurate information varies widely in the U.S.: at the bottom are Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida; the most informed persons are in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Massachusetts.

One can argue that the Holocaust began in a ravine in Ukraine.  Important information has recently been revealed about the event in that ravine that in some ways can be characterized as one of the worst horrors of World War II, the beginning of the Holocaust, the start of the Final Solution.  A report has been issued done under the direction of Dr. Martin Dean, former crimes investigator for the Metropolitan Police in the U.K.  He investigated the slaughter on September 29–30, 1941 of 33,771 Jews in Babi Yar, Babyan Yar, in Kiev.  They were killed in a 48-hour period in a canyon 500 feet long, and Russian POWs covered their bodies with soil and rubble.  Dean's report provides exact details of the massacre, the manner on which it was carried out, the location, and identities of many of the victims.

The explanation for the massacre is that it was a response to explosions in the city of Kiev planted by Soviet secret police and military engineers.  This was used as a pretext to murder all the Jews of Kiev.  The Nazi authorities published an edict in three languages, Russian, Ukrainian, and German, that all Jews of the city of Kiev and its vicinity had to appear by the morning of September 29, 1941 with documents, money, valuables, and warm clothing.  Anyone disobeying the order would be shot.  More than 30,000 arrived at the given location, believing they were going to be resettled.

A number of comments can be made.  First, the victims were women and children, some of whom were beaten to death, and the elderly.  They were ordered to strip naked.  Previously, the Nazis had murdered able-bodied men, and women and children were mostly spared.  The victims were killed in large groups by machine guns and fast-action pistols.  Secondly, it was up to that point the largest mass killing on the Eastern front, until the event the next month in Odessa, then under Romanian control, on October 22–24, 1941, when 50,000 Jews were murdered by Romanian soldiers, Einsatzgruppe SS, and local ethnic Germans.

A third point is that though the decision to carry out the massacre was made by the German military governor in Kiev, it was carried out by a mixture of Nazis and their collaborators.  They consisted of the Sonderkommando, SD, and SiPo men, a Waffen SS battalion, and a police battalion, reinforced by the Ukrainian auxiliary police and local collaborators.  In other words, both the regular German Wehrmacht, supposed to be "clean" and not to have been involved in the Holocaust, and Ukrainians were involved.  The event was an example of the pivotal role of the ethnic Germans in Ukraine in implementing Nazi policies; they were not victims of either Hitler or Stalin.

The main commander of Babi Yar was a man named Paul Blobel, commander of the Sonderkommando, work units made up of Nazi death camp prisoners.  He choreographed the mass execution.  He also supervised the attempts by the Nazis to eliminate any evidence of the action as the Nazis hid the evidence by exhuming the bodies and burning them.  He was found guilty of crimes against humanity at the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunal and hanged in June 1951.

No official account of the event was published in the Soviet Union, though Yevgeni Vevtushhko wrote a poem in 1961 expressing that there were no monuments to Babi Yar, only coarse earth heaped roughly on the ground.  Dmitri Shostakovich in 1962 subtitled his Symphony No. 13 "Babi Yar" and denounced anti-Semitism.  A large monument was built in June 1976, but it did not mention Jews.  In 1992, a Jewish organization put up a different one.

The ravine has been covered up and is now a park.  Children play over dead bodies.  It would be a more significant tribute if the children of Kiev, as well as many Americans, learned about the reality of the Holocaust.

Image: Louis P. Hirshman via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

If you experience technical problems, please write to helpdesk@americanthinker.com