The 'Halt' sign at the gate of a concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. File photo: GETTY IMAGES/BEATA ZAWRZEL
The 'Halt' sign at the gate of a concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. File photo: GETTY IMAGES/BEATA ZAWRZEL

More than half of people in the UK do not know that 6-million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, with almost one quarter believing the figure was as low as 2-million, according to a nationwide survey of Holocaust awareness.

The findings — showing that 52% did not know the total death toll, and 22% put it at 2-million — were published by Claims Conference, a nonprofit organisation that negotiates with Germany to secure reparations for Holocaust survivors around the world. Previous surveys carried out by the group in France, Austria, Canada, and the US revealed similar confusion in other countries over the scale of the Nazi atrocities.

The figures were released on the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” that saw Jewish people, their homes, businesses and places of worship attacked by Nazis and sympathisers across Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland in former Czechoslovakia. Despite high levels of basic awareness of the Holocaust — running at 89% in the UK — Claims Conference officials said there were concerning gaps in public knowledge, and a focus on education was vital.

“This is where we need to focus our energy. Education will not only fill the gaps in Holocaust knowledge, but it will also make for better, more empathetic citizens,” said Gideon Taylor, Claims Conference president.

After Kristallnacht, many Jews living in Europe attempted to seek safety away from the reach of Nazi Germany, with many trying to emigrate to countries including the UK and US. One rescue effort, known as the Kindertransport, saw Jewish children given safe passage to the UK in the months after November 10 1938. When asked about the programme, just 24% of respondents gave the correct answer. Separately, 67% said the UK allowed Jewish refugees into the country once war broke out in 1939, when in fact borders were closed. 

Under the cover of war, Nazi Germany systematically killed 6-million Jews, targeted Roma, Polish and Russian people, and persecuted individuals for their political ideologies and sexuality. Despite the scale of those atrocities, about 56% of Britons surveyed felt an event like that could happen again, and just 21% were confident enough to say it could not, the survey found.

A total of 65% of respondents felt that there was anti-Semitism present in the UK today, a finding borne out by the responses of 9% who said the Holocaust was a myth, or that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust had been greatly exaggerated.

The Community Security Trust, a charity that aims to protect Jews from anti-Semitism, recorded 1,308 anti-Semitic incidents across the UK from January to June, a record figure that spiked during a period of escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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