Holocaust awareness survey shows alarming trends

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – A state-by state study by Holocaust survivor support group “Claims Conference” shows what they call “a worrying lack of basic Holocaust knowledge” among Millennials and Generation Z: people born between 1980-2010.

In Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota, those groups show a relatively good awareness of the topic: Nebraska tied for 5th place, Iowa for 8th, and South Dakota for 15th among all 50 states. However, several issues still remain.

“Roughly 40 percent of all of our Gen Z’s and Millennials, even in these three states, cannot even name one camp or ghetto. Somewhere around 60 percent of people had no idea 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust,” Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of Claims Conference, said.

Local education leaders say their districts work hard at educating students on the subject. The Sioux City Community School District starts students’ education on World War II as early as 4th grade.

“Our primary focus here in the district is to really focus on the Iowa Core social studies standards,” Nicole Metcalf, SCCSD Social Studies Curriculum Facilitator, said.

Those standards were updated just a few years ago, allowing for more creative freedom when teaching the Holocaust.

“We’ll take a look at pictures, graphs, maps, and people’s writing, and try to piece the story together so kids can understand there were multiple perspectives to what took place in the Holocaust,” Scott Embrock, an SCCSD history teacher, said.

Nebraska also follows a similar model. One South Sioux City social studies teacher says the creative ability to dive deep into the Holocaust has proved invaluable to students.

“Covering a lot of things at a surface level–I don’t see a lot of value in that to be perfectly honest with you. So, I like the direction Nebraska standards are moving,” Dwight Freiberg, a SSCCSD social studies teacher, said.

“We look at ‘Why did the Holocaust occur?’, ‘What did that impact do?’, and ‘How did that change society?'” Justin Benson, an SSCCSD American history teacher, said.

Rabbi Guy Greene with Congregation Beth Shalom also agrees a personal angle is crucial when teaching about one of history’s most horrific events.

“They have to see faces, they have to see the devastation, the destruction of lives, the destruction of property, the displacement of people, and that has to be seen pictorially, that has to be seen visually, so it’s very important in terms of the education of children,” Rabbi Greene said.

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