Friday, 16 May, 2014

Hundreds of millions of people across the globe believe that the Holocaust is either a myth or has been exaggerated by historians, according to a shocking new survey from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The Jewish non-governmental organisation surveyed the opinions of 53,000 people from 102 countries from around the world on how they felt about Jews, including their awareness and attitude towards the Holocaust.

It found that of the 54 per cent of people who were aware of the Holocaust, which in itself is startlingly low, a third think that it either did not occur or has been embellished, equal to the figure who believe history is accurate.

Yet, the data is far from geographically consistent. Denial is much more prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa (63%), Sub-Saharan Africa (44%) and Asia (41%), while in Western Europe the figure is just 11%.

This is drastically lower than the global average, and demonstrates the value of the focus on Holocaust commemoration and education we have here in the UK. But the fact that one in ten people in Western Europe still doubt the existence and accuracy of the Holocaust is of grave concern and highlights the necessity of the work of organisations such as the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

Meanwhile, the distressing evidence from the ADL of Holocaust denial throughout the world shows how important it is for the UK to have a strong international role in challenging these views. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance plenary, which has been held this week in London during the UK’s year-long chairmanship, has shown how the global community can come together to address issues such as these.

'Holocaust denial may not be as common here in the UK as some other parts of the world, but we can’t be complacent,' says Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

'Efforts to Keep the memory alive through Holocaust Memorial Day - which now involves over 2,400 local activities across the UK - and the excellent education work carried in schools throughout the year, we can work to challenge and expose the views of those few who do still question it.'

The extensive ADL survey did not just focus on Holocaust denial, but instead centred on antisemitism as a whole. Taking 11 antisemitic statements based on negative Jewish stereotypes, the survey asked respondents which ones they thought were true and which were false. If someone said true to at least six they were assessed to be harbour antisemitic attitudes.

Although the results of the survey painted a depressing picture, with more than one billion people across the world deemed to hold antisemitic views, the UK came very low in the index with just eight per cent of respondents saying at least six statements were true. Only five other countries recorded a lower score.