Identification of the Term 'Auschwitz' a
Random Sampling Conducted in a U.S. City

A study conducted in Orlando, Florida - December 2004

There are three files associated with this study

1. The Initial Press Release (PDF) or HTML

If you need the software to open the PDF, click here.

2. The Study (PDF)

3. Charts and graphs

Chart from the study representing women (pink) and men (blue)
who did not know what "Auschwitz" meant/was.

HI-RESOLUTION IMAGES AVAILABLE FOR THE MEDIA TO REPRODUCE
 
"Starving inmate" taken by Sam Gilbert, May 12, 1945. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
Bones still in the crematorium. Taken by Chichersky, April 14, 1945. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

MEDIA CONTACT INFORMATION

Mr. Shelomo Alfassa who coordinated the study can be reached at 407-496-1125.

"The results of the study are indeed a cause for great concern."
--Leah Goldstein, Yad Vashem Jerusalem Magazine

Auschwitz Study in the Media

Congressman Lantos commemorates liberation of Auschwitz

01-26-05 Visiting the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland is a sobering experience, but for U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, it is a reminder of a brutal episode in history he witnessed. Lantos, 76, is the only member of Congress to survive the Holocaust and he and his wife Annette Tillemann Lantos are expected to visit the museum there Thursday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of its liberation on Jan. 27, 1945.

Hungarian-born Lantos flew to Poland Tuesday night in an eight-person delegation including Vice President Dick Cheney to pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Europeans who lost their lives there. He will be joined by Russian President Vladimir Putin and other foreign leaders. “It’s a very heavy experience, it’s a difficult trip but I believe it’s a necessary one,” Lantos said by phone in Washington Tuesday.

Lantos told House lawmakers yesterday he was disheartened by the “shocking lack of knowledge about the Holocaust” and called on local governments and teachers to use the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation to remember its horrors. His speech mentioned a State Department report released this fall indicating a global rise in anti-Semitism, and he said he was dismayed by a poll of passers-by on a street in Orlando, Fla., that showed 63 percent had no idea what occurred at Auschwitz.

The visit is also intended to draw attention to the troubled region of Darfur in western Sudan where the government has been fighting rebels in what the U.S. Congress last year called a “genocide.”

About 71,000 have been killed there in recent years.“It’s a sad commentary in the post-World War II period that the lesson of Auschwitz was not learned,” Lantos said. The prison at Auschwitz was built in 1940 shortly before Germany’s Third Reich took control and attempted to kill all Jews in German-occupied land in the “final solution.” It became the largest of the death camps in 1942 and 7,000 were imprisoned there when it was liberated in January 1945.

The United Nations was founded as a direct response to the Holocaust, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, and it called its first special session Monday to memorialize the era and prevent such events from recurring. Lantos has visited Auschwitz a few times since the war, and his life was entwined with the war when he lived in Hungary.

The Germans occupied Hungary in 1944 and Lantos, a Jew, was sent to a labor camp outside Budapest and beaten when he tried to escape. He fled again and was taken in by Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who had been giving protective passes to thousands of Hungarian Jews. “The memories of mankind are all too short,” Lantos said in his speech Tuesday, “And new generations have been born who cannot remember and unfortunately haven’t been taught about these horrors.”


Cable News Network 01-16-05


The Orlando study was spoken about on CNN when it was brought up after a discussion of Prince Harry wearing a Nazi uniform at a party. A CNN reporter discussed the London study and the Orlando Study with Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.



Following is breaking news from JTA — The Global News Service of the Jewish People
12-31-04

Orlando residents in dark about Auschwitz

Nearly two-thirds of the residents of Orlando, Fla., do not know that Auschwitz was a concentration camp, a new survey found. According to the poll, conducted by the Orlando-based International Society for Sephardic Progress, 63 percent of respondents could not identify the notorious Nazi death camp. The study comes on the heels of a recent survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation that found 45 percent of British adults had never heard of Auschwitz. “We were stunned” by the BBC results, said Shelomo Alfassa, the Sephardic group’s executive director. “The Orlando findings, 63 percent, were even more discouraging.” The new survey, conducted among 840 Orlando residents between Dec. 5-Dec. 26, had a margin of error of 3.39 percentage points.

Syndicated in the Cleveland Jewish News

Guysen IsraŽl News

Guysen Israël News 12-30-04

L'association internationale pour le progrès sépharade (ISSP) publie une étude effectuée à Orlando (Floride) du 5 au 26 décembre : 63,3% des 840 personnes interrogées n'identifient pas le mot '' Auschwitz '' au camp de concentration en Pologne. (Guysen.Israël.News) Le groupe des femmes âgées de 21 à 30 ans est le moins à même pour identifier la signification de ce mot. La Floride est l'un des rares Etats où l'enseignement de la Shoah est obligatoire dans les écoles publiques.

Ignorance of the Holocaust 12-30-04

The majority of respondents in a new survey about knowledge of the Holocaust said they did not know what Auschwitz was—but Holocaust experts are questioning the study's methodology and the accuracy of the results.

The survey, conducted by the International Society for Sephardic Progress, questioned passersby in public areas in Orlando, Florida in a poll that was hastily planned after a BBC study found that 45 percent of respondents in Britain said they had not heard of Auschwitz. The Orlando poll found that 63 percent of 840 respondents did not know what Auschwitz-Birkenau referred to, with the highest levels of ignorance among the 21-30 age group.

"It's a benchmark on our own community," said Shelomo Alfassa, executive director of the International Society for Sephardic Progress. "England does not have an exclusive on not knowing what the Holocaust is. It's just as bad as here." Alfassa said it was his group's first-ever study.

Scholars and officials at some institutions involved in studying the Holocaust and anti-Semitism said the Florida survey—in which questioners approached people coming out of supermarkets, courthouses, post offices and shopping malls in Orlando, Florida's sixth-largest city—did not appear to be reliable. "That's not a methodology," said Michael Berenbaum, director of a center for Holocaust studies at the University of Judaism, in Los Angeles. "It's not the way you do it and it's not the way you come to conclusions one has to work with. I'm not sure I would stop to answer the question if it were asked of me that way."

But Berenbaum and others who cast aspersions on the Orlando survey's results could not point to other surveys with different results.

Perhaps more than anything else, the questions surrounding the Orlando study's methodology show how little is known about Americans' level of knowledge of the Holocaust. For all the teaching about the Holocaust in America—the country has more Holocaust museums than anywhere else in the world, Holocaust education is mandated by law in several US states and the White House even has a commission on the Holocaust—there has been little effort to gauge the effectiveness of that education.

The Anti-Defamation League regularly surveys anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States and abroad, and in a recent survey found that nearly half of all European respondents felt that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust, but an ADL spokeswoman said the organization had not studied whether or not people know about the Holocaust.

Andrew Hollinger, a spokesman for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, said his organization also has not asked questions about individuals' knowledge of the Holocaust. "Even among our visitors, we never really look at previous knowledge of the Holocaust," he said.

In the Orlando study, conducted at a cost of $2,000, researchers approached participants, held up a card with the words "Auschwitz-Birkenau" and asked them to answer yes or no to the question "Do you know what Auschwitz-Birkenau refers to?"

Only 37 percent said it was a Nazi concentration camp or that it had to do with the campaign of extermination against the Jews. Those who merely said it had something to do with the Nazis or World War II were counted among the 63 percent who did not know what Auschwitz was. Women generally were less knowledgeable than men, and knowledge of Auschwitz was greatest among older men, the survey found.

Some respondents asked if Auschwitz was a type of car, Alfassa said. "It was the best study that we can do," Alfassa said. "We're going to use it as a reason to go back to the school system here in town and emphasize Holocaust studies."

The BBC study published earlier this month showed 45 percent of 4,000 adults surveyed in Britain did not know what Auschwitz was. That survey was conducted by mail and was nationally representative, the BBC said.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the L.A.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the apparent ignorance in Orlando about the Holocaust was surprising given the number of films and books produced in recent years about the subject. He said the Wiesenthal Center has never conducted a study of Americans' knowledge of the Holocaust. "I'm much more concerned with the issue of the proliferation and return of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world than the question with the recognition of a name," Hier said. "However, it shows the ignorance."


The Orlando study was also mentioned in several other media outlets including the
Australian Jewish News, Cleveland Jewish News; and Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.


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