of the Holocaust
of respondents in a new survey about knowledge of the Holocaust
said they did not know what Auschwitz wasbut Holocaust experts
are questioning the study's methodology and the accuracy of the
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
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
officials at some institutions involved in studying the Holocaust
and anti-Semitism said the Florida surveyin which questioners
approached people coming out of supermarkets, courthouses, post
offices and shopping malls in Orlando, Florida's sixth-largest citydid
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."
and others who cast aspersions on the Orlando survey's results could
not point to other surveys with different results.
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 Americathe
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 Holocaustthere
has been little effort to gauge the effectiveness of that education.
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.
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.
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.
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."