Canadians are dangerously misinformed about the Holocaust: poll

During WWII the Nazis murdered approximately six million Jewish people, almost two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe.

Quinn Patrick Montreal QC

During WWII the Nazis murdered approximately six million Jewish people, almost two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe. Through the use of mass shootings and extermination camps, the Nazis methodically carried out a genocide that many people in 2020 are beginning to forget.

Elie Wiesel wrote a Nobel Prize-winning book, Night, about surviving the Holocaust, “It is obvious,” said Wiesel, “that the war which Hitler and his accomplices waged was a war not only against Jewish men women, and children, but also against Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish tradition, therefore Jewish memory.”

Decades since its publication only 43 percent of Canadians are able to answer the question of how many Jews were killed during 1941 and 1945, according to a recent poll according to the National Post.

Jack Jedwab is the president of the Association for Canadian Studies and has a wealth of historical knowledge regarding the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, he feels the polling is indicative a gap in Canadians’ understanding of this event.

“The sort of benchmark, of the target for knowledge about the Holocaust, is that everyone must know,” Jedwab said, “we’re still far from reaching that objective.”

The poll was conducted last November through a web panel and found that only 43 percent of Canadians knew the number of six million, with regards to Jewish people who were killed during the Holocaust. The web panel polled 2,295 Canadians.

Around 31 percent said they weren’t sure how many were killed which is similar to research conducted in the United States by the Pew Research Centre which found that around 45 percent of Americans knew that six million Jews were killed while 29 percent did not.

Leger Marketing for the Association of Canadian Studies poll revealed that 3 percent said less than 100,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust while 6 percent thought the number to be 20 million. Pollees who held a university degree were most likely to know the actual figure (51 percent) whereas pollees with only a high school diploma were the least likely (36 percent).

In terms of the country broken down into provinces, Quebec was just under 36 percent being able to identify six million as the correct number. Saskatchewan had the highest amount of pollees with the right answer at 55 percent.

Senior citizens also had the highest rate of being correct at 55 percent whereas Canadians between ages 35 and 44 were the least likely to answer the question correctly.

Many Quebecers, 67 percent believed that Canada brought in Jewish refugees during WWII however people of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario didn’t believe that to be the case.

Jedwab believes there is a correlation between those uneducated about historical anti-Semitism and those who know little about the Holocaust.

It’s surprising to see Canadians so misinformed on this issue especially after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s heavily publicized apology on behalf of Canadian’s for deciding back in 1939 to turn away the MS St Louis, a ship that was carrying around 900 Jews who were fleeing Nazi persecution. It was also forced to return to Europe after being rejected from Cuba and the United States. Upon its return 255 of the passengers died, mostly in concentration camps.

“While decades have passed since we turned our backs on Jewish refugees, time has by no means absolved Canada of its guilt or lessened the weight or our shame,” Trudeau said during his apology.

“Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my god and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes,” Wiesel wrote of his first night at Auschwitz.

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