As knowledge about Holocaust wanes, anti-Semitism flourishes

Holocaust survivor Muguette Myers, 91, speaks to schoolchildren at the Montreal Holocaust Museum on Jan. 23, 2023. The museum is down to a dozen active survivor speakers who give their testimonies in person or virtually. PHOTO BY ALLEN MCINNIS /Montreal Gazette

Montreal educators are stepping up efforts to ensure new generations learn about the roots of genocide and hate.

This year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated on the anniversary of the day Auschwitz was liberated, will be hampered in this country by the fact nearly half of all Canadians don’t know what Auschwitz was.

A survey of 1,100 respondents found Canadians’ knowledge of the Holocaust was weak, and worsening with time. Fifteen per cent of adults said they hadn’t heard of the Holocaust or weren’t certain if they had. Among those 18-34 years old, one in five said they were unaware or unsure. More than half of Canadians and nearly two-thirds of the younger respondents didn’t know that 6 million Jews were killed, and roughly half could not name one concentration camp or ghetto where Jews were held.

This Friday will mark 78 years since Auschwitz was liberated by the Allied forces on Jan. 27, 1945.

“As we move along in history, the events are moving further from anyone’s immediate reality, and the generation of Holocaust survivors is dwindling,” said Eta Yudin, vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “It’s no longer recent history for Millennials growing up today or the younger generation. It’s something that has to be taught.”