Researchers Find Most Teachers in England Don't Know When the Holocaust Started

A new report found some major confusion about the Holocaust among teachers in England.

Most educators don't know when the Holocaust began, research released Monday by University College London's Centre for Holocaust Education showed. The center interviewed almost 1,000 teachers who had recently taught about the Holocaust in 2019 and 2020.

In one encouraging sign, the researchers said the most recent data suggested that knowledge levels about the World War II–era genocide over the past 10 years have improved overall.

But they found there are still some big gaps about key aspects of the Holocaust, such as when exactly it began and the percentage of the Jewish population in Germany before the war.

Less than half of all teachers (45 percent) were able to correctly identify that Jews made up less than 1 percent of the prewar population of Germany. Just 42 percent of respondents knew that the systematic mass murder of Jewish people began with Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Researchers also found that less than half of the respondents surveyed knew how the British government responded to learning of the massacre of European Jews.

Dr. Andy Pearce, an associate professor in Holocaust and history education at the Centre for Holocaust Education, wrote in a reflection that it's "troubling that such myths and misconceptions" remain among a large portion of teachers.

"Not having this knowledge has profound repercussions," Pearce wrote. "It means that teachers are less likely to be able to identify misconceptions among their students, it increases the risk that misunderstandings will be perpetuated, and it undermines the notion that by learning about the Holocaust young people will be able to better understand and respond to persecution and atrocity."

Nearly 20 percent of educators with recent experience teaching about the Holocaust had not received any specialist training on the subject. But researchers found such training, through a program called continuing professional development or CPD, makes a "significant impact" on teachers' knowledge of these events.

Newsweek reached out to the Centre for Holocaust Education for additional comment but didn't receive a response before publication.

Report: English Teachers Don't Know Holocaust Began
Most educators don't know when the Holocaust began, research released Monday by University College London's Centre for Holocaust Education reveals. Above, a teacher speaks to the class as pupils return to school at Copley Academy in Stalybridge, England, on September 9. Antoy Devlin/Getty Images

Last year, a nationwide survey found a "worrying lack of basic Holocaust knowledge" among American adults under 40.

The study, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, was described as the "first-ever 50-state survey" of millennial and Gen Z Americans' knowledge of the Holocaust.

It found 1 in 10 respondents didn't recall ever having heard the word Holocaust before. It also discovered that 63 percent of those surveyed didn't know 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.