Gandel Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness in Australia Survey

January 2022

Summary of Key Findings and Recommendations

The Gandel Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness in Australia Survey (GHKAS/Gandel Holocaust Survey) is Australia’s first comprehensive national survey of Holocaust knowledge and awareness.

The Survey was commissioned by the Gandel Foundation, one of Australia’s largest independent family philanthropic funds, and undertaken by a team of expert researchers from Deakin University. Researchers utilised the ANU’s Social Research Centre for data collection, using their Life in Australia™ online probability panel, and were also supported by the Advisory Group comprising a Holocaust survivor and representatives from Yad Vashem, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Sydney Jewish Museum, Melbourne Holocaust Museum, Executive Council of Australian Jewry and a teacher who is an alum of the Gandel Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators.

There were more than 70 questions posed in the Survey with 3,522 people across all Australian states and territories submitting responses, making it the largest survey of its type ever undertaken. The sample matches key demographic parameters of the Australian population including age, gender, education, geographic location. Maximum margin of error to apply to this survey is +/-2%.

A key objective of the Gandel Holocaust Survey was to understand not just how much Australians know factually about the Holocaust (Holocaust knowledge), but also how aware they are of the catastrophe and its enduring impact and lessons it holds. This was considered to be “Holocaust awareness” or acknowledging the true scale of the Holocaust and caring about Holocaust education.

Key Findings

1
Holocaust Knowledge

Australians of all ages showed comparatively high levels of Holocaust knowledge, although there is still a quarter of the population that has little or no knowledge of the Holocaust. Key findings on Holocaust Knowledge include:

  • 8 out of 10 (80%) Australians know that the Holocaust happened between 1933 and 1945;
  • Almost 7 out of 10 (67%) know the Holocaust refers to the genocide/ mass murder of Jewish people;
  • Some 6 out of 10 (63%) correctly identified what a ghetto was (ie a part of the city where Jews were forced to live);
  • 6 out of 10 (62%) of Australians could correctly define the meaning of the ‘Final Solution’ (ie Nazi’s effort to exterminate all Jews in Europe); and
  • Over half of the Australian population (54%) could correctly identify the Jewish death toll was 6 million.

Australian Adults: Factual Knowledge About the Holocaust (% of population)

Results under 50%

  • About half of the adult population (49%) were aware that Hitler came to power via a democratic election
  • Same proportion (49%) could correctly place the location of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (which is in Poland)
  • Only 3 out of 10 (31%) knew what Einzatzgruppen were (ie Nazi’s mobile killing squads)
  • Only 2 out of 10 (23%) knew what Nuremberg Laws were (ie discriminatory laws directed against Jewish people)
  • Nearly a quarter (24%) of the adult Australian population has little to no knowledge of the Holocaust

Australian Adults: Overall Factual Knowledge About the Holocaust (% of population)

1.1 Holocaust Knowledge analysis

Researchers further analysed the findings related to Holocaust knowledge and defined the following factors as being most strongly associated with excellent Holocaust knowledge (ie those who answered 8 out of 9 questions correctly in the Holocaust quiz), and they concluded the following:

Reading a history book

those who said they read a non-fiction book about the Holocaust are more than twice as likely to possess excellent Holocaust knowledge;

Age

Boomers are almost twice as likely as Millennials to have excellent Holocaust knowledge;

Gender

males are almost twice as likely as females to have excellent Holocaust knowledge; and

Visit to a Holocaust centre or museum

those who visited a museum are about 50% more likely to have excellent Holocaust knowledge, than those who haven’t.

2
Australian Holocaust Connections

The Gandel Holocaust Survey asked four questions that probed the knowledge about Australia’s Holocaust connections, and these were the results:

  • 17% correctly identified the passengers on the Dunera (HMT Dunera arrived to Australia in 1940 carrying thousands of British-deported ‘enemy aliens’, many of whom were European Jews)
  • 16% knew who William Cooper was (William Cooper was an Indigenous human rights activist who in 1938 protested to the German Consulate in Melbourne against the treatment of German Jews during the Kristallnacht pogrom)
  • 11% knew that at the Evian Conference Australia refused to accept more Jewish refugees
  • 7% knew the little-known statistic that Australia is home to arguably the highest per-capita number of Holocaust survivors outside Israel

Australian Adults: Factual Knowledge About the Australian Connections to the Holocaust (% of population)

Researchers concluded that “Australians know far less about their country’s connections to the Holocaust than they do about the events in Europe.” However, they also concluded that “excellent knowledge of events in Europe is strongly related to excellent knowledge of Australian connections.”

3
Holocaust Awareness

For the purposes of this Survey, Holocaust Awareness was conceptualised as “acknowledging the true scale of the Holocaust and caring about Holocaust education”. Australians of all ages showed comparatively high levels of Holocaust Awareness, with Millennials scoring particularly high. Key findings on Holocaust Awareness include:

  • 9 in 10 Australians (88%) agree that “we can all learn lessons for today from what happened in the Holocaust”;
  • Almost 8 in 10 Australians (78%) agree that Holocaust museums and memorials are valuable to have;
  • 7 in 10 (69%) of Australian respondents think that “more needs to be done to educate people about the Holocaust”;
  • Two thirds of Australians (66%) agreed that “it should be compulsory for schools to teach about the Holocaust”.

Australian Adults: Items in the Holocaust Awareness Scale (% of Population)

3.1 Holocaust denialism

As can be seen in the table above, a sub-section of the Survey dealt with the growing global challenge of Holocaust denial and/or minimisation. The results show very low levels of such thinking in Australia:

  • Only about 2 in 100 Australians (2%) deny the Holocaust happened (although 6% neither agree nor disagree);
  • Over 7 in 10 Australians (75%) disagree or strongly disagree that “the scale of the Holocaust is exaggerated” (19% neither agree nor disagree);
  • Less than 1 on 10 Australians (8%) think that “people still talk too much about what happened in the Holocaust”(29% neither agree nor disagree).

3.2 Factors in knowledge and awareness

In addition, in exploring the factors that might lead to a person having higher or lower level of Holocaust knowledge and awareness, the researchers found the following:

  • Higher levels of Holocaust awareness are associated with warmer feelings towards Jewish people and other minorities (Hindu, Muslim) or vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers, and also First Nations peoples;
  • Lower levels of knowledge are more pronounced in younger generations (e.g. 30% of Millennials have little to no knowledge compared to 15% of Boomers);
  • Little difference between age groups when it comes to those with higher levels of knowledge (e.g. 13% of Millennials have excellent knowledge compared to 17% of Boomers);
  • Small or inconsequential differences in gender, SES levels, urban/ regional when it comes to higher or lower levels of knowledge of the Holocaust.

Australian Adults: Warmth Towards Minority Groups by Holocaust Awareness (mean of Warmth Feeling Thermometer)

3.3 Holocaust Awareness analysis

In addition, in exploring the factors that might lead to a person having higher or lower level of Holocaust knowledge and awareness, the researchers found the following:

Holocaust knowledge

those with excellent knowledge of the Holocaust are almost four times more likely to possess higher Holocaust awareness;

Gender

females are almost twice as likely as males to have higher levels of Holocaust awareness. While women may know less about the facts of the Holocaust, their level of awareness and caring about the Holocaust is higher;

Age

Millennials are almost twice as likely as Boomers to possess higher Holocaust awareness. Younger people may know less about the facts of the Holocaust, but there is an abiding care about the impact of the Holocaust among their generation;

School lessons, biographies and museums

people who have had lessons at school, read a biography about a Holocaust survivor or have visited a museum are about 50% more likely to have higher levels of Holocaust awareness than those who haven’t.

Researchers analysed the findings and concluded the following: “Combining ‘medium’ and higher’ levels of Holocaust awareness, we find that a large majority of the Australian population (83%) acknowledges the true scale of the Holocaust and cares about Holocaust education.”

4
Education about the Holocaust

An important aspect of the Gandel Holocaust Survey related to understanding how and where Australians may have learned about the Holocaust.

Most knowledge comes from school, documentaries or films;

Some 80% of Australian adults have watched a Holocaust documentary, while a similar proportion (77%) have seen a Holocaust movie;

8 out of 10 people (78%) who had lessons about the Holocaust at school ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that these lessons helped them understand the causes of the Holocaust;

60% of respondents claim to have read a history book on the topic of Holocaust;

Also 8 out of 10 people (79%) who had lessons about the Holocaust at school ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that these lessons ‘had a lasting impact’ on them;

Researchers concluded that “school is an incredibly important context for Holocaust education” and thathigher levels of knowledge about the Holocaust are associated with undertaking specific school courses or visiting museums, rather than general levels of education.”

4.1 Importance of museum education

  • In total, only a quarter of Australian population (25%) has visited a Holocaust museum or centre somewhere (in Australia or overseas), and of those:
    • 10 % have visited a Holocaust Museum in Australia (mainly Sydney and Melbourne museums); and
    • 18 % have visited a Holocaust Museum overseas (Jewish Museum, Berlin; Auschwitz State Museum etc), while 12% have visited a Holocaust site overseas (Anne Frank’s House, Dachau camp, Auschwitz I/ Birkenau camp etc);
  • About four-in-ten adults (41% in NSW and 43% in Victoria) who have never been to a Holocaust centre or museum don’t know there is one in their state;
  • Most people in WA (75%) and SA (61%) who have never visited a Holocaust museum or a centre in WA/SA did not think there was a Holocaust centre or museum in their State;
  • 81% of all Australian respondents never heard an in-person talk or lecture from a Holocaust survivor

Australian Adults: Ever Visited a Holocaust Centre or Museum (% of population)

In terms of the impact of various types of Holocaust education, the respondents stated as follows:

  • Of people who visited a Holocaust museum or centre in Australia, large majority (83%) rated their visit ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ helpful in terms of what they learned about the Holocaust;
  • Of those who visited a Holocaust site overseas, 9 out of 10 (90%) described their visit as ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ helpful in learning about the Holocaust

In the view of researchers, these findings show the abiding value of Holocaust museums and centres in Holocaust education as well as memorialisation.

5
Antisemitism

Antisemitism is a form of racism, defined as “hatred of, or prejudice towards, Jews”. The Gandel Holocaust Survey asked distinct questions that probed the issue of Antisemitism and Antisemitic tropes and stereotypes, and these were the results:

  • Over two-third of Australians (68%) ‘agree’ or ‘strongly’ agree that Jewish people are as loyal to Australia as other Australians; there were 5% that disagreed, and there were 27% respondents who neither agreed nor disagreed;
  • 42% of Australians ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ with the statement that “Jews have too much power in the media”; 10% of respondents think Jews have too much power in the media, while 48% neither agree nor disagree;
  • 42% of respondents ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ with the statemen that “Jews chase money more than other people”. There were 15% of respondents who agreed with that statement and 44% who neither agreed nor disagreed;
  • 59% of respondents ‘disagree’ or strongly disagree’ with the statement that “Jewish people talk about the Holocaust just to further their political agenda”. 6% agreed with that statement, while 36% neither agreed nor disagreed.    

Australian Adults: Items in the Judeophobic Antisemitism Scale (% of Population)

Researchers concluded that, “whilst the number of people who explicitly support Antisemitic tropes is very low, of more concern is the large proportion of those that chose not to answer (that is, answered ‘neither agree nor disagree’), suggesting a persistent latent Antisemitism within the Australian society.” Furthermore, researchers also concluded that “Improving Holocaust knowledge and awareness can only have a positive impact on societal attitudes towards Jewish people.”

6
Other findings

The Gandel Holocaust Survey offers a number of other notable and insightful findings and conclusions, including:

  • 29% of respondents support an annual national Holocaust commemoration event
  • 39% of respondents ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that “people who question the Holocaust should be banned from giving public talks in Australia”;
  • 55% of people knew the Nazis targeted the Roma population for extermination;
  • 56% of people ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ with the statement that “there is no harm in using social media to question the Holocaust”;
  • 78% of respondents oppose the idea that “people should be allowed to use Nazi slogans, gestures and symbols in Australia”;
  • Millennials (at 30%) and Generation X (at 29%), are twice as likely to have little or no knowledge of the Holocaust as Baby Boomers (at 15%) or the Silent Generation (at 12%);
  • People who are on the ‘left’ of the political spectrum are somewhat more likely than people in the ‘centre’ or the ‘right’ to have ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ knowledge of the Holocaust, and Holocaust awareness too;
  • Social media use or consumption appears not to be related to how much people know about the Holocaust – in fact, the Gandel Survey shows that the use of more social media platforms is associated with more Holocaust awareness;
  • 86% of Australians ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that they are “just as open to having Jewish friends as they are to having friends from other sections of the Australian society”.

Recommendations

The Gandel Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness in Australia Survey makes eight recommendations to government officials, policy makes, educational departments, Holocaust museums and all other stakeholders interested in Holocaust education, commemoration and memorialisation:

  1. Include the Holocaust on the curricula of Australian states and territories, and support teachers with ongoing accredited professional development;
    The survey shows the effectiveness of specific Holocaust education in developing both Holocaust Knowledge and awareness. There is overwhelming public support for the Holocaust to be taught in schools. The unevenness of the application of the National Curriculum as it relates to the Holocaust should be addressed with a consistent and mandatory approach taken across Australia. In addition, teachers should be supported on an ongoing basis by Federal and State education departments working in partnership with Holocaust museums and centres, educational and philanthropic organisations to promote, develop and deliver accredited professional development activities that embed new knowledge, and teaching and learning approaches.

  2. Develop strategies to drive engagement with Holocaust museums, memorials and educational institutions;
    By the end of 2024 it is proposed that most states and territories in Australia will have a Holocaust museum or education centre. The Gandel Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness in Australia Survey provides evidence that confirms the effectiveness of museums and centres in teaching about the Holocaust. Those who have visited are much more likely to exhibit high levels of Holocaust awareness and pro-social tendencies. However, only 10% of the Australian population have visited a Holocaust museum in this country and a high proportion of non visitors in Victorian and NSW do not know that there are long established institutions in their state. The focus of many Holocaust institutions has rightly been on school students. With increased capacity through new or significantly redeveloped institutions, as well as advances in digital technologies, the opportunity exists to engage with a broader section of the Australian population.

  3. Research, create, and distribute specific resources to address gaps in Holocaust knowledge, especially the period 1933-1939, and as it relates to Australia;
    Whilst general knowledge of the Holocaust is good, there are specific gaps. These particularly relate to the antecedents of genocide, especially the political context of 1930s, and the Einsatzgruppen or the ‘Holocaust by bullets’. Moreover, Australians’ understanding of their own country’s connections to the Holocaust is poor. This may lead to the impression that the Holocaust is of no relevance in the Australian context. A coordinated approach is required to address these gaps, which should include the Holocaust museums and educational organisations, teacher professional associations, the IHRA and lead to the development and dissemination of learning materials that relate to Australia’s connection with the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance in a national and global context.

  4. Develop a research agenda to understand the long-term impact of Holocaust education in schools and museums;
    The Gandel Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness in Australia Survey connected with those 18 years of age and older. We know through the survey that there is widespread support for Holocaust education in schools and museums, a strong perception of the benefits, and a correlation between specific Holocaust education and Holocaust awareness and pro-social attitudes. However, the survey was not designed to research the specific pedagogical approaches through which effective learning over the longer term takes place. Further research is needed in this area.

  5. Challenge antisemitic myths and stereotypes in education through support for education programs;
    Whilst the survey found that Holocaust denial and overt antisemitism amongst respondents is low, the persistence of latent antisemitic tropes is identifiable by the much larger percentages who are ambivalent (neither agree nor disagree with particular antisemitic tropes). Having lower levels of Holocaust awareness, lower levels of Holocaust knowledge and lower levels of knowledge of Judaism is associated with having higher antisemitic attitudes. Further educational initiatives to increase Holocaust literacy, with a specific approach to understand the origins and persistence of prejudice, are needed.

  6. Improve communication over the need for annual commemorative activities;
    Membership of the IHRA requires Australia to hold national Holocaust commemorative activities. A result of the perception of Australia as having little connection with the Holocaust is a lack of support for such events among the participants in the survey. Whilst there have been very successful initiatives, such as the first national commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Australia in 2021, and Holocaust Memorial Week (2018 and 2022), further strategies should be developed by the Federal Government to engage non-traditional audiences with these events.

  7. Provide opportunities for students to engage with Australian Holocaust survivor testimony; 
    Survivor testimony is a crucial component of Holocaust education and has the power to provide historical and moral lessons, allowing witnesses to reflect on the ongoing relevance on the Holocaust in the present. The Gandel Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness in Australia Survey found that Australians who had heard a survivor give testimony were more likely to have higher knowledge and awareness than those who had not had this opportunity. The survey also found that only 19% of Australians had heard survivor testimony. Given the passing of the survivor generation, it is crucial that more Australians have the chance to engage with survivor testimony, either in person, or through digital technology.

  8. Repeated cross-sectional research on Holocaust knowledge and awareness.
    The generational differences shown in this study, especially around Holocaust knowledge and awareness, highlight the value of repeating in five years research on this topic. This will show the extent to which attitudes and knowledge are changing in the general population and where and how Holocaust education can best be targeted. The older generations know more than younger generations about the specifics of the Holocaust. This is due in large part to the era in which they grew up, a time when there were more Holocaust survivors alive, and the Holocaust was within living memory and their connection to the Second World War. Tracing the continuation of Holocaust awareness and knowledge given the investment in Holocaust education and in new and expanded Holocaust museums and centres in Australia is vital, so that the lessons of the past are not forgotten.

NOTE: For hard copies of the Gandel Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness in Australia Survey, please email your request to Gandel Foundation via info@gandelfoundation.org.au

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