An international study conducted at the end of last year has revealed that 23 percent of people in the Netherlands between the ages of 11 and 43 don’t believe the Holocaust happened or think the facts have been greatly exaggerated. 

Growing trend of Holocaust denial and distortion in the Netherlands

In December 2022, Claims Conference – a nonprofit organisation that fights for compensation for Holocaust survivors around the world –  conducted the Netherlands Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey among 2.000 Dutch people. The same studies were also conducted in France, Austria, Canada, the UK and the US. 

The study found a “disturbing lack of awareness of key historical facts about the Holocaust” among younger generations in the Netherlands, with 23 percent of respondents born between 1980 and 2012 believing the Holocaust is a myth or the number of Jews killed has been greatly exaggerated. Furthermore, 60 percent of respondents in this age group “did not cite” the Netherlands as a country where the Holocaust took place.

Overall, Claims Conference revealed that the number of Dutch adults who don’t believe in the Holocaust “was higher than any country previously surveyed,” with 12 percent of all respondents believing the Holocaust didn’t happen, and a whopping 29 percent thinking that 2 million or fewer Jews were killed during the Holocaust. The real death toll is around 6 million.

Experts and survivors calling for better education in Dutch schools

Unsurprisingly, the general reaction to these findings has been unmitigated shock, with Claims Conference President Gideon Taylor calling for improved Holocaust education in schools, not just in the Netherlands but around the world, in order to combat the “disturbing…trend towards Holocaust denial and distortion.” 

Max Arpels Lezer, a Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands, said he was “upset and deeply concerned” by the findings, adding that he felt it was important for future generations to learn about the history of the Holocaust. “Without education, future generations will not understand the full impact of the Holocaust in my country.”

Similarly, Dutch Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yesilgöz called the findings of the study “downright shocking” and “very serious”, writing on Twitter that “as a society” the Netherlands had “a lot of work to do, and fast.”

Talking to ANP, Kees Ribbens, a researcher at the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD), wondered how this alarming lack of knowledge about Dutch history came to be. “To what extent are deniers and doubters open to information from education and museums?” he asked himself. “Is it ignorance, disinterest or a wilful denial and distortion of historical facts?”

For the full results of the study, visit the Claims Conference website.

Thumb: Bert e Boer via Shutterstock.com.

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