Israeli Survey Finds School Holocaust Lessons Have Minimal Impact

Only 0.5 percent of students surveyed say the Holocaust memorial ceremonies, which take place for Israeli children throughout their school years, were significant in their Holocaust education.

Talila Nesher
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Talila Nesher

A new survey to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day has found that only 6 percent of Israeli children cite history lessons as a significant source of learning about the Holocaust.

The annual survey, conducted by the Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies among 919 students, shows school education has a very limited influence on shaping young Israelis' understanding of the Holocaust. Only 0.5 percent said the Holocaust memorial ceremonies, which take place for Israeli children throughout their school years, were significant in their Holocaust education.

Ultra-Orthodox men visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on Holocaust Remembrance Day.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum / BauBau

Almost 40 percent cited survivors' testimonies as having the highest educational value.

The number of students who felt the trip to Nazi death camps in Poland was the most significant source of learning about the Holocaust dropped significantly, from 40 percent in 2007 to 22 percent this year. In contrast, 16 percent cited Holocaust museums and seminars as most significant in this respect.

The survey shows that only a minority of the children see the Holocaust's significance in its universal context. Only 2 percent said they were committed to keeping democratic values, 2.5 percent felt solidarity with the suffering of persecuted nations, and 8 percent pledged commitment to universal moral values.

This is a marked contrast to Massuah's 2007 survey, in which most students stressed the Holocaust's universal moral implications and only a minority focused on national implications.

About a third - 37 percent - pledged to preserve the Holocaust memory, while a clear majority chose statements associated with their national identity. For example, 14 percent said they were proud to be Israeli, 12 percent said they were committed to a significant IDF service, 9 percent were committed to Israel's survival, and 15 percent identified with the Jewish people's destiny.

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