More than 2.6 million British people think the Holocaust is a myth, a poll has found.
Five per cent of UK adults do not believe millions of Jews were systematically murdered by the Nazis, according to the survey, which survivors and anti-racism campaigners said pointed to a “terribly worrying” level of denial.
A further 8 per cent of the British public claims the scale of the genocide has been exaggerated, according to research released to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day.
“Such widespread ignorance and even denial is shocking,” said Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT), which commissioned the poll.
Six million Jewish people were murdered by Germany’s Nazi regime during the Second World War as part of Adolf Hitler’s campaign of extermination.
Almost two-thirds of the British public either grossly underestimate that figure or have no idea how many had died, the survey found
One in five said fewer than two million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, while 45 per cent said they did not know.
“I find these figures terribly worrying,” said Steven Frank, a Dutch Jewish survivor of the Holocaust who was forced into a concentration camp at the age of seven following the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands.
He added: “If we ignore the past, I fear history will repeat itself.”
Mr Frank, whose father was gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, speaks to school pupils about his experience of Nazi persecution and said he had encountered Holocaust deniers at talks.
“In my experience, people don’t have a solid understanding of what happened during the Holocaust and that’s one of the reasons I am so committed to sharing what happened to me,” he said. “The only way to fight this kind of denial and antisemitism is with the truth.”
Seventy-three per cent of UK adults believe more should be done to educate people about the Holocaust, according to the HMDT’s poll of 2,006 people.
Ms Marks-Woldman said: “The Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation and has implications for us all.
“Without a basic understanding of this recent history, we are in danger of failing to learn where a lack of respect for difference and hostility to others can ultimately lead.
“With a rise in reported hate crime in the UK and ongoing international conflicts with a risk of genocide, our world can feel fragile and vulnerable. We cannot be complacent.”
More than 100 antisemitic incidents are recorded in Britain every month, according to the Community Security Trust. The organisation, which monitors anti-Jewish hate crime, warned last year that bigots were becoming “more confident to express their views”.
The European Jewish Congress this week voiced alarm about the resurgence of antisemitism, urging political leaders to “prepare for the upcoming battle against extremism that is infecting our continent again”.
Joe Mulhall, senior researcher at anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate, said: “As time passes we have fewer and fewer people who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust first-hand. That’s why it’s vital we keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, especially among younger generations.”
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