American Jewish Committee Survey of Slovakia Shows Support for Holocaust Remembrance, But Mixed Knowledge of Holocaust Facts

American Jewish Committee
Thursday, 18 November 1999

A majority of Slovaks favor keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, but knowledge about the annihilation of European Jewry is mixed, according to a new American Jewish Committee survey.

"Knowledge and Remembrance of the Holocaust in Slovakia" is the second in a new series of AJC national surveys dealing with Holocaust knowledge and remembrance in various countries. The first survey, conducted in the Czech Republic, was released last month.

The AJC survey of Slovakia covers such broad themes as factual knowledge about the Holocaust, feelings about Holocaust remembrance, attitudes toward Jews and other minorities, and awareness of the Slovak Jewish experience. The last survey AJC conducted in Slovakia on these issues was in 1993.

AJC's Director of Research, David Singer, presented the survey results today at a news conference held at the Journalists Club in Bratislava. Dr. Singer was joined by Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC's Director of European Affairs and Peter Salner, president of the Bratislava Jewish community.

Among the AJC survey's key findings on Holocaust remembrance and knowledge:

- 63 percent of Slovaks feel that "we should keep the remembrance of the Nazi extermination of the Jews strong even after the passage of time," while 24 percent maintain that "50 years after the end of World War II it is time to put the memory of the Nazi extermination of the Jews behind us."

- While 81 percent of respondents correctly identify Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka as concentration camps, only 24 percent of Slovaks chose "6 million" as the approximate number of Jews killed by the Nazis, with 42 percent choosing much lower figures and 28 percent answering "don't know."

- Fifty-nine percent of Slovaks said Holocaust education should be mandatory in Slovak schools, and 23 percent disagreed.

A mixed picture emerges in terms of attitudes toward Jews in Slovakia today.

- Only 9 percent of Slovaks believe that Jews "behave in a manner which provokes hostility in our country."

- While 15 percent of Slovaks think that Jews have "too much influence" in Slovakia, 53 percent believe that "Jews exert too much influence on world events."

- While 66 percent of Slovaks indicated it "wouldn't make any difference" if neighbors are Jews, 16 percent said they would "like to have" Jews as neighbors and 16 percent would "prefer not."

- Some 23 percent of Slovaks "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree" that "Jews are exploiting the memory of the Nazi extermination of the Jews for their own purposes."

The AJC survey also showed that Slovaks with higher education are more knowledgeable about the Holocaust and more concerned about remembrance.

Some 96 percent of Slovaks with university-level education know that Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka were concentration camps, and 70 percent of Slovaks with university education want to "keep the remembrance of the Nazi extermination of the Jews strong even after the passage of time."

Most of the questions in the current survey were posed in AJC's 1993 survey of Slovakia, and for the most part the results were similar.

For example, in 1993, 47 percent "somewhat agreed" or "strongly agreed" that "Slovak political leaders also had their share of responsibility for the extermination of the Jews," compared with 49 percent in 1999.

However, the 1999 survey, when compared with the 1993 data, showed a positive shift regarding the importance of Holocaust remembrance. While 38 percent said in 1993 "it is time to put the memory of the Holocaust behind us," in 1999, that number fell to 24 percent.

The survey was conducted for the American Jewish Committee by Focus, a leading opinion-research organization based in Bratislava between August 31 and September 8, 1999. The survey of 1,057 Slovaks has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Between 1992 and 1996, the AJC carried out a series of public opinion surveys probing issues related to knowledge and remembrance of the Holocaust. The United States, Great Britain, France, Slovakia, Australia, Germany, Austria, Poland and Russia were included in that research effort.

For more information, or to contact American Jewish Committee, see their website at: www.ajc.org

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