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Over half of Britons never heard of Auschwitz

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LONDON (Reuters) - Nearly half of Britons in a poll said they had never heard of Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in southern Poland that became a symbol of the Holocaust and the attempted genocide of the Jews.

The results of the survey conducted by the BBC were released Thursday as Britain's public broadcaster announced it will show a new series next January to mark the 60th anniversary of the concentration camp's liberation.

"We were amazed by the results of our audience research," said Laurence Rees, a producer on the series, "Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution.'"

"It's easy to presume that the horrors of Auschwitz are engrained in the nation's collective memory, but obviously this is not the case," Rees said.

The survey found that 45 percent of those surveyed had not heard of Auschwitz. Historians estimate that anywhere from one million to three million people, about 90 percent of them Jews, were killed there.

Among women and people younger than 35, 60 percent had never heard of Auschwitz, despite the recent popularity of films such as "Schindler's List," "Life is Beautiful" and "The Pianist," which depict the atrocities of the Holocaust.

"The name Auschwitz is quite rightly a byword for horror, but the problem with thinking about horror is that we naturally turn away from it," Rees said.

The BBC said the research was based on a nationally representative postal survey of 4,000 adults 16 and older.

The broadcaster is marking Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27, with a variety of television and radio programs.

The Auschwitz series for BBC2 is based on nearly 100 interviews with survivors and perpetrators and is the result of three years of research with the assistance of professors Ian Kershaw and David Cesarani.

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That is just amazing. What are they teaching in history over there? I'll bet they know the terms "V1", "V2" and/or "buzz bomb" just fine.

I'll have to keep an eye out for the TV series over here. Since I recognize the name "Auschwitz" I won't think it's a Polish cooking show.

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I am surprised anyone is surprised. If we polled Americans, just what percentage of the under 35 crowd would recognize Aushwicz? Perhaps more than 40%, but I wouldn't bet on it. Modern history is presented in our public schools only in high school, and even then "ugly" modern history is only seriously discussed in Junior and Senior year, and then only in the "advanced placement" classes.

How many minutes are spent discussing the Holocaust? I'm going to guess less than an hour, and unless the message was driven home by a film, a long writing assignment, or a field trip, I doubt the information is retained for more than a semester.

As for picking up historical knowledge outside of formal education, the vast majority of Americans don't read regularly, and are unlikely to watch documentaries of events that occurred 60 years ago.

Sorry to come across so negatively, and I do hope I am very mistaken.

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I am surprised anyone is surprised.  If we polled Americans, just what percentage of the under 35 crowd would recognize Aushwicz?  Perhaps more than 40%, but I wouldn't bet on it.  Modern history is presented in our public schools only in high school, and even then "ugly" modern history is only seriously discussed in Junior and Senior year, and then only in the "advanced placement" classes. 

How many minutes are spent discussing the Holocaust?  I'm going to guess less than an hour, and unless the message was driven home by a film, a long writing assignment, or a field trip, I doubt the information is retained for more than a semester.

As for picking up historical knowledge outside of formal education, the vast majority of Americans don't read regularly, and are unlikely to watch documentaries of events that occurred 60 years ago.

Sorry to come across so negatively, and I do hope I am very mistaken.

I think you are, at least about how our schoold currently are, since the 6th grade our history/English(if we didn't have a history class that year) spent a month focusing on World War II and the Holocaust.... if you ask me that's overkill, but it is being taught. This might just be my county though since school polocies vary from county to county. However the majority of those being polled went to school at a different time your estimate may be correct.

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In most countries history is extensively edited to make that country look good and everyone else look bad. This is one of the reasons that American History as taught in public schools is abysmally boring. A result of this is that people find history in general to be boring.

My recollection of lows in American History from school:

War of 1812: I never really understood this war at all until I read about it later and discovered America basically lost

Mexican War: There was the Alamo and then somehow we bought the Southwest. It really is hard to make annexing half of a foreign country look good.

Spanish War: Something about a battleship blowing up. Its hard to make taking over someone's empire look good.

Then history of course seemed to always end at 1945. A nice high point beating the Nazis and all.

Korean War: America lost, hard to make that look good

Vietnam War: America lost, hard to make that look good

I wonder if history classes now end in 1991 since America won the First Gulf War?

Face Americans are ignorant on plenty of history that foreigners would be appalled at.

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Actually I paid attention in history class. I always thought Social Studies provided the best subjects in school. It was easy, understanable, and I always got extremely good grades.

MY personal school experiences with school, history, and the Holocaust, reveals to me that public school spends most of it's history time on The Civil Rights Movement and the Holocaust.

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