New survey finds shocking number of New Zealanders believe Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves, as concerns of antisemitism rise

A new study on New Zealanders' views towards Jewish people shows concerning levels of antisemitism, with a disturbing number of Kiwis believing Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves.

The Antisemitism Survey of New Zealand 2021, conducted by Curia Research, put 18 internationally recognised statements to just over 1000 New Zealanders to measure antisemitic sentiment.

The survey found nearly one-fifth of participants knew virtually nothing about the Holocaust and six percent agreed with the statement that the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves.

Jewish Council spokesperson Juliet Moses says the survey shows some Kiwis still believe in stubborn and dangerous tropes about Jewish people.

The survey found about one in five New Zealanders believe Jews have too much power in international financial markets and one in ten believe they have too much control over global media.

"This survey is an important tool in exposing these alarming beliefs. These falsehoods make Jewish communities a target when people are looking to lay blame for tough times," Moses said in a statement. "History has taught us this hatred doesn’t stop at Jewish communities. It spreads to other ethnic communities."

The survey found only 42 percent of people could correctly identify that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, echoing previous polls that found a large percentage of New Zealanders have little to no knowledge of the Holocaust.

"Misinformation about the Holocaust – or Holocaust distortion – is a form of antisemitism. It minimises the suffering of a great number of Jewish families and the murder of their loved ones," Holocaust education in Aotearoa New Zealand board chair Deborah Hart said.

Hart says the survey shows the need for more Holocaust education.

"Holocaust education provides lessons for all humanity. Antisemitism is often considered the indicator of more widespread racism. A society that tolerates antisemitism will soon accept other forms of racism," Hart said in a statement.

The Holocaust was a critical event that occurred during the Second World War, but decades later society continues to tackle the memory and historical record of the Holocaust, including persistent antisemitism and racism.

The Holocaust Centre is calling for more secondary schools to adopt its #JustOneWeek programme used in 262 schools so far, which teaches students about the impact discrimination had through the real-life experiences of Jewish survivors.

"If people understand what the Holocaust actually was, this acts as a buffer against the rise of antisemitism and other forms of racism.  Holocaust education is a safeguard for civil society," Hart says.

Former New Zealand Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman said in a statement that the survey follows a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents in New Zealand over the past few years.

"This survey shows that classic antisemitism has re-emerged – particularly during the pandemic – as Holocaust denial and has become conflated with conspiracy theories and alt-right politics," he said.

The country recently saw an extreme side of the lack of understanding in what Hart says was a "gross misuse" of Holocaust references at the Parliament protests.

There has been a "gross misuse" of Holocaust references at anti-mandate protests in Parliament.
There has been a "gross misuse" of Holocaust references at anti-mandate protests in Parliament. Photo credit: Getty Images

Wellington Jewish Council chair David Zwartz says the best way to fight racism is to get to know each other.

New Zealand has around 10,000 Jews, with the largest population in Auckland and Wellington.

"The simplest way to fight racism is to get to know each other and do things together. When communities understand each other, they build trust and are able to put their judgements aside. They can embrace their similarities as well as their differences," Zwartz says.

The Holocaust Centre is calling for public funding for a centre they are planning on building in Auckland to increase access to education for thousands of Auckland schools and families.