Survey: 70% of French Jews experienced antisemitism

January 22, 2020 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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A staggering 70% of French Jews say they have been victims of antisemitism, 59% suffered physical abuse in school and 46% suffered verbal abuse at work, according to a new survey by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on the issue.

Other disturbing findings in the survey showed that young French Jews between the ages of 18-24 are most vulnerable to anti-Semitism.

More than 8 out of 10 young French Jews have suffered at least one anti-Semitic incident, and 39% have been the victims of physical violence.

Attempting to avoid anti-Semitic attacks, more than a third of French Jews refrain from wearing Jewish symbols in public, and a quarter avoids revealing their Jewish identity at work, and 40% avoid arriving at certain areas to circumvent attacks.

The report did not touch on the perpetrators’ identity, whether they be neo-Nazis or Muslim immigrants from Africa.

Overall, 44% of the Jewish respondents said the situation for French Jews is worse than a year ago, only 11% say it is better and 42% said it was not better or worse.

Some 52% of French Jews have considered leaving France while Israel has seen several large waves of Aliyah of French Jews in recent years.

Between the years 2000 and 2017, 10 per cent of the French Jewish community, the largest in Europe, immigrated to Israel.

Some 38,000 arrived in Israel in the past decade. The number of Olim from France peaked this decade, with the new Olim coming in the past 10 years constituting nearly one-third of the total Olim from France since the establishment of Israel. In 2015, a record number of Olim came from France with the arrival of 7,892 French Jews.

Interestingly, 73% of the French general public and 72% of French Jews agree that anti-Semitism affects all of society and not only the Jews.

The National Assembly in France in December voted in favour of a resolution that endorses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which also defines anti-Zionism as a form of Jew-hatred.

“This has to stop,” said Ann Sebban-Bécache, Director of AJC Paris. “The fight against anti-Semitism must be a national priority which has adequate means to cover all of France.”

The AJC Paris study was conducted by IFOP, a leading polling firm, in partnership with Fondapol, a major French think tank. They polled 505 French Jews and 1,027 French people between October 14 and November 19, 2019.

Another study,  Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey of adults in France highlights both the desire and the need for Holocaust education was released by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference).

This survey represents the fourth in a series of global surveys conducted by the Claims Conference to determine the current status of Holocaust knowledge around the world. Similar to previous surveys conducted in the United StatesCanada and Austria, outcomes from the France study indicate alarming gaps in knowledge of historical facts about the Holocaust.

President Julius Berman said: “Once again, we are seeing a significant lapse in understanding about the Holocaust, a history that is critically important,” Berman said of the France survey. “Our current education is not ample; it is failing us and the disturbing trend of Holocaust ignorance we are seeing globally demands increased education.”

The critical gaps exposed by the France study echo findings in previous surveys, with a majority of total French respondents (57 per cent) not knowing that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. That number jumps significantly to 69 per cent among Millennial and Gen Z respondents.

Matthew Bronfman, Claims Conference Task Force Chair for the Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, commented, “It is devastating to learn that younger generations do not understand the impact of the Holocaust. It was an attempted extermination of an entire people. Without knowledge, how can we ensure that prejudice and unchecked hatred are confronted?”

Other findings

Number of Jews Murdered

  • 30 percent of French respondents overall, and 44 percent of Millennials and Gen Z, believe two million or fewer Jews were killed during the Holocaust.
  • Across the four countries surveyed (United States, Canada, Austria and France) more than half of respondents did not know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust – with France having the highest percentage of people unaware that six million Jews were murdered.

Camps and Ghettos

  • While 66 percent are familiar with Auschwitz-Birkenau, only 19 percent of French respondents are familiar with the infamous Dachau concentration camp, while awareness of Buchenwald (10 percent), Treblinka (6 percent), Sobibor (5 percent), and Bergen-Belsen (4 percent) is incredibly low.

France’s Holocaust Legacy and Nazism

  • An overwhelming number of French respondents (58 percent) believe France was both a victim and a perpetrator of the Holocaust, despite 74 percent saying that the Vichy Regime actively collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.
  • 45 percent of Millennials are unaware of the French government’s collaboration with the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.
  • Almost one-third of French respondents (30 percent) say there are a great deal or many neo-Nazis in France today. A solid plurality (44 percent) say there are a few. By comparison, just over 4-in-10 French respondents (43 percent) believe that there are a great deal/many neo-Nazis in the United States today.
  • 59 percent of French respondents agree that fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to. Only 18 percent believe that people still talk too much about what happened during the Holocaust.
  • 69 percent of French respondents believe antisemitism is either MORE widespread (35 percent) in France or just as widespread (34 percent) as it was 10 years ago. Just 18 percent say antisemitism is less widespread than it was 10 years ago.
  • Twice as many Millennials (20 percent) than all French respondents (10 percent) feel it is acceptable for an individual to hold antisemitic views.

Holocaust Education

  • 25 percent of Millennials are unsure if they have ever heard of – or have not heard of – the Holocaust, compared to 16 percent of all French respondents.
  • 79 percent of French respondents say that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school, and 75 percent believe Holocaust education should be compulsory in school. Additionally, 82 percent of respondents say it is important to continue to teach about the Holocaust, in part, so it doesn’t happen again.
  • Approximately 4-in-10 respondents (41 percent) say that the current lessons about the Holocaust could be improved.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Millennials and Gen Z (64 percent) first learned about the Holocaust in school, compared to 46 percent of all French adults surveyed.
  • 64 percent of all French respondents cite “Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl” as a point of first learning about the Holocaust, but only 20 percent of respondents know that the Holocaust took place in the Netherlands, where Anne Frank was hidden while keeping her diary, indicating a lack of context in current Holocaust education.


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