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Amazon’s Holocaust Shame

November 11, 2013 4:22 pm 19 comments

One of the offensive titles for sale on Amazon.com. Photo: Amazon.

Recently, the World Jewish Congress and others urged Amazon.com to remove from its offerings books that deny or belittle the Holocaust and extoll white supremacy.

An Oct. 14 report in the British online magazine The Kernel had disclosed that Amazon carries such titles as “Did six million really die? The truth at last,” “The Synagogue of Satan” and “The myth of extermination of the Jews.”

In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos, we appealed to Amazon’s sense of corporate responsibility, arguing that “no one should profit from the sale of such vile and offensive hate literature,” adding that “many Holocaust survivors are deeply offended by the fact that the world’s largest online retailer is making money from selling such material.”

Apparently, the company has chosen to ignore our campaign. As of this writing, those titles are still being sold on the site.

Amazon’s corporate behavior contrasts starkly with that of Ebay.com, which last week immediately pulled and apologized for Holocaust memorabilia that was put up for sale on its site.

“We are very sorry that these items have been listed on eBay and we are removing them,” eBay spokesman Steve Heywood said. “We don’t allow listings of this nature, and dedicate thousands of staff to policing our site and use the latest technology to detect items that shouldn’t be for sale. We very much regret that we didn’t live up to our own standards. We have made a donation to charity to reflect our concern.”

Free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but that should not serve as an excuse for big corporations like Amazon.com to make money by selling hate literature. And sorry, all you would-be First Amendment defenders, asking Amazon not to sell such things is not the same as “banning books.” It’s just asking Amazon to be a responsible corporate citizen and take itself out of the league of such purveyors of hateful filth as Thirdreichdepot.com, which sells reproductions of SS and other Nazi uniforms. Such material will always be available to those who seek it even if Amazon forgoes making its few nickels on this trade.

Moreover, we’re just asking Amazon to live up to its own standards. The firm’s guidelines state: “Amazon.com reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of items sold on our site. Also, be aware of cultural differences and sensitivities. Some items may be acceptable in one country, but unacceptable in another.”

Does Amazon.com really believe that Holocaust denial is not offensive to most Americans?

In many countries, the sale of such books is not only deemed offensive, it is also illegal. Nonetheless, they can be ordered freely via Amazon.com and are shipped to many parts of the world.

There may not be a legal obligation to do so, but there is a moral responsibility not to profit from the sale of books that are considered offensive and obscene by a vast majority of its customers. Even the business that some call “The Everything Store” ought to have standards.

Robert Singer is CEO of the World Jewish Congress, which represents Jews in 100 communities across six continents.

19 Comments

  • Rachel Merkler

    How horrific you would sell this. That makes Amazon the same as NAZIS. Your company is VILE. BOYCOTT .

  • Hans van den Berg

    Glad we al ready decided to stop ordering from Amazon altogether!

  • Going after Amazon is censorship.

    It’s the publishing company and creator of the book/dusk jacket who is the culprit.

  • Elliot J. Stamler

    All of these comments are the antithesis of free speech. Amazon is absolutely entitled to make every book of opinion however loathful, available. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously wrote that the only answer to bad speech is MORE speech and hopefully good speech and that in America, in the free marketplace of ideas, we can only hope that the good speech will prevails. Anti-semites, holocaust-deniers Hitler-defenders should be on Amazon along with the hundreds if not thousands of philo-semitic and Zionist books. No matter how these commenters try to disguise it, they are advocating blatant censorship by Amazon and that is 100% un-American. And as an American Jew I am not worried about the tiny number of rat who writ these books and the tiny number of rats who buy them because they are already anti-semites.

    • Hear, hear…. totally agree. They are entitled to read “fiction”, and should they believe it to be fact, well, that is their ignorance of reality. Also a Jew

  • After reading Alegmeiner’s first article I repeatedly contacted Amazon – twice by phone – and received no response. Not to mention Amazon’s arrogance to not respond to the highest levels of complaint, as Singer reveals. Deplorable. I contacted ADL, UJC and others and there is growing awareness. I for one will boycott them for life whether they change their tune (for $$ only, obviously) or not. If you need to buy online, split your purchases with other merchants and feel better about yourself!!!!!

  • Singer’s blog is misleading. I accessed the eBay as well
    as the Barnes & Noble websites and found that eBay lists
    2 of the titles that Singer mentions in his blog.

    Additionally, B & N lists all three titles for sale.

    Conversely, Random House lists none .

  • Therefore, instead of keeping the material out which is impossible and also impossible to stop sale of the book because it IS published, then focus the argument on “adding the other side of the story,” “bringing more information or left out information,” “balancing the issue.” ONLY with hate / sensitive/ controversial material which could insight hatred and radicalism in a politically polarized country in the midst of a cultural war. All of this should be presented to Amazon from as may law practices from America as possible along with a response to the masses from the Jewish community. I believe the situation serious enough for this type of recourse.

  • On the civil legal spectrum, I think a law should be passed that requires the news, advertisers, stores, etc to present balanced views to the best of their ability particularly when dealing with hate/sensitive/controversial issues. Otherwise, if they did not do so to the best of their obvious ability, then their action could be open for a lawsuit. There is STILL a potential for this type of lawsuit now. And, this may prompt a new law as well. So, thus if they want to advertise this book, then fine. BUT, advertise the opposing view or proof as well along side of this book at the same time. It would be in Amazon’s best civic interest to do so. Don’t you think?

    • Elliot J. Stamler

      You think “a law should be passed”. Did you ever hear of the First Amendment? Go and read a book about the constitution before urging such a blatantly unconstitutional proposal…a “fairness doctrine” is only permissible in relation to broadcasting because those commercial entities use publicly-owned tv and radio channels/frequencies. Your proposal is as un-American as anything imaginable.

  • You know, I believe boycotting is good. HOWEVER, it may be smarter to also pitch an idea to Amazon.com since they don’t have the scruples or independent thinking to do so themselves. It would also be good P.R. considering the “First Amendment” climate in America versus in Europe AND with the hostility blooming from Liberals towards Israel and Jews. Suggest to Amazon.com (when advertising highly controversial material) to allow room for public responses along with promoting the opposing viewpoints side by side when advertising controversial, sensitive, and hate subjects. Yes, the book is about hate and who ever buys the book is financially supporting hate. But, consider that in America, there are hate laws already in effect. The KKK and white supremacists are already via their lawyers trying to circumvent the laws. There are only so many laws which can be passed to protect from hate yet not turn around and be used to vehicle hate. I am saying , essentially , to also fight these situations via the masses and not just focus on fighting it via the law. It sometimes can backfire. And, as polarized as America is , it is very possible that this can backfire. So, don’t always depend upon American government or laws, we have to speak up for Judaism and the horrors of the Holocaust when ever hate is spread via ANY vehicle…i.e. books, tv, movies, organizations, etc.

  • No more will I buy from Amazon.Plenty of others to choose from and just as good a deal.

  • I submitted the follow e-mail to Amazon:

    I am very disappointed to have read that Amazon sells and profits from hate literature denying the Holocaust. I am pasting in the article from the Algemeiner Journal below. Please reconsider your practice of selling this very hateful and hurtful material. I am a regular Amazon customer and a member of Amazon Prime

    (Copy of this article,Amazon’s Holocaust Shame, pasted here)

  • CTV, the Canadian TV chain ran a story on the very same subject on its national news about 10 days ago.

    On the program a person speaking on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Union took the position that its freedom of speech although, hate propaganda is an offence under the Canadian Criminal Code.

    Besides that, I have noticed no follow- up to the program in the newspapers or any prosecutorial initiatives taken by the Federal Director of Prosecutions and by any provincial Attorneys-General.

    Nor for that matter, to the best of my knowledge has the Canadian Jewish Congress made any audible or visual effort to do something about the case.

    Nor for that matter has anyone in France, Germany and Italy, where Holocaust denial is an offence.

    Even worst, nor has the State of Israel taken the initiative to stop Amazon from doing business in Israel.

    Finally, with all due respect, you have totally misconstrued Amazon’s standards which in effect are,not to have any standards that would offend their profit namely; we decide what is appropriate to publish and if you do not like it,tough.

    Finally your appeal to their good corporate citizenship is nonsense. Being corporate has nothing to do with it, nor has good citizenship…It is as basic as breaching the law, basic decency towards and respect of the memory of the innocent victims of the Holocaust, be they Jewish, gypsies, mental patients, political figures.

    Dogan D.Akman

  • Thank you for bring this to our attention. Amazon will not be the place for us to order for all the workers in our company.

  • I don’t order much from Amazon but, thanks to this disgusting episode, I plan to reduce my future Amazon orders to zero.

  • I was just getting ready to order my holiday gifts. After reading this, I won’t be ordering them from the Amazon web site.

  • Raphael Bendjouia

    I wonder what would be the reaction of
    Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos,if 50% of his jewish customers would pull their business away….!

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