The Horror of Holocaust Denial

June 6, 2014 2:07 am 24 comments
An example of Holocaust denial literature available for sale at Amazon.com. Photo: Screenshot.

An example of Holocaust denial literature available for sale at Amazon.com. Photo: Screenshot.

Over the last few weeks, the Holocaust has appeared surprisingly often in the news.  In most cases, the reason has been the surprising degree of ignorance or denial that so many people have about this cataclysmic event.  The most disheartening reports have addressed the role of educators in spreading misinformation. Worse, they have illustrated that Holocaust denial is not just an ordinary form of ignorance but rather a modern cloak for the return of old-fashioned anti-Semitism.

The Anti-Defamation League’s much-heralded ADL Global 100 survey showed that 35% of adults worldwide have never heard of the Holocaust.  Of those who have heard of it, 21% think it was a myth or exaggeration.  One may quibble about the ADL survey’s methodology,  but this study presents the best available evidence that we have about global attitudes.  This revelation has been accompanied by three disturbing recent stories over the last few weeks.

First came news that the Rialto California school district had assigned 2,000 eighth-graders at five middle schools in the Rialto Unified School District east of Los Angeles to compose an essay on whether or not they believe the Holocaust was “an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme.”  The district thought this to be an appropriate assignment to teach “critical thinking” skills.

Although the district has subsequently apologized, its apology reflects little understanding of why the assignment was so obscenely inappropriate.  People who debate the Holocaust are not merely foolish or ignorant, like those who insist that the earth is flat.  Rather, Holocaust denial is a particular form of bigotry.  In order to deny anything as vast and well-documented as the Nazi Holocaust, one must assume that the world’s peoples have been victimized by a hoax of extraordinary proportions.  Such a hoax could only be perpetrated by an enormously powerful and malevolent group of deeply crooked people who are able to control global media for their own sinister purposes.  Unsurprisingly, these outlandish claims perfectly correspond with traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes.  In encouraging students to debate this topic, as if it were merely a difference of opinion, Rialto gave credence not merely to absurd misinformation but also to virulent ant-Semitic defamations of precisely the sort that led to the Holocaust in the first place.

Next came reports that Temple Adjunct Professor Alessio Lerro was arguing that Jews are exaggerating the extent of the Holocaust to obtain policitcal advantages.  In the course of supporting the Modern Langue Association’s new anti-Israel resolution, Lerro wrote this about the Holocaust:  “6 million? Mh … we all know [ or should know] that the counting of Jews is a bit controversial.””  Lerro is a reportedly a gamer, and CBS Local’s Don Giordamo reports that “mh is internet slang for map hack, a term meaning cheating to gain an advantage. In other words, Lerro is arguing that Jews are “gaming” the Holocaust numbers in order to gain a political advantage in public debates.  Lerro also reportedly accused “Jewish scholars” of manipulating academia and charged that it is “time that Zionists are asked to finally account for their support to the illegal occupation of Palestine since 1967.” Here we have a fine example of the ugly stereotypes that underlie Holocaust denial and Holocaust minimization.  It is highly disturbing to finds these stereotypes circulated by a university professor.

A Temple University spokesman appeared to support Lerro’s comments, or at least to reject efforts to condemn them, arguing that “the exercise of academic freedom necessarily results in a vigorous exchange of ideas,” although the spokesman later added that “the views and opinions of any individual are those of the individual and not those of the university.”   While academic freedom certainly results in a robust exchange of ideas, it need to result in an ugly exchange of racist canards.  An institution of higher learning, like Temple University, should understand the difference between debatable “views and opinions” and classical expressions of bigotry.

In a final insult, popular MSNBC host Toure Neblett recently apologized for a tweet in which heinsinuated that Jewish survivors of the Holocaust have succeeded because they are white.  Toure hadtweeted “The power of whiteness” in response to a tweet that reported, “My family survived a concentration camp, came to the US w/ nothing, LEGALLY, and made it work.”  In other words, Toure minimized the extent of the Nazi atrocity, insinuating that Jews have been able to overcome disadvantage because they are “white.”  In a rather feeble apology,  Toure wrote that “It was a dumb idea by me to debate serious and nuanced topics in 140 characters or less. In an attempt to comment on racism in post World War II America, I used a shorthand that was insensitive and wrong. I am very sorry and will make sure this doesn’t happen again.”  Toure’s mistake was not merely to debate serious topics via Twitter but to diminish the extent of the Holocaust.  While Toure’s statement was not as outrageous as Lerro’s, such comments from respected media figures give cover and respectability to those whose Holocaust minimization is part and parcel of a more insidious program.

It is not enough for institutions like Temple University to distance themselves from the statements of professors who deny the extent of the Holocaust. Nor is it sufficient for school districts like Rialto to apologize for the insensitivity of assignments that encourage students to participate in Holocaust denial.  Holocaust denial is not merely a mistake of opinion or a factual error.  Rather, it is an implicit endorsement of some of the most insidious lies that have ever been told about a group of people.  The horror of Holocaust denial is that it replicates the very same thinking that supported the rise of the Nazi party in the first place.  Such thinking should not merely be rejected but rather condemned with the greatest possible force.

This article first appeared at the Brandeis Center Blog.

24 Comments

  • Julian Clovelley

    So are those who are so keen to put a Republican Administration in power going to ask that they promise to pass legislation making denial of the Holocaust illegal?

    Good luck on that – some of the Republican, Tea Party and Christian Right brigade already deny Evolution and try to use “Free Speech” jurisprudence as an excuse to teach Creationism as a valid scientific theory in schools. By the same token they are quite likely to want theories that there were no gassings at Auschwitz treated with similar validity

    So if you do succeed in pushing the Democrats out you might expect a glut of denial of reality. Evolution, climate change, the need for public health care, the dangers of universal unregulated gun ownership – that’s just a start.

    Careful what you wish for. Make a mistake in politics and the result usually goes bang!

  • Holocaust denial is a form of grave desecration. It derives from the hatred of Jews. End of story.

    • Julian Clovelley

      Not just from hatred of the Jews but also from a perceived need to sanitise Fascism, in order to make it the logical destination of Right Wing politics. The Right has always been the gateway to Fascism and Nazism, preferring, by far ,what Orwell called “the boot stamping in the human face forever” to any genuine accommodation of socialism or social democracy, or any fairer division of wealth and opportunity.

      It is the Holocaust that is the great reminder to ordinary people of where Right Wing extremism leads. The rails go straight to Auschwitz – they always did, and always will. That is why Jewish people and other minorities are taking a huge risk when they vote to the Right of Centre, and still a lesser one when they vote too close to the Centre

      Holocaust denial accompanies the Rise of the Right – If you have any doubt watch what happens in Europe amongst Right Wing political forces. You are justifiably concerned when the Holocaust is denied, but I sometimes wonder – reading comments in Algemeiner -if too many people in the Jewish community, too young to have witnessed the events, are perhaps themselves ignorant as to the political process whereby the nightmare that killed not just Jewish people, but a number of between sixty and a hundred million, came to be.

      Teach your children well too. The evil is still out there. Misunderstanding an event can be just as dangerous as denying it.

      Never, never, never again and to no-one.

  • Since the muslim population is one of the largest, I would like to know the breakdown in the ADL survey of the perentage of muslims, and arabs, who hold anti-semitic views.

  • The rise of anti-Semitism on campuses & academia is the result of a diabolical strange coalition of islamic activists & the left.

  • The so called “facts” are not facts at all, and that’s why we want to debate it.
    The Holocaust is the only topic that I know of that is NOT debatable. Why is that? What are you afraid of.
    If we are wrong you will destroy us in a debate if we are right you learned the truth.
    What do you have to lose?

    Jim Rizoli
    jjrizo on youtube

    For the record….

    “”The Holocaust has proven to be an indispensable ideological weapon. Through its deployment, one of the world’s most formidable military powers [FAKE Israel], with a horrendous human rights record, has cast itself as a ‘victim’ state, and the most successful ethnic group [Jews' Race] in the United States has likewise acquired victim status. Considerable benefits accrue to this specious [appearing to be true but actually false] victimhood – in particular, immunity to criticism, however justified.” ~ Norman G. Finkelstein [a Jew] of the City University of New York ~ The Holocaust Industry (2000) published by Verso, p. 3

    “The Holocaust is a successful historical FICTION”! ~ Chief Rabbi Arye Friedman [a Jew] Vienna, Suddeutsche Zeitung, Dec. 12, 2006, p. 7″

  • Temple’s actions are as logical as KKK opinions about Black people, just as academically sound, just as valid. In other words, Temple is just the latest attempt to validate racism.

  • As a former teacher and a child Holocaust survivor I am disgusted with the questioning of the reality of the Holocaust, especially with the topic given to school children.
    Regarding the numbers it was definitely more than 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis only because they were born Jewish.
    Ben Stark.

  • “…time that Zionists are asked to finally account for their support to the illegal occupation of Palestine since 1967.” Here we have a fine example of the ugly stereotypes that underlie Holocaust denial and Holocaust minimization.”

    it’s also a fine example of what underlies anti-Israel attitudes. it’s not the settlements, and it’s not the fence, or the checkpoints. it’s plain old everyday Jew-hate.

    “It is highly disturbing to finds these stereotypes circulated by a university professor.”

    Mr. Marcus, really! have you not spent any time on college campuses recently? I am not at all surprised to hear a university professor spouting libels against the Jews; in fact, it would surprise me to hear a faculty member defending Israel.

  • JStreet is a Jewish Con organization who is Anti Semitic and intends to destroy Israel. JStreet has connections to Hamas. JStreet are Jewish Traitors for proof see the film JStreet.
    Are you aware many America Jews have betrayed Israel though their misguided support of JStreet. JStreet is a Jewish Con organization that is Anti Semite and intends to destroy Israel. Many Jews don’t know that JStreet is Anti Semite but they support it. For proof see the film JStreet.

  • Accepting the comments about the enormity of anti-Jewish feelings all over the globe, what role have Jews played in this development? Are Jews innocent of all wrong-doing? Why is it that it is so rare that Jews discuss their own role in the creation of anti-Semitism internationally?

    • oh, I get it: like black people are responsible for racism? is that what you meant, Adolf?–I mean “Bradley”?

    • BuckDePublick

      Just try spouting your garbage in front of an IDF man (or woman), you old psychotic piece of Nazi dung. It will be fun to watch as you attempt to pick up your dentures as you crawl on the ground. SHOVE IT!

    • Why is it so rare? When was the last time you heard Christians owning up to the atrocities they have committed over the last 2000 years? When did you hear Muslims decrying the incredible barbarism of so many of its brotherhood? Bradly, you are a typical Nazi sympathizer. Jews do not have to account for themselves any more than do Black people, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, Democrats, Republicans, Russians, Britons, French, or anyone else on the globe.

      Jews have done more for humanity than any other single group on the planet. Yet, bigots such as you continually want Jews to defend our own right to exist. It is YOUR right to exist that should be the question, and it is YOU who should account for your actions and beliefs.

    • Bradley Smith, I can read the same post in P.A. produced bulletins

  • Perhaps it would be better to engage the deniers in open public discussions? There are entire websites that say they want the opportunity to provide their ‘truth’ which is little more than trying to reason something like that after lo these many years. I’m guessing they are people who grew up without understanding and have fallen into the abyss of denial and the hatred that is a result. Open conversation in public media might serve as an educational tool for all.

    • Also a lack of education, intelligence quotient, right and wrong training. Their evil beliefs are not based on logic, they are based on hate. You cannot debate hate. You can condemn it, glorify it, teach it, defend against it, but you cannot debate it.

    • Joh. Pfaeffle

      The Jews, 90% of them not Semitic, Cannot debate the alleged holocaust because it never happened as told. The Jewish stories are just stories. The tax-payer
      funded USHMM puts out a story that reads like a war was not in progress and the German Army who saved the “West” from communism, spent its time looking for Jews to kill.
      Of course this will not be published.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    As a returning resident to Israel who has made his permanent home in Jerusalem in the last five months, I find holocaust denial a kind of solipsism, a perspective anathema to living in the twenty-first century. How can any Jew not be aware of the Holocaust as a critically tragic event in human record, and how can any human being not be educated on the Holocaust so that he or she knows about it as much as possible as a matter of any and every human being’s need to be aware of a major event in the past? I have taught about the Holocaust for some thirty years both in Israel and in the States, and, hopefully, I will continue to teach about it in the near future. At age thirty-nine I legally changed my name from Randall David Smith to Yoel David Nitzarim. My current private name is my paternal great-grandfather’s, a Jewish woodsman and kohen who lived in Siemiatycze, a shtetl in northeastern Poland and was probably killed there in a pogrom. A denotative meaning of my surname means “descendants.” Literally, my name means G-d wills descendants of David, a fitting name because both of my daughters are third-generation children of survivors of Auschwitz.

  • Another holocaust is possible. If it happened once it can happen again. Thank G-d we have Israel. We need to do everything possible to keep Israel militarily strong. Jews get out of Europe. There can be no compromise regarding Israel nor can we depend on the good will of others. This unfortunately is a lesson that many Jews have never learned. Never forget, never forgive never again. Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg
    Subject: Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg SAYS President Obama You Have

    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg SAYS President Obama You Have …

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig8c795KymA

    2 min – Dec 2, 2013 – Uploaded by Bernhard Rosenberg

    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg SAYS President Obama You Have Some … John Hagee for …

    • TheAZCowBoy

      Hagee is a sick ‘puppy’ fundamentalist and retired pedofile who like Joe Farah, a Muslim, promotes and finances Jewish terrorism as a career goal – we have many ‘sick puppies’ on this planet. Think Binyimin Natanyahu, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir-Myerson, Sharon, Begin, Gabe Ashkanazi, Dayan, ‘conman’ Lieberman, et. al… and we have found the war criminal ‘purest’of the Jewish people.

      • You forgot ‘theazcowboy,’ an abomination whose every pronouncement is spitting at G-d. You and every other subhuman, toothless, mindless, redneck neanderthal that pollutes this planet.

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