What is Holocaust denial?

Antisemitism has always evolved, and Holocaust denial is just one of the 20th century manifestations of that process. The real motives behind Holocaust denial are antisemitism, wider racism, and the rehabilitation of Nazism. The logic of the deniers is, if the Nazis’ genocide against the Jews makes Nazism unacceptable in today’s climate, then whitewashing this crime could make their doctrine once again acceptable. This pernicious political goal, rather than any pursuit of historic facts or legal rights, is what Holocaust denial is about.

In advancing their Holocaust denial claims, most deniers steadfastly deny any antisemitism, but this is completely at odds with their repeated and ongoing expressions of it. For example, the president of the Holocaust-denial advocacy group, the misleadingly named Australian Civil Liberties Union, has claimed that four Australian Prime Minister’s wives have been of Jewish descent and this ‘explains many things that are happening here’. Under the banner of The Adelaide Institute, another publisher of Holocaust denial has complained ‘how difficult it is for the Jews to abandon their hate-filled Talmudic tradition’.

THE DENIAL

Clearly antisemitism is an integral part of the philosophy of Holocaust denial. The deniers assert that the Holocaust did not happen, and that there must be a massive worldwide Jewish conspiracy to perpetuate the fraud that it did. Some groups go so far as to suggest the Nazi death camps were virtual holiday camps where inmates were enjoyed swimming pools, post-offices, theatres, concert halls, libraries and even brothels.

Deniers (also called “Revisionists”) deny the mass murder of the Holocaust, the killing of a million children, parents whose children were physically taken from their arms never to be seen again and children who survived but never again saw their parents. Survivors of the Shoah (Holocaust), many of whom until this day wake up every night with nightmares, are told by the deniers that their experiences never occurred. People who were deported from their homes in cattle carts and whose names were replaced with tattooed numbers on their arms are now told they are frauds. It wasn’t enough that they lost loved ones, homes and all they knew; now even that loss is denied.

Deniers’ assertions are predicated on highly selective use of information. A claim about the small number of Jewish deaths, for instance, is based on entries in the Auschwitz register, even though the register was only used for those who were sent to work and not those selected for immediate gassing.

Second, they distort what information is available. The deniers’ claim of there having been 6.5 million Jews in Europe prior to World War II, for example, is based on a Chambers Encyclopedia entry that gives this figure for the Jews in Europe, excluding Russia and countries not under Nazi domination in 1939. Yet it was from these (excluded) territories where enormous numbers of the victims came.

Third, they fail to address the glaring inconsistencies in their logic. For example, they claim that Zyklon B could not have been used to gas Jews because it would have threatened the Germans who were doing the killing. This is then contradicted by their explanation that it was used only for delousing purposes, as if the people exposed to it in this way would be immune to its life-threatening danger.

While such views cause bewilderment, bemusement and dismay to true historians, civil libertarians and sensible individuals, they bring nods of approval from the other far-right fringe dwellers with whom Holocaust deniers have close ties.

HOLOCAUST DENIAL AND RACISM

Holocaust denial is a key component of Australia’s small White Supremacy movement. Just as Jewish history is denied by these groups, so too is Aboriginal history. One Australian denier explains the nexus between Holocaust denial and his group’s anti-Aboriginal position by saying, “the mind-set that attempts to stop us from exploring the factual historical truth-content of the Jewish-Nazi Holocaust is similar to the mind-set that claims to have the Aborigines’interests at heart.” He makes the ridiculous assertion that “Australia’s Aborigines originally came from southern India – thereby short-circuiting the silly story that their origin lies in some 40 000-year dreamtime mythology”.

It must therefore be noted that Holocaust denial is not an exclusively Jewish concern. Denial is simply part of a world view of profound animosity to all. While the deniers’ groups are not large in numbers, their activities are an outlet for anti-social behaviour and worse, give public exposure to views which are blatantly unacceptable and dangerous to Australian society.

COUNTERING DENIAL

One would like to think that Holocaust denial could never progress from the fringe to the mainstream, but the history of antisemitism provides ample proof that absurdity is no barrier to acceptability. If Holocaust denial is recognised for what it is: antisemitism as the thin of the wedge for broader racism, fascism and Nazism, then it should be subject to all the limitations placed on racist activity, including being subject to racial vilification legislation.

The Holocaust deniers contend that to oppose their Holocaust denial is to oppose freedom of speech, academic inquiry and the pursuit of the historical truth. Yet this is just another myth, because genuine scholars of the Holocaust are engaged in an ongoing and lively debate about the nature of the Holocaust.

For a number of years deniers have targeted universities as the front line of their campaign. Desperately wanting their denial to be construed as genuine academic inquiry, they wish to win academic respectability, as well as the ear and sympathy of people who they think will be in positions of power and influence in the years to come. It must be made categorically clear that academic inquiry into all and very aspect of history is to be encouraged. Only by knowing the truth can the past be confronted, but rather than analyse history and pursue the truth, Holocaust deniers distort it. They propagate lies, turning myths to facts and facts to fiction, using the language of scholarship to pervert its goals.

There are parameters to academic and public debate. Some facts are beyond debate. The earth is round, the sky is blue and the sun rises and sets. If someone with no scientific background established an organisation and gave it a scientific title and asserted that the earth was flat, the sky was green and the sun did not rise or set, such arguments would not be entered into by academics or considered by the media. Their views would be given no credibility whatsoever. The same should apply to Holocaust deniers.

Taken from an article by the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission of Australia and New Zealand, June 1999

A survivor of the Shoah/Holocaust responds to the question “How do you feel about people who say the Holocaust never happened?”

Henryka Shaw (nee Schermant), b. 192-, Krakow, Poland. Immigrated to Sydney, Australia 1953.

“I would like to meet them face to face. I would like to meet somebody like that, who can say that (the Holocaust) did not exist. I would like to sit down and tell them, or perhaps scratch their eyes out. I really don’t know how I would react if I would come across somebody like that. I’m not responsible for my actions, because what I went through…has affected me to this day, every day, every night. So to tell me that it didn’t exist it is more than I would be able to control myself. I would like to meet somebody like that. I really mean it, so I could spit into their face and tell them what it was like.”

For comprehensive information about the Holocaust/Shoah, visit www.holocaust.com.au.