For Auschwitz liberation’s 75th anniversary, fight Holocaust denial with education – Washington Examiner

Posted By on January 27, 2020

This years International Holocaust Remembrance Day, celebrated annually on Jan. 27, marks the passage of three-quarters of a century since the liberation of Auschwitz, the largest German Nazi death camp. Underscoring the importance of this anniversary is the global rise of the same anti-Jewish hate that spawned the genocide of 6 million Jews under the Nazi regime.

One of multiple factors fueling this rise in anti-Semitism is a decline in Holocaust learning. In 2018, the Claims Conference found that 22% of U.S. millennials claimed they had never heard of the Holocaust, compared with 11% of all adults. Such lack of knowledge is easily exploited by traditional Holocaust deniers, who are spurred on in their efforts by anti-Semitic hate. It also benefits a host of governments and institutions that have either benefited from paltry understanding of Hitlers genocide or participated in revising the past for motives, which, though not anti-Semitic, harm Jews.

In honor of this important Holocaust anniversary, we must dedicate ourselves to Holocaust education and understanding and renewing our attempts to counter all varieties of denial and revisionism to prevent the further rise of anti-Semitism.

Traditional Holocaust Denial

Traditional deniers blame Jews for the Holocaust, claiming they perpetuated, manufactured, and exploited the genocide committed by the Nazis. Deniers also believe, in spite of factual evidence to the contrary, that organized mass murder of Jews did not occur under the Nazis. They suggest that fewer than 300,000 European Jews died during World War II as a result of typhus, starvation, and exposure.

The descent into genocide, however, was meticulously documented by the Germans. About 3,000 tons of records were culled from the millions of German documents the Allies captured while closing in on German forces and presented at the post-war trials of the highest-ranking Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, U.S. historians gained access to the Red Armys trove of captured German documents, including the diary of SS leader Heinrich Himmler.

Additional Holocaust evidence is still being uncovered today. Personal belongings from those who likely died in Auschwitz were discovered in Poland in 2016 and in the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland in 2015. Throughout Eastern Europe, the group Yahad-In Unum is collecting oral histories and uncovering physical evidence of genocide left by Hitlers mobile killing units, the Einsatzgruppen.

Still, deniers argue that evidence is manufactured, that testimonies were falsified or issued under duress, and that video and photographs of camps were created during the post-war years. Deniers also argue over loopholes. For instance, no single captured German document shows Hitler calling for the Holocaust or enumerates the total Jewish death toll under the Nazi regime. Deniers seize on such absences to bolster their claim that the Holocaust is a lie.

Denial is meant to intimidate Jews, to discredit the existence of the Jewish state of Israel, or to pave the way for a return to Nazism. Its purpose may also be to create additional deniers. Peppering their false histories with footnotes citing other deniers who, on occasion, are associated with organizations whose names sound legitimate and authoritative, deniers sow doubt in populations not familiar with the history of the era. New recruits may not harbor anti-Semitic beliefs, but after being introduced to additional conspiracy theories about Jews, the ideals of anti-Semitism have fertile ground on which to take off.

Like anti-Semitism itself, Holocaust denial is not practiced by a single group but rather is shared by strange bedfellows. Denial is pushed by the far-right, by far-left groups such as affiliates of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, and by prominent anti-Semites David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam.

Denial also thrives in the Middle East and North Africa, where the Anti-Defamation League found in 2014 that 63% of the population who had heard of the Holocaust believed it was a myth or that the number of Jews who died had been greatly exaggerated.

The Iranian regime has perpetuated anti-Semitic Holocaust denial since 1998, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, even sponsoring denial conferences with prominent anti-Semites from around the world. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed put[ting] [Holocaust denial] forward at the global level was among the great achievements of his presidency. Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has trafficked in denial as recently as 2016.

Anti-Semitic denial has worldwide reach through the internet and social media. Facebook refuses to remove anti-Semitic Holocaust denial and revisionism from a platform shared by billions of people.

Forgetfulness and Holocaust Revision

Holocaust revisionism is not always anti-Semitic on its face, but any attempts from legitimate institutions to minimize the reality, or understanding, of Nazi genocide will always be harmful to Jews.

Revisionism can look like forgetfulness. On Jan. 3, the BBC World Service tweeted that the number of Yiddish speakers, which was once more than 10 million, had been severely depleted by the mid-20th century. The tweet neglected the probable link between this depletion and Hitlers mid-20th century genocide of two-thirds of Europes Jewish population. BBC later apologized for the error.

Sometimes, revisionism involves looking the other way. Museums and state-run facilities around the world, including those in Poland, Hungary, and Russia, have spent decades avoiding returning items which came into their possession through the theft and looting of Jewish valuables in spite of international pressure.

Revisionism might look like a failure to see parallels in modern society. In 2019, France issued final payments from the $60 million in reparations owed to survivors and relatives of the Jews sent on French trains to German death camps during the Holocaust. However, in the same year, the country declined to prosecute the anti-Semite who brutally murdered a Holocaust survivor and has, for multiple years running, failed to protect its Jewish population from the raging anti-Semitism that has led some French Jews to flee to Israel.

Revisionism can spring from attempts to preserve national pride. Laws passed recently in Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine make it a punishable crime to place blame for the Holocaust on groups of national Nazi collaborators or on individuals who turned local Jews over to the Nazis. While Poland eventually changed its law, making accusations of complicity a civil rather than a criminal offense, Lithuania is now in the process of drafting a stronger law claiming the Lithuanian state did not participate in the Holocaust.

This International Holocaust Remembrance Day, colored as it is by startling recent acts of anti-Semitism, is a reminder to dedicate ourselves to Holocaust education as an antidote to the denial fueled by a hatred of Jews. We must also speak out against the revisionists subtly chipping away at historical facts, with the purpose not of directing blame to stigmatize, but rather to truly embrace Holocaust history to avoid the repetition of a devastating past.

Beth Bailey (@BWBailey85) is a freelance writer from the Detroit area.

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For Auschwitz liberation's 75th anniversary, fight Holocaust denial with education - Washington Examiner

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