“MostHolocaust denial claims imply, or openly state, that the Holocaust is a hoax arising out of a deliberate Jewish conspiracy to advance the interest of Jews at the expense of other peoples. For this reason, Holocaust denial is generally considered to be an antisemitic conspiracy theory.” Accurate so far as it goes, but how does it provide a response to counter the provocation?
One group of deniers, the Scholastics, argue that their “research” is valid and should be allowed to be judged based on its conclusions. Mainstream historians criticize the approach of the deniers on the grounds that it begins with a conclusion, then sets out to discover “facts” which support their assumptions. In fact several European states and Israel criminalize Holocaust Denial, an issue Jonathan Rosenblum recently confronted in the Jerusalem Post. Denying the deniers “freedom of speech” allows them to, “point to the illegalization of Holocaust denial as proof of the power of their arguments.”
Historian Deborah Lipstadt won her case against denier David Irving in court, and Rosenblum is likely correct that silencing Denial by statute is unproductive. But the challenge of Denial goes well beyond academic veracity and freedom of speech. It is present in academia, but also in politics; it serves as rank provocation and as apologetic, to minimize and deny guilt. Distinguishing between motive and agenda will provide a more effective tool to counter the threat.
In what follows I will introduce three basic categories of Holocaust Denial and a brief description of each. The three categories are only a first step, a beginning.
This is the first of two articles planned on the topic. The second will summarize a recent and week-long exchange between myself and a Holocaust denier through the medium of the Jewish online magazine, Tablet.
While non-Jewish Holocaust denial always, at bottom, refers to an anti-Jewish, antisemitic inspiration/agenda, it nonetheless comes in a variety of forms with specific purposes ranging from simple anti-Jewish schadenfreude, the pleasure of provoking Jewish discomfort, to political and to apologetic. A cartoon appearing in the Iranian on-line book,” Holocaust shares all three agendas. It represents “the Jew” as having created a “golden cow.” He is shouting “Holocaust!” through a tube extending from the cow’s rear while a character representing the credulous West is bowing down in fealty. Intended or not, the cartoon refers back to the popular anti-Jewish medieval Judensau which, as sculpture, today adorns the facades of many European churches and, as a woodcut, decorates period documents and books. In the Judensau, or “Jew-pig,” Jews are typically represented as suckling at the teats of a sow, while a rabbi is represented as raising the sow’s tail to eat its feces. Antisemitism has a very long history whose tradition extends into the present.
Political Holocaust Denial: As an instrument of politics Holocaust denial has its roots in, and is closely identified with such antisemitic parties as the Ku Klux Klan, reconstituted following the lynching in 1917 of the Jewish factory manager Leo Frank; the National Socialist White People party, formed in 1959; and today’s American Nazi Party, the Aryan Nations, and The Order, aka Brüder Schweigen. Christian Identity of the US and Britain are also notoriously antisemitic and contribute to and support Scholastic Holocaust Denial.
Scholastic Holocaust Denial: More representative of what is popularly called Holocaust denial is the Institute for Historical Revue (IHR). Founded in 1977, the Institute, describes itself as a, “public interest educational, research and publishing center promoting greater public awareness of history.” Its Journal of Historical Revue (JHR) was dedicated to Holocaust denial, and published the works of such well-known deniers as David Irving. Until it stopped publishing in 2002 JHR also published materials by surviving SS officers. An affiliate of JHR is the Noontide Press which continues to publish such classics of antisemitic literature as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and Mein Kampf, and more modern works such as David Duke’s, My Awakening.
Although not organized as a “political party,” IHR serves as forum for antisemites, providing conferences at which recent “research” is discussed, published and disseminated. Although its agenda is blatantly antisemitic, its associates and audience are more likely to sport jacket and tie than skinhead and tattoos. “[I]ts political philosophy is premised on the adulation of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime and the belief that modern life is a struggle between Christians of European descent and Jews.”
Apologetic Holocaust Denial: The purpose of this form of Holocaust denial is to reduce or deflect guilt from persons or institutions incriminated in the Holocaust. The most notable example of Apologetic Holocaust Denial is the Vatican beatification of Pius XII.
At a 1938 Eucharistic conference in Hungary then Cardinal Pacelli described the Jews as those, “whose lips curse [Christ] and whose hearts reject him even today.” And in 1942, while the Holocaust was raging, now Pope Pius XII said, “Jerusalem has responded to His call and to His grace with the same rigid blindness and stubborn ingratitude that has led it along the path of guilt to the murder of God.”During the Holocaust Pius elevated Croatian archbishop Stepiac, closely identified with the Catholic Ustasa which created and ran its own Jewish death camps manned by priests, to the cardinalate. And following the war Pius’ Vatican created the notorious Rat Lines that provided false identity, funds, and transportation for Nazi war criminals fleeing justice at Nuremberg. All in all, not exactly the biography of a person destined for sainthood.
From the time the possibility of the beatification of Pius was first raised Jews expressed concern, outrage. Of course the Vatican is not obliged to respond favorably to Jewish concerns. But following Vatican II and Nostre Aetate, that tiny Vatican step towards accepting some measure of responsibility for the millennia of anti-Jewish actions which provided precedent for the Holocaust, perhaps some sensitivity in the matter of the Pius beatification may be indicated. Is the beatification of Pacelli so pressing that it cannot await the long-promised release of the still secret archives of the Pius papacy? Or perhaps the rush to beatification represents another and parallel motive, that if Pius is exonerated by sainthood, then the wings of innocence would also encompass the Holocaust-era Vatican as well, its silence during the slaughter, its assisting Nazi war criminals to escape trial beginning only days after the gates of Auschwitz were thrown open, and the horror within exposed.
In his article, Think Again: Are Holocaust denial statutes worth it? Jonathan Rosenblum argues against European and Israeli laws criminalizing Holocaust denial. Interestingly, his argument is similar to that of the Holocaust denier with whom I had that week-long exchange. Mr. Rosenblum, makes the point that “[t]he very existence of such statutes will always be pointed to by anti-Semites as further proof of the reach of the Jewish tentacles that hold European legislators in their clutches. Worse, they could very well add credibility to the claims of the deniers. The latter will point to the illegalization of Holocaust denial as proof of the power of their arguments.”
My denier correspondent makes the same case. He also holds that, “the veracity of Holocaust assertions should be determined in the marketplace of scholarly discourse and not in our legislatures bodies and courthouses.”
Should Holocaust denial be permitted as “free speech,” or is there another dimension involved which justifies limiting its expression? Most people, even among the deniers, accept that the Germans engaged in mass murder during the Second World War, and that millions of Russians, Poles and others considered “inferior races” were murdered. While the murder of these populations was also motivated by racism, another likely motive for that murder campaign was Germany’s hunger for territory of those peoples, its policy of “lebensraum” aimed at opening the “east” to Aryan colonization.
The term, “the Holocaust” only came into currency with the Eichmann trial, and the recognition that the Third Reich’s policy of mass murder as applied to the Jews was not explicable by even the outrageous, if “rational” policy of lebensraum: the Jews had no territory of their own to be coveted. No, the Holocaust was “personal,” described by the perpetrators as the “final solution” to Christendom’s Jewish Problem. Persecuted for centuries due to their religion, the secular West would, under the leadership of Hitler’s Germany, finally solve that millennia-long problem, once and for all.
Since Holocaust Denial describes the Jews as secretive, sinister and anti-Christian, as manipulating Christendom to unseen Jewish purposes, deniers see the Jews behind the European statutes aimed at suppressing their freedom of expression. They are convinced, as that Iranian cartoon portrays, that Jewish control of those countries is behind the legislation.
Holocaust Denial is anti-Jewish incitement. Although protected under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, “unless directed at imminent lawless action,” at bottom it is aimed at not only discrediting the generally accepted Holocaust narrative, but by doing so also challenges the history of Jewish experience in the Diaspora. Two thousand years of persecution are thereby reduced to a self-serving Jewish fabrication, a falsehood created to serve our assumed sinister agenda regarding Christendom and world domination.Whether or not limiting Holocaust Denial by statute lends a gloss of credibility to the deniers, Denial is anti-Jewish in intent, represents a threat, and as such must be judged and responded to according to its dangerous potential. And this means we must be able to tailor our response, to distinguish between denier advocates and their agendas.