The rapid increase of Holocaust abuse

Manipulation of the truth may well become a substantial part of the Holocaust discourse. This is increasingly likely to occur as surviving Holocaust victims are aging.

February 1, 2018 21:25
4 minute read.
Holocaust survivors enter Auschwitz 73 years after its liberation on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Janu

Holocaust survivors enter Auschwitz 73 years after its liberation on Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 2018. (photo credit: KACPER PEMPEL / REUTERS)

Over the past decades, the abuse of the Holocaust has gradually increased. Rather unnoticed in the last year or two, however, the number of these distortions has grown at a far more rapid rate. Holocaust abuse has also permeated several additional areas of mainstream society.

Manipulation of the truth may well become a substantial part of the Holocaust discourse. This is increasingly likely to occur as surviving Holocaust victims are aging. In an increasingly chaotic world it is difficult to see how this trend can be halted.

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As the abuse of the Holocaust is not systematically monitored, hardly anyone realizes that the number of incidents has greatly increased. When I wrote The Abuse of Holocaust Memory: Distortions and Responses in 2009, it was still possible to categorize almost all distortions within eight distinct categories.

Before that time, the focus in the media and the public domain had been on Holocaust denial. This is not the most extreme category of Holocaust abuse. Holocaust inversion is a more devious category. A major slogan used in this category is that Israel behaves toward the Palestinians like the Nazis behaved toward the Jews.

Since 2009, not only the borders between categories of Holocaust abuse have diffused. There are also new variations. A particular devious one has been pointed out by Israeli genocide scholar Israel Charny.

He has illustrated how Holocaust research departments at various universities, including Israeli ones, contain “a good number of scholars who indulge in Holocaust denials or minimization and are entirely bona fide according to all the rules and conventions of academia.”

Charny called the University of Sussex in the UK a “center of Holocaust distortion.” One scholar there published an article claiming that Hitler did not specifically target the Jews but “it was part of a larger program that disposed those who stood in the way of expanding German living space.” The distortion at universities also shows itself in far more primitive ways: “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” was painted on a sidewalk at the University of California campus at Berkeley.

At the European Union in 2015, an official from Malta was accused of antisemitic hate speech and assault of an EU employee. He praised Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in a rant and attempted to strangle the woman whom he mistakenly assumed was Jewish. He said, “Dirty Jew... Hitler should have exterminated all the Jews, just as they today are exterminating the Palestinians.”

Chief Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs, the head of the Dutch Orthodox Rabbinate, says that when something happens in Israel, people shout at him, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”

He also says that Dutch youngsters shouted “Heil Hitler” during one of his speeches at the memorial meeting for Dutch Holocaust victims.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour Party for the past two years, has frequently appeared publicly with Holocaust-denier Paul Eisen. The latter wrote that Corbyn has “attended every single one of his charity’s annual events and has even donated money to the group.”

A MAJOR Holocaust-distortion issue concerns Polish Holocaust revisionism.

Since the beginning of this century, there have been major disclosures about massive crimes committed by Poles against Jews during the Holocaust. The two main scholars who have pointed this out are Jan Gross and Jan Grabowski. Grabowski states that his research shows that 200,000 Jews were killed during the Holocaust by Poles. The Polish government is trying to deny these facts.

Nor should one look away from the abuse of the Holocaust by Jews, which also seems to be on the increase. One of the most severe insults for a Jew is to accuse another Jew of being a Nazi. The Sephardic chief rabbi of Jerusalem and former chief rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar, said that Reform Jews are worse than Holocaust deniers.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of additional examples of Holocaust abuse in recent years can be found. Even before the expansion of social media it was already difficult to obtain a full overview of Holocaust abuse. The fragmentation of collective memory in the Western world has further facilitated Holocaust distortion. At the same time in the growing historical vacuum, mentions of the Holocaust seem to be increasing instead of fading away, as usually happens with events of the past.

The number of incidences is so large nowadays that even trends may go unnoticed. The issue is sufficiently worrisome to warrant far more attention. The next step should be for Holocaust memorial institutions to start to systematically and professionally monitor such abuse within their country and categorize it. On an international basis, Yad Vashem seems the logical choice to initiate and coordinate such a move.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the International Leadership Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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