The real danger: Holocaust distortion

Nowhere is this phenomenon more acute than in Eastern Europe, the only region where collaboration with the Nazis entailed active participation in mass murder.

April 23, 2017 22:09
3 minute read.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks during a press briefing at the White House.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US.. (photo credit: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS)


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During the past month Holocaust- related issues have received an extraordinary amount of attention from the media.

Four examples come to mind.

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One was the inaccurate comparison by White House spokesperson Sean Spicer between Hitler and Syrian President Bashar Assad in which he forgot that the Nazis had gassed to death millions of Jews.

A second was French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s assertion that France was not responsible for the roundup by Vichy police of more than 12,000 Jews in Paris in the summer of 1942.

The third was the patently false claims made by former London mayor Ken Livingstone that Hitler supported Zionism, implying that the Zionist movement actually collaborated with the Third Reich.

The fourth was the erroneous claim that documents from the recently- opened archives of the UN war crimes commission were the first proof that the Allies were already aware of the Holocaust in late 1942 and not only after the liberation of German concentration camps.

The good news is that the Holocaust occupies a unique place in Western historical consciousness and that any glaring mistakes by those in prominent positions about its events will be publicized immediately and corrected by responsible historians.

The most important question is, however, the reason for such comments, and their implications.

In that respect, we must differentiate between those remarks motivated by ignorance or incompetence, like those of Spicer (who to his credit profusely apologized) or the ones about the ostensible significance of the documents in the UN war crimes archives, and those prompted by antisemitism, such as those of Livingstone, or by a combination of antisemitism and political opportunism, such as those of Le Pen.

Needless to say, whereas the first two are undoubtedly annoying, it is the last two which should be of serious concern, since they reflect the growing danger posed by Holocaust distortion, in which the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis and their helpers is not denied, but efforts are made to rewrite the narrative of the Shoah for political reasons.Thus while it appears that Holocaust denial has been defeated in the Western world, new lies about aspects of the Shoah are being invented which are even more dangerous, since they cannot be as easily refuted as Holocaust denial.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more acute than in Eastern Europe, the only region where collaboration with the Nazis entailed active participation in mass murder. Thus a primary motivation behind East European efforts to rewrite the history of the Holocaust is to hide, or at least minimize, the crimes of local collaborators.

Another objective is to convince the world that Communist crimes were just as bad as those of the Nazis, and that the peoples of Eastern Europe were the victims of genocide.

These goals were formulated in the June 3, 2008 Prague Declaration which calls upon Europe to treat the tragedies of Nazism and Communism as if they were historically equivalent, and calls for measures which if adopted would undermine the justified status of the Shoa as a unique historical event. It is therefore quite surprising that former German president Joachim Gauck was invited this year to participate in the official closing ceremony of Holocaust Remembrance Day at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot.

Gauck is one of the politicians who signed the Prague Declaration (before he became president ) and to this day has never indicated any change of mind about the equivalency of Nazi and Communist crimes.

So if that’s the case in the Jewish state, what can we expect from anyone else?

The author is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of the SWC’s Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs. His most recent book, with Ruta Vanagaite, Our People; Journey With an Enemy, has been published in Lithuanian and Polish and is slated for publication this year in Hebrew and Russian.

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