Harvard: Holocaust denial ad was 'a mix-up'

Campus newspaper says notice questioning Nazis' use of gas chambers "fell through the cracks."

Birkenau gas chambers 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Birkenau gas chambers 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The head of Harvard University's student newspaper is blaming an ad that questioned the Holocaust on "a miscommunication." Harvard Crimson president Maxwell Child said in a letter to readers Wednesday that his staff initially rejected the ad. But Child said the decision "fell through the cracks" in the three weeks between the ad's submission and its publication Tuesday. Child called the error "a logistical failure and not a philosophical one." Students e-mailed to complain, and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors helped write a letter saying they were "deeply hurt." The ad came from longtime Holocaust denier Bradley Smith and questions the Nazis' use of gas chambers. Smith's ads have appeared since the late 1980s in campus newspapers nationwide. Smith said he was not surprised by the reaction, CNN said, because "it's taboo, and has been taboo from the beginning. When you break a culture-wide taboo, supported in theory and practice by the state, the university and the press, you create a fuss." Smith said he expected the paper to "do the right thing about the money," and refund him for the ad. Harvard Hillel president and director Bernie Steinberg said the advertisement was "obviously a shock to see," according to the television channel. He hailed the Jewish campus organization's students for their response, saying the incident should be seen as an example of "extraordinary mature student leadership in response to an unfortunate situation." Steinberg also praised The Crimson for its response following the numerous complaints. Meanwhile, Harvard Hillel's student president, Rebecca Gillette, lamented that the episode showed the prevalence of Holocaust denial. "The fact that organizations and individuals like that publicized in this advertisement still exist today is frightening and disturbing, but unfortunately it seems that Holocaust denial will persist for years to come," she said in a letter. CNN quoted Robert Trestan, civil rights counsel for the Anti-Defamation League of New England, as saying that Smith and his organization had placed ads in approximately 15 US college papers so far this year, and that he found it shocking that such an advertisement would fall through the cracks. "Would an ad that questions whether the world was flat or that slavery never happened in America have fallen through the cracks?" he asked.