For many people, the holidays mean a time of enjoyment and eating too much. However, amid all the celebration, it is also a time of reflection and acknowledgment. One increasing concern is Holocaust denial.
When checking social media, it is no longer surprising to find comments denying or distorting the facts of the Holocaust. The most recent occurrence was Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who felt the need while visiting Berlin to claim there were 50 Holocausts committed against the Palestinians by Israel.
However, it is not solely Abbas who feels the need to distort the horrors of the Holocaust. Organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League have reported a growing amount of antisemitic occurrences grounded in Holocaust denial.
This was seen when British rapper Wiley used his social media platforms to display his antisemitic views, which in 2020 included Holocaust denial.
This appears on social media by people who feel the need to say the Jewish people use the Holocaust to gain sympathy. Articles and social media pages contain an abundance of comments distorting the Holocaust, using the Holocaust as a comparison to the politics of Israel.
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan stated that the world lives “in an era in which fiction is now becoming fact, and the Holocaust is becoming a distant memory. Holocaust denial has spread like cancer, it has spread on our watch.”
“in an era in which fiction is now becoming fact, and the Holocaust is becoming a distant memory. Holocaust denial has spread like cancer, it has spread on our watch.”Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan
Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that the Holocaust is not forgotten, and a major part of that is combating Holocaust denial.
The Internet and social media should not be a place to rewrite history and yet by simply typing in “legality of Holocaust denial” on Google, you will be met with a plethora of results, attempting to rewrite facts and just claim their freedom of expression.
4,000 posts denying the Holocaust taken down
According to the official UN website, between June and July 2021, approximately 4,000 posts denying the Holocaust were taken down from Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Telegram. The same report estimated that nearly half of the Holocaust content on the platform denies its occurrence.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “This report is an urgent wake-up call that must jolt us into action – to pursue truth, remembrance and education, and together build a world of peace, dignity and justice for all.”
Some countries have been rightly alarmed by this scenario and have decided to take direct action. An example is Canada, which under the direction of Irwin Cotler, Canada’s special envoy for antisemitism, decided to criminalize Holocaust denial.
Following countries like Germany and Austria, Canada hopes that in doing so it will minimize the publication of Holocaust denial. However, since social media does not have to be from a personal account, the question of whether criminalizing Holocaust denial is enough still lingers.
Germany combating the wave of Holocaust denial
An example of a country that is excelling at both Holocaust education and combating the wave of Holocaust denial, is Germany.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany suffered a rapid rise of the far-right political movement, which resulted in protests on the streets, so much so that people felt the need to wear a yellow Star of David as people were forced to do during the Nazi era.
In the wake of this, Germany looked to their hate speech laws that criminalize neo-Nazi behavior both on and offline. The latest changes to this act were proposed in 2020 and aim to enhance enforcement against hate speech, Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi behavior online.
As a student who uses social media on a daily basis, the amount of Holocaust denial and distortion is increasingly worrying. And as the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, there is an imminent and urgent need for the younger generation to be more active in the fight for remembrance.
The writer is an upcoming Argov Fellow at Reichman University and runs a Holocaust education Instagram account @mymissiontoremember.