WHAT IS HOLOCAUST DENIAL?
Holocaust denial is just one of the manifestations of antisemitism. The real motives behind Holocaust denial are antisemitism, wider racism, and the rehabilitation of Nazism. The logic of the deniers is, if the Nazis’ genocide against the Jews makes Nazism unacceptable in today’s climate, then whitewashing this crime could make their doctrine once again acceptable. This pernicious political goal, rather than any pursuit of historic facts or legal rights, is what Holocaust denial is about.
In advancing their Holocaust denial claims, most deniers steadfastly deny any antisemitism, but this is completely at odds with their repeated and ongoing expressions of it. For example, the president of the Holocaust-denial advocacy group, the misleadingly named Australian Civil Liberties Union, claimed that four Australian Prime Minister’s wives were of Jewish descent and this ‘explains many things that are happening here’. Under the banner of The Adelaide Institute, another publisher of Holocaust denial complained ‘how difficult it is for the Jews to abandon their hate-filled Talmudic tradition’.
Clearly antisemitism is an integral part of the philosophy of Holocaust denial. The deniers assert that the Holocaust did not happen, and that there must be a massive worldwide Jewish conspiracy to perpetuate the fraud that it did. Some groups go so far as to suggest the Nazi death camps were virtual holiday camps where inmates had swimming pools, post-offices, theatres, concert halls, libraries and even brothels.
Deniers (also called “Revisionists”) assert that the murder of approximately 6 million Jews during World War 11 never occurred; that the Nazis had no official policy or intention to exterminate the Jews; and that the poison gas chambers in the death camps never existed. Survivors of the Shoah (Holocaust), are told by the deniers that their experiences never occurred. People who were deported from their homes in cattle carts and whose names were replaced with tattooed numbers on their arms are now told they are frauds.
Deniers’ assertions are predicated on highly selective use of information. A claim about the small number of Jewish deaths, for instance, is based on entries in the Auschwitz register, even though the register was only used for those who were sent to work and not those selected for immediate gassing.
Second, they distort what information is available. The deniers’ claim of there having been only 6.5 million Jews in Europe prior to World War II, for example, is based on a Chambers Encyclopedia entry that gives this figure for the Jews in Europe, excluding Russia and countries not under Nazi domination in 1939. Yet it was from these (excluded) territories where enormous numbers of the victims came. Other distortions include, for example, assertions that the deaths in the concentration camps were caused by disease and starvation, not by official policy and that the Diary of Anne Frank is a forgery.
Third, they fail to address the glaring inconsistencies in their logic. For example, they claim that Zyklon B could not have been used to gas Jews because it would have threatened the Germans who were doing the killing. This is then contradicted by their explanation that it was used only for delousing purposes, as if the people exposed to it in this way would be immune to its life-threatening danger.
While such views cause bewilderment, bemusement and dismay to true historians, civil libertarians and sensible individuals, they bring nods of approval from the other far-right fringe dwellers with whom Holocaust deniers have close ties.
HOLOCAUST MISUSE AND MINIMISATION
Distinct from denial and distortion is misuse of the Holocaust. This occurs when aspects of the Holocaust are compared to events, situations, or people where there is no genocide or genocidal intent. Examples include: claiming that Israeli-government actions are equivalent to those of the Nazis; equating the treatment of animals with the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust; calling political opponents Nazis; misusing terminology of the Holocaust to claim that particular actions are the same as actions undertaken by the Nazis.
“Holocaust minimisation has the effect of minimising the crimes and horror of the Holocaust. Regardless of whether or not that is the intent, or whether or not it is targeting Jews, Holocaust minimisation is a serious problem. Making comparisons of laws, policies and conditions in democratic countries like Australia with the systematic and planned murder of six million Jewish men, women and children is morally repugnant, trivialises the Holocaust, minimises the crime that was the Holocaust, and is offensive to the millions of Europeans who lived and suffered under the Nazis.
Some recent incidents in Australia of Holocaust minimisation or inappropriate Holocaust rhetoric include:
• Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in parliament (12 February 2015): “There was a holocaust of jobs in Defence industries under members opposite.” Abbott withdrew the statement, replaced the word ‘holocaust’ with ‘decimation’ and apologised.
• Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in parliament (19 March 2015), called Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition: “the Dr Goebbels of economic policy”. Abbott immediately withdrew his comment.
• Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated on radio station 2GB (3 September 2015) that: “The Nazis did terrible evil but they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it. These people [Islamic State] boast about their evil, this is the extraordinary thing. They act in the way that medieval barbarians acted only they broadcast it to the world with an effrontery which is hard to credit.” Abbott implied that secrecy surrounding the implementation of the Holocaust amounted to the Nazis feeling shame about the mass murder they were committing. In fact, the secrecy was not about shame but about committing the genocide as smoothly as possible, with the least amount of resistance, and an attempt to avoid being held to account after the war.
• Dr Ric Gordon, on the Channel 9 program “Today” (August 2015) on Australians eating too much junk food, stated: “there were no overweight people in the concentration camps…Now they weren’t exercising a lot, they just weren’t eating.”
(From the Executive Council of Australian Jewry Antisemitism-Report-2015)
HOLOCAUST DENIAL AND RACISM IN AUSTRALIA Holocaust denial is a key component of Australia’s small White Supremacy movement. Just as Jewish history is denied by these groups, so too is Aboriginal history. One Australian denier explains the nexus between Holocaust denial and his group’s anti-Aboriginal position by saying, “the mind-set that attempts to stop us from exploring the factual historical truth-content of the Jewish-Nazi Holocaust is similar to the mind-set that claims to have the Aborigines ‘interests at heart.” He makes the ridiculous assertion that “Australia’s Aborigines originally came from southern India – thereby short-circuiting the silly story that their origin lies in some 40 000-year dreamtime mythology”.
It must be noted therefore that Holocaust denial is not an exclusively Jewish concern. Denial is simply part of a world view of profound animosity to all. While the deniers’ groups are not large in numbers, their activities are an outlet for anti-social behaviour and worse, give public exposure to views which are blatantly unacceptable and dangerous to Australian society.
There have been occasions where perpetrators of Holocaust denial and racial hatred have been prosecuted. Please see http://www.ecaj.org.au/case_study/ for further information about each of these cases.
DAVID IRVING – HOLOCAUST DENIER
“David Irving is unique among modern Holocaust deniers for having first established a reputation as a popular, if controversial, chronicler of World War II. This reputation, combined with his flair for self-promotion and involvement in high-profile lawsuits, made him one of the best-known Holocaust deniers in the world. He suffered a major blow, however, when he lost an internationally publicized legal battle with Professor Deborah Lipstadt, whom he had accused of libel, before a London court. Labelled a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite by Justice Charles Gray, and increasingly shunned by publishing houses, it is unlikely that Irving will ever regain the mainstream cachet he once enjoyed. Nonetheless, he continues to tour, raise money and convene annual “Real History Conferences.” He remains one of the world’s most effective purveyors of Holocaust denial.”
( Anti Defamation League)
One would like to think that Holocaust denial could never progress from the fringe to the mainstream, but the history of antisemitism provides ample proof that absurdity is no barrier to acceptability. If Holocaust denial is recognised for what it is: antisemitism as the thin of the wedge for broader racism, fascism and Nazism, then it should be subject to all the limitations placed on racist activity, including being subject to racial vilification legislation.
The Holocaust deniers contend that to oppose their Holocaust denial is to oppose freedom of speech, academic inquiry and the pursuit of the historical truth. Yet this is just another myth, because genuine scholars of the Holocaust are engaged in an ongoing and lively debate about the nature of the Holocaust.
For a number of years deniers have targeted universities as the front line of their campaign. Desperately wanting their denial to be construed as genuine academic inquiry, they wish to win academic respectability, as well as the ear and sympathy of people who they think will be in positions of power and influence in the years to come.
It must be made categorically clear that academic inquiry into all and every aspect of history is to be encouraged. Only by knowing the truth can the past be confronted, but rather than analyse history and pursue the truth, Holocaust deniers distort it. They propagate lies, turning myths to facts and facts to fiction, using the language of scholarship to pervert its goals.