The Holocaust: Holocaust denial and minimisation
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Holocaust denial is unfortunately an extremely common form of antisemitism today. Just as the dedicated antisemite finds it necessary to blame Jews for what is most wrong with the world, so they also find it necessary to deny or minimise the Holocaust, the most appalling consequence of antisemitism, in order to minimise the sympathy of non-Jews for Jews and keep antisemitism alive.
Holocaust deniers use the term ‘Holocaust revisionism’ to suggest that their questioning of accepted historical facts is a legitimate form of historical inquiry. In fact, although history is of course always being added to and revised, the basic facts about the Holocaust are so well-documented that to question them is simply illegitimate.
The Holocaust (from the Ancient Greek word “holokaustos” and the Hellenic “holokautoma”, literally “the burning of the whole”, which was used to translate the Olah sacrifice in the Torah, and is still used in Greek today for an all-consuming inferno) is generally regarded as starting in earnest in 1941, and culminated in the industrial-scale murder, mostly by gassing, of millions of Jews, but also Roma/Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, trade unionists, Communists, Socialists, black people, disabled people and others deemed unworthy of life by the Nazi regime. Although other regimes – within living memory they include Stalin’s in the USSR and Pol Pot’s in Cambodia – have also committed genocide, there is in recent history no comparable instance of the premeditated mass-slaughter of people solely on the basis of their ethnicity.
Holocaust deniers claim, for example, that Nazi Germany’s Final Solution aimed only to deport Jews, not to exterminate them; or that they did not use extermination camps and gas chambers for this purpose; or that they did, but that the actual number of Jews murdered is much lower – around 500,000 – rather than the accepted figure of 5 to 7 million. This is despite survivors’ testimony, film evidence and the Nazi’s own records. Some, like David Irving, claim the slaughter took place without the knowledge of Hitler.
All Holocaust denial or minimisation is antisemitic; we are dealing with incontrovertible historical facts, not a variety of opinions all of which have some validity. Unbelievably, Norman Finkelstein here seems to suggest that Holocaust denial should be taught at university as a serious alternative view.
This is an account of an action by the far right in Boulder, Colorado, in November 2019. Highly antisemitic notes were posted around a pedestrian mall, and this flier was handed out.
Another twist to Holocaust minimisation is linked to the notion that the Israeli government – or ‘Zionists’ – exploit the history of the Holocaust by continuing to portray Jews as victims while simultaneously victimising the Palestinians. ‘Zionists’ are said by some antisemites to exaggerate the number of Holocaust victims – or even invent the Holocaust altogether – to further their aims.
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