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The varying forms of Holocaust denial

The varying forms of Holocaust denial
As is evident from what we’ve heard, a major expression of contemporary Far-right antisemitism is Holocaust denial in its varying forms and degrees, including Holocaust distortion, minimalization and trivialization. Various forms of this disturbing phenomenon emanate from radical as well as more mainstream groups and movements belonging to this sphere. However, Holocaust denial in its different forms can be found in all spheres from which antisemitism emerges today. What is Holocaust denial? What forms does it take? When did these forms begin? How are they expressed? Why are they defined as manifestations of antisemitism? Let’s hear more about these and other issues relating to this troublesome phenomenon.
Holocaust denial, as we researchers call it, has two main forms. One is what we call ‘gross Holocaust denial’ which means a denial that the Holocaust ever existed in the scope and in the numbers that historians, and Jews, and survivors are speaking about. And the denial goes not only against the numbers in the scope but the means. They deny that means such as gas chambers, crematoria, even medical, terrible medical experiments etc ever existed. So this is the gross one because it denies the big lines. Well, such kind of Holocaust denial started already towards the end of World War II, even before it was ended, in France.
And since then in France, which is I would say the intellectual center of Holocaust denial, since then there are … each generation, each few years there is one more major Holocaust denial around which the Holocaust denial discourse concentrates. But the heydays of the gross denial were between more or less the middle of the 80s to the middle of the 90s. And then there was a core of about twenty thirty major activists spread all over - many of them academics but from other professions, not historians, in Canada, in Australia, in France - we have said - England, United States etc Germany - twenty, thirty who knew each other - they still know (whoever is alive). They knew each other.
They work together. They had a journal. They had conferences; had a lot of propaganda dispersed and distributed. But since the beginning of the 2000s they suffered a number of blows. One of them was the Stockholm conference, a major conference convened by the prime minister of Sweden, participated by some fifty countries, dignitaries, heads of state, that sort of launched the new millennium with a new approach to the Holocaust. Then there was a trial in England in which David Irving sued professor Deborah Lipstadt and lost. And the trial ended with a very well worded and a very clear verdict written by the judges of course, who were later accused that they were Jews but they weren’t.
And this trial definitely was another blow. Then you had Holocaust Memorial Day declared by the United Nations and you had visits of the popes. At least three popes from the 2000 came to Yad Vashem, put flowers. Since then the growth is less visible than it was, than it has been and there is another form that you could call distortion or soft denial as they call it in France, half … not as blunt and gross as the former one and it has many levels. Holocaust distortion has many forms, a variety of forms. They can move from diminishing the numbers - acknowledging that there was a Holocaust and killing but not in such numbers, not in such scope.
It can entail comparisons between the Holocaust and the suffering of other nations under the Nazi rule to a way that puts the Holocaust in the same line as other disasters, thereby denying the uniqueness of the Holocaust and the characteristics that made it an especially outstanding event. A distortion can also be an encouragement of a local population to give respect and tribute to national leaders who at the time were supporters of the Nazis, right-wingers who assisted the Nazis in killing the local population. And now, after the fall of communism, they were rightist, they were against communism. Now after the fall of communism, they are again the heroes.
They are the national heroes, thereby saying that okay what they did was right, was nationally supported and justified etc. So there are many forms to that but I would say that both of them and certainly the gross one are a form of antisemitism. And there are two main arguments for that. One is that if it didn’t exist, if it didn’t happen, this means that the Jewish people has invented the story; yes the Jewish people has invented such a horrible, a horror story.
This means the Jewish people is a bit sick in mind and managed to fabricate a terrible story - not only to fabricate it but to convince others all over the world that it was true and to hold Germany by the throat, which the Jews are still doing. This is outright incitement of the whole public. The second point is that Holocaust denial justifies… goes against antisemitism. What does it mean? Antisemitism was the basis of the Holocaust for Germany and other countries that participated together with Germany. Antisemitism there was a basic tenet. If you say there was no Holocaust or in many other forms you say that “antisemitism, well, it exists but not to such an extent.
There is normal antisemitism much as Jews deserve.” But by denying you sort of justifying something that goes in favor of antisemitism.

Prof. Dina Porat

As we have seen, a major expression of contemporary Far-right antisemitism is Holocaust denial in its varying forms and degrees, including Holocaust distortion, minimalization and trivialization. However, Holocaust denial is not limited to the Far-right, and can be found in its different forms in all spheres from which antisemitism emerges today.

What is Holocaust denial? What forms does it take? Why are they defined as manifestations of antisemitism?

  • Bauer, Yehuda, “A Past that Will Not Go Away,” in Michael Berenbaum and Abraham J. Peck, eds., The Holocaust and History: The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed, and the Reexamined (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), pp. 12–22.

  • Evans, Richard J., In Defense of History, (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999).

  • Lipstadt, Deborah E., Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (New York: Free Press, 1993).

  • Shermer, Michael and Alex Grobman, Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009).

  • Wistrich, Robert S., Holocaust Denial: The politics of perfidy (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2012).

  • Wodak, Ruth, “Saying the Unsayable: Denying the Holocaust in Media Debates in Austria and the UK,” Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict.,vol. 3, no. 1 (2015), pp. 13 – 40.

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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