Respectful Insolence

This blog is primarily about medicine, the scientific basis of medicine, and general skepticism and critical thinking. As part of my interest in skepticism, a particular form of pseudoscience and pseudohistory that I first took an interest in about a decade ago, namely Holocaust “revisionism,” which is, of course, in reality Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is the denial or minimization of the crimes committed by the Nazi regime, in particular the industrialized genocide of European Jewry. The reasons, as I’ve discussed time and time again, virtually always boil down to a combination of anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi beliefs, often also manifest as an admiration for Hitler. In this, David Irving is perhaps the quintessential example. Not only is he prone to blatantly anti-Semitic remarks, but he has in the past expressed his admiration for Hitler as a “strong man.”

As despicable as Holocaust denial is, however, time marches on, and the horrific events that were put to an end 63 years ago. As the events recede into the past, both the perpetrators and the victims have grown very old, and many are dying. It won’t be long before the generation that remembers has passed from the earth. This normal course of events is a two-edged sword for Holocaust deniers. On the one hand, that fewer and fewer people are familiar with what happened between 63 and 75 years ago in the heart of Europe serves their purposes, because they can more easily use misinformation to deny the Holocaust, knowing that few know enough about it to recognize the misinformation. On the other hand, the generation that actually is emotionally invested enough in Nazi-ism to deny the Holocaust and genteel enough to want to disguise their anti-Semitism. Wishful thinking? I don’t think so.

Witness this lament by professional Holocaust denier Mark Weber recently published on the website of the Holocaust denial organization Institute for Historical Review. He’s basically throwing in the towel, as you will see. He begins with an admission that the Holocaust “revisionism” movement has failed:

Revisionists have published impressive evidence, including long neglected documents and testimony, that has contributed to a more complete and accurate understanding of an emotion-laden and highly polemicized chapter of history.

I have played a role in this effort. In published writings, in lectures, and in courtroom testimony, I have devoted much time and work to critically reviewing the “official” Holocaust narrative, to countering Holocaust propaganda, and to debunking specific Holocaust claims.

But in spite of years of effort by revisionists, including some serious work that on occasion has forced “mainstream” historians to make startling concessions, there has been little success in convincing people that the familiar Holocaust story is defective.

“Impressive evidence”? I nearly spit my iced tea on the keyboard of my MacBook Pro when I read that. As is the case for all cranks (like creationists, 9/11 Truthers, and many varieties of quacks), the “arguments” of Holocaust deniers consist of cherry picking evidence, ignoring masses of data that do not support their views, logical fallacies, and, if necessary to make their case or ignore “inconvenient” evidence, outright lies. Even so, what I find remarkable about this passage by Weber is that he is plainly admitting that he has failed and the Holocaust “revisionism” movement has failed. After ten years of battling online Holocaust denial, I find this to be an amazing admission. Of course, he can’t resist throwing a few denier chestnuts in there, such as the swipes at the “official” Holocaust narrative, “Holocaust propaganda,” and the “familiar” Holocaust story. One of the favorite rhetorical techniques of Holocaust deniers is to complain about the “official” narrative as “political correctness.” The other, naturally, is to whine about the “power” and “influence” of the Jews and represent themselves as beleaguered truth seekers whose speech is being suppressed by those evil Jews/Zionists (in the eyes of Holocaust deniers, the two are one in the same):

This lack of success is not difficult to understand. Revisionists are up against a well-organized, decades-long campaign that is promoted in the mass media, reinforced in classrooms, and supported by politicians.

Tim Cole, a history professor and prominent specialist of Holocaust studies, has written in his book Selling the Holocaust: “From a relatively slow start, we have now come to the point where Jewish culture in particular, and Western culture more generally, are saturated with the ‘Holocaust’. Indeed, the ‘Holocaust’ has saturated Western culture to such an extent that it appears not only centre stage, but also lurks in the background. This can be seen in the remarkable number of contemporary movies which include the ‘Holocaust’ as plot or sub-plot.”

Between 1989 and 2003 alone, more than 170 films with Holocaust themes were made. In many American and European schools, a focus on the wartime suffering of Europe’s Jews is obligatory. Every major American city has at least one Holocaust museum or memorial. The largest is the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, which is run by a taxpayer-funded federal government agency, and draws some two million visitors yearly.

A number of countries, including Britain, Germany and Italy, officially observe an annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. The United Nations General Assembly in 2005 approved a resolution introduced by Israel to designate January 27 as an international Holocaust remembrance day.

In the United States and western Europe, the Holocaust has become is a venerated, semi-religious mythos. Prof. Michael Goldberg, an eminent rabbi, has written of what he calls a “Holocaust cult with its own tenets of faith, rites and shrines.” In this age of secular “political correctness,” Holocaust “denial” is the modern equivalent of sacrilege.

Yes, indeed, here’s another technique beloved of cranks, which is to portray the accepted consensus as nothing more than a religion, because religions are based on faith, not fact, science, or evidence. It’s much easier for a crank to represent the consensus, be it scientific or historical, as being “just another belief system” if he can somehow get the label of “cult” to stick, as Weber so charmingly just tried to do. Of course, even if all these ceremonies and remembrance days were overblown to an inappropriate level, it would not change the evidence for the historicity of the Holocaust. It would not change the historical fact that the Nazi regime tried to exterminate European Jewry and almost succeeded. In short, it would not change reality, which does not depend upon whether one “believes” in it or not.

So what? you might say. This could all just be sour grapes. Weber realizes that he’s getting nowhere with Holocaust denial and he’s frustrated; so he vents a bit. Well, yes, but that’s not all there is to his article. Here is the most astonishing admission of all:

A major reason for the lack of success in persuading people that conventional Holocaust accounts are fraudulent or exaggerated is that — as revisionists acknowledge – Jews in Europe were, in fact, singled out during the war years for especially severe treatment.

[...]

No informed person disputes that Europe’s Jews did, in fact, suffer a great catastrophe during the Second World War. Millions were forced from their homes and deported to brutal internment in crowded ghettos and camps. Jewish communities across Central and Eastern Europe, large and small, were wiped out. Millions lost their lives. When the war ended in 1945, most of the Jews of Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and others countries were gone.

Given all this, it should not be surprising that even well-founded revisionist arguments are often dismissed as heartless quibbling.

My jaw dropped when I read those last two paragraphs. Weber has seemingly just admitted that the Holocaust actually happened! Does that mean he’s no longer a Holocaust denier? This is such an amazing admission that it’s even started to be picked up in the German press quite accurately (from what I can tell) as an admission that Holocaust deniers were going back to their real “core business,” which is Jew hatred.

It is true that one favorite technique of Holocaust denial is to concede that, yes, the Jews suffered horribly during World War II, even that millions died, but to deny that there was an intentional program of genocide waged against them by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. In this variant of the Holocaust denier argument, Jews died not because they were gassed in death camps or worked to death in work camps, but rather because, basically, “war is hell” and that was especially true of World War II. But Weber went even farther than I expected. He was, for perhaps the first time I’ve ever seen him, totally honest, albeit deluded, given his characterization of the “achievements” of Holocaust deniers:

But despite a discouraging record of achievement, some revisionists insist that their work is vitally important because success in exposing the Holocaust as a hoax will deliver a shattering blow to Israel and Jewish-Zionist power. This view, however, is based on a mistaken understanding of the relationship between “Holocaust remembrance” and Jewish-Zionist power.

Even before World War II, the organized Jewish community was playing a major role in the political and cultural life of Europe and the United States, and the Zionist movement was already very influential. Although propaganda about the wartime catastrophe of Europe’s Jews was a factor in American society during the 1950s and 1960s, it was not until the late 1970s that “the Holocaust” began to play a really significant social-political role. It was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that the term began to appear as a specific entry in standard encyclopedias and reference books, and became an obligatory subject in American textbooks and classrooms.

In short, the Holocaust assumed an important role in the social-cultural life of America and western Europe in keeping with, and as an expression of, a phenomenal increase in Jewish influence and power. The Holocaust “remembrance” campaign is not so much a source of Jewish-Zionist power as it is an expression of it. For that reason, debunking the Holocaust will not shatter that power.

In other words, Holocaust deniers see the Holocaust as the source of power behind the Jews they hate and view attacking it through denial not as a search for truth but rather as a strategy to attack that source, nothing more and nothing less. In fact, it has always been thus, ever since the first Holocaust denier crawled out of the slime under the wreckage of World War II to express disbelief that so many millions of Jews were killed. If they can undermine the acceptance of the historicity of the Holocaust, Weber is saying, “revisionists” can thereby undermine the power of the Jews that they hate. It’s an amazing conspiracy theory (is there nothing those rascally Jews can’t do?), but many Holocaust deniers believe it because–surprise! surprise!–they are bigots and anti-Semites. They often buy into many, if not all, of the ancient lies and stereotypes about Jews passed on for centuries, little changed from the days of the Black Plague, when Jews were falsely accused of “poisoning the wells” and that accusation was used to justify the persecution of the Jews. As I said before, I have never seen a Holocaust denier come right out and admit it so bluntly and in such a straightforward fashion. As I have also said before, scratch a Holocaust denier, and you will find the anti-Semite within, and asked before, “Where are the ‘revisionists’ who aren’t neo-Nazis or anti-Semites?”

None of this is anything new; it’s just that talk of this type has usually been restricted to Usenet postings and denier discussion boards, such as this gem from 2000:

If the general perception of the public were to change . . if people no longer viewed Jews as the “poor, picked-on, innocent scapegoats” that they have been portrayed to be . . . What would be the consequences?

Mark Weber, meet anonymous Usenet bigot. Anonymous Usenet bigot, meet Mark Weber. You two will get along just fine.

In fact, Weber is so clear about it that he points out explicitly the relationship between Holocaust denial and attacking “Jewish power.” And, make no mistake about it, in the eyes of Holocaust deniers, “Zionist” and Zionism are indistinguishable from “Jews” and “Judaism”:

Tony Judt, a prominent Jewish scholar who lives and works in New York, wrote recently:

“Students today do not need to be reminded of the genocide of the Jews, the historical consequences of anti-Semitism, or the problem of evil. They know all about these – in ways our parents never did. And that is as it should be. But I have been struck lately by the frequency with which new questions are surfacing: `Why do we focus so much on the Holocaust?’ `Why is it illegal [in certain countries] to deny the Holocaust but not other genocides?’ `Is the threat of anti-Semitism not exaggerated?’ And, increasingly, `Doesn’t Israel use the Holocaust as an excuse?’ I do not recall hearing those questions in the past.”

This shift has also been noticed at the Institute for Historical Review. Over the past ten years, sales of IHR books, discs, flyers and other items about Holocaust history have steadily declined, along with inquiries about Holocaust history and requests for interviews on this subject. At the same time, and obviously reflecting broader social-cultural trends, there has been a marked rise in sales of IHR books, discs, flyers and other items about Jewish-Zionist power, the role of Jews in society, and so forth. This has been matched by an increase in the number of inquiries and requests for interviews on those issues.

Jewish-Zionist power is a palpable reality with harmful consequences for America, the Middle East, and the entire global community. In my view, and as I have repeatedly emphasized, the task of exposing and countering this power is a crucially important one. In that effort, Holocaust revisionism cannot play a central role.

In other words, Weber is backing off from Holocaust denial not out of any desire to learn the truth but rather because he perceives it as no being longer useful as a tool for him to attack Jews with and Israel in particular. No one believes it, and, no matter how much Holocaust deniers try to persuade them, only the radical lunatic fringe of conspiracy mongering loons (for instance, a subset of 9/11 Truthers) take Holocaust deniers the least bit seriously. Not even most neo-Nazis believe it, I suspect. Indeed, often I think that even the hard core Holocaust deniers don’t really believe it. Some of them are quite intelligent and well-read, and it takes a certain willful ignorance to argue against such a well-established historical event. What Weber admits is what I’ve always suspected, namely that Holocaust denial is nothing more than a weapon, and what I’ve always known, that it is a means of indulging their Jew hatred.

Unfortunately, the ongoing conflict in the Middle East makes it easy for Weber to make that pivot. After all, as as blogchild Mark Chu-Carroll describes so vividly, many anti-Semites conflate Israel with all Jews and use Israel’s actions as a convenient excuse to seemingly legitimize their bigotry. That is one reason why it is sometimes so difficult to distinguish between criticism of the actions of Israel and anti-Semitic remarks; all too often, they are one in the same, and Israel is not blameless in using this blurring of the line between legitimate criticism and bigotry to its own advantage. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, for example, disturbed a lot of people. Now, Israel’s latest incursion into Gaza to stop rockets from being fired into Southern Israel has been criticized as disproportionate, and arguably it is. However, it also appears to be exactly what Hamas wanted in order to bolster its standing among Arabs (although they probably didn’t anticipates quite so “robust” a response), and it’s hard to imagine any nation simply letting another nation to be used as a base for rockets to rain down on it, sometimes as many as 80 a day.

And so the cycle of violence continues. One side attacks or blockades the other; the other side responds. Civilians die. Both sides consider themselves the victims and completely justified in their actions. Hamas fires rockets into Israel; Israel is prodded to respond, and causes large numbers of civilian casualties in doing so. In this environment, it’s easy for anti-Semites like Weber and other Holocaust deniers to latch themselves and their anti-Semitism onto legitimate criticism of Israel’s military actions and conflate the two. Indeed, it’s part of the reason they are tossing Holocaust denial aside like a jammed rifle and picking up anti-Zionism as another convenient weapon to use, with Israel’s incursion into Gaza as the convenient pretext.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there are no legitimate reasons to criticize Israel’s recent actions or that critics of Israel level their criticism out of anti-Semitism. Most do not, but certainly some do. What I am saying is that Weber’s article seems to be an admission that Holocaust denial as a tactic has been a rank failure and that a better tactic is to latch on to legitimate criticism of Israel as a means of seemingly legitimizing their conspiracy theories, just as “alternative medicine” aficionados latch on to nutrition and exercise, which are legitimate parts of science-based medicine, claim them for their own, and then use them as the “foot in the door” for their more loony pseudoscience, like reiki or homeopathy. (Before anyone whines that I am calling “alt-med” fans Nazis, let me reemphasize yet one more time that, no, I am not saying that CAM supporters are Holocaust deniers or neo-Nazis; I am merely comparing their fallacious methods of argumentation and coopting the legitimate in the service of crankery.)

One thing is for sure: If Weber is truly turning his back on Holocaust denial in order to concentrate on New World Order conspiracy mongering about “Jewish-Zionist” power, it is indeed a blow. Weber is one of the most prominent and energetic of all Holocaust deniers. I would like to agree with this despondent commenter on a discussion board:

Will be interesting to see what Rudolf does when he exists prison, and if he still wants to carry on the fight. I’d say without his involvement, the Holocaust revisionist movement is no more. With Weber and Irving’s pull-out from revisionism, the only real figure left would be Mattogno, who would be lost from the English language without Rudolf.

Unfortunately, Holocaust denial is the crankery that just won’t die. I doubt that Weber’s throwing in the towel will suddenly mean that Holocaust denial will wither on the vine and die. In fact, the demise of Holocaust denial could be the harbinger of a newer, more virulent form of anti-Semitism. After all, why did Holocaust deniers deny the Holocaust? Because they had almost as much revulsion for mass murder as anyone else, and they needed to believe that their heroes didn’t actually intentionally commit genocide. They also knew that they needed to deny the Holocaust to rehabilitate Hitler and the Nazi regime and thereby make National Socialism an acceptable political alternative again, at least in their fantasy world. Weber’s dismissal of Holocaust denial as being no longer important could mean that the bigots accept that the Nazis killed millions of Jews but are no longer embarrassed about it and do not find the Holocaust to be an impediment to accepting neo-Nazi beliefs any more.

If this turns out to be the case, and the disappearance of Holocaust denial presages a new, proud form of anti-Semitism that co-opts legitimate criticism of Israel or Zionism, in the future we may come to view Holocaust denial as a quaint oddity in comparison.

Comments

  1. #1 Kristine
    January 8, 2009

    Masterful work, Orac. However, I think that this only spells the end of Holocaust denial for an elite within the Holocaust denial movement, which is comparable to the cabal of prominent advocates for Intelligent [sic] Design who are similarly confronted with ID’s own form of fin de siècle while creationism is still going strong.

    I think most denialists are still going to stick with “quaint” Holocaust denial for the same reason that anti-evolutionists will continue to wave the 19th-century creationist handkerchief long after ID goes the route of “creation science”: because people enjoy these ideas.

    Moreover, true believers are largely ignorant of the “work” of these “scholars” in such areas, and don’t want their diluted by too much fancy-schmancy pussyfooting such as “No informed person disputes that Europe’s Jews did, in fact, suffer a great catastrophe.” (Or, “I believe that evolution happened after the formation of the cell.”)

    Just as Intelligent Design is really about the personal fears and anxieties of Dembski, Behe, et al, Mark Weber’s form of Holocaust denial springs from his own personality quirks. Most denialists have more simplistic views, and like most creationists (who have no clue as to who Dembski or Behe are and don’t really care), they won’t pay attention to the crisis in elite Holocaust denial, but will continue to demand their Holocaust denial straight, without soda. We pay attention to people like Weber; they don’t.

  2. #2 Mu
    January 8, 2009

    I want to remark on the danger of “saturation” of a people with Holocaust. Having been born a German 20 years after the end of the war, I went through the usual indoctrination on “bad Germans, the war and the Holocaust”. Being something of a history buff, I read a lot more about it. The problem was, even as someone who is intimately familiar with all the horrible aspects of the time, you were attacked as being “insensitive” (using a mild description) for not having any individual feeling of guilt about it. I think a lot of the recent success of right wing (by German standards, most of them wouldn’t be past center of the republican party in the US) parties has to do with a backlash, due to the overexposure to the Holocaust, and demands based thereon, by special interest groups. A charge of antisemitism, leveled by the leaders of the German Jewish community, is still enough to derail every mainstream politician’s career for good. This kind of power, for a group representing less than 0.1% of the population, based on something that happened before most of the people affected by it today where born, grates on a subset of the population, and creates just the opposite effect desired.
    I think we need a “revision”, not of historical facts, but from the method of teaching it. As you point out, the perpetrators and victims are mostly gone, and we have to find a way to pass the knowledge on to future generations without having it lost in what I call historic relativism. How do you keep the extraordinary singularity of the Nazi approach of industrial genocide alive in the light of the crimes of a Stalin, a Mao or a Pol Pot? Keeping it from slipping into history as just another case of dirty war (Huns, Crusades, Mongols, 30 year war, Chinese Civil war, WW II, Vietnam, Taliban, Liberia, Congo) is one of the real tasks for the historians to come.

  3. #3 The Perky Skeptic
    January 8, 2009

    I’m really glad you keep posting about Holocaust denial. I have long studied the Holocaust, and before I started reading Respectful Insolence (WAY back in the day, before it was on Scienceblogs, even!) I was only very dimly aware that there were people out there who were trying to spin this grisly chapter of human history. It still astounds me to this day. I appreciate your tireless efforts, from those early days on usenet and beyond, to bring light to this issue and to educate people about it.

    If you ever do decide to publish in book form a collection of Insolence, I sincerely hope you will include some of these Holocaust posts. We cannot afford to give up the fight against the deniers of this history for even an instant, especially when they seem to be tiring! I know it’s rare denialisms ever die out, but with diligence and continuing educational efforts, perhaps this will be one of the ones that can be stamped out.

  4. #4 Hank
    January 8, 2009

    Kristine: The similarity is uncanny. As would be expected from denialists I suppose.

    Still, I wonder. Would infamous (i dare not use the term prominent) holocaust deniers openly delving into “protocols”-level crankery be comparable to someone like Dembski finally dropping his pretenses and promote classic creationism?

  5. #5 Martín Pereyra
    January 8, 2009

    Maybe the Holocaust denial, as a relatively organized and visible movement, is over in the West. However, besides the residual denial among lay people already commented, I think it will stay for a while in some places of the Middle East, where ruling classes promote texts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as factual and indulge in blatant displays of anti-Semitism (e. g. Ahmadineyad in Iran).

    And I’ve already seen the “Jew = Israeli = Zionist = Imperialist” fallacy in some pundits in the extreme left. Maybe I’ll look for some examples later.

  6. #6 Shay
    January 8, 2009

    The only Holocaust denier I’ve known personally has, over the last ten years, come around to now admitting that yes, the Holocaust happened…but that the Jews deserved it.

    I’m not sure that’s progress.

  7. #7 Orac
    January 8, 2009

    Exactly what I meant at the end.

  8. #8 Dangerous Bacon
    January 8, 2009

    Yes, I think the Middle East strain of this bacillus will continue to be virulent for many years to come, even if the Western variant loses some of its punch (which remains to be seen).

    Mu: “A charge of antisemitism, leveled by the leaders of the German Jewish community, is still enough to derail every mainstream politician’s career for good.”

    Not sure what this has to do specifically with Holocaust denial, but what examples can you point to?

  9. #9 Mu
    January 8, 2009

    DB, it has nothing to do with Holocaust denial (that is actually a felony in Germany) but with people tiring of the influence any mentioning of the Holocaust has (a reverse Godwin in effect, first to link it to the Holocaust wins). Which leads to a backlash in some parts of the population, not to deny the Holocaust per se, but to marginalize it as something past, something not especially unusual.
    A good example is the Martin Hohmann case, an MP who was expelled from his party for “raising anti-semitic sentiments”, so polls showed the population evenly split on the subjects raised. Sorry if I don’t remember any more specific recent cases, I left Germany a long time ago, and only remember that one due to its local proximity to my parents’ town.

  10. #10 Tang
    January 8, 2009

    The new fashion is accusing Israel of conducting a holocaust, genocide, massacre, apartheid, or whatever other terms can be thrown out there. Factual accuracy doesn’t matter, repetition does. Rather than deny the Nazis’ atrocities, special pride is taken in accusing Israel of doing just what the Nazis did. The “national anarchists” on Digg are happily citing the concentration camps and the Warsaw Ghetto to get their rhetorical shots in at Israel. No matter how flat the comparison falls, the point is to say it and get the idea accepted in the realm of debate. Holocaust denial has also given way to complaining about Jews complaining about the Holocaust and complaining about Jews complaining about the type of antisemitism that led to the Holocaust.

    We also have people talking about Zionists controlling the media and Congress and making a great deal of Zionist conspiracies like AIPAC, Megaphone, and the Neocons — the last one of which can’t blamed on Israel, but like I said, facts don’t matter, repetition does. All of this fear-mongering traces back to the Protocols.

    There is a heck of a lot of “revisionism” cropping up in discussions of Israeli history to disqualify the Jews from living peacefully in their own homeland. For one example, there is an impressively effective effort underway to apply the modern Palestinian nationality to Arabs living in Palestine before that nationality was invented. Consider also “the occupation” which has been repeated often enough that most people think anything other than Jordanian, Egyptian, or Syrian land was occupied by Israel in 1967.

  11. #11 Azkyroth
    January 8, 2009

    (Before anyone whines that I am calling “alt-med” fans Nazis, let me reemphasize yet one more time that, no, I am not saying that CAM supporters are Holocaust deniers or neo-Nazis; I am merely comparing their fallacious methods of argumentation and coopting the legitimate in the service of crankery.)

    No one on earth would be honestly mistaken about that.

  12. #12 Dangerous Bacon
    January 8, 2009

    Well, Mu, I did some searching on Martin Hohmann, and it doesn’t look like German Jews unfairly targeted him for “any mentioning of the Holocaust”. According to the British newspaper The Independent:

    “Mr Hohmann, in an address to his constituency in west Germany last month, claimed that the Jews had acted like a “race of perpetrators” during the Russian revolution of 1917 and that large numbers of them were involved in Communist secret police massacres. He said their actions were comparable to those of the Nazis.

    Mr Hohmann, who apologised for his remarks last week, was rebuked by the Christian Democrat leadership, but not (immediately) asked to resign as an MP.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/german-general-sacked-for-praising-mps-antisemitism-734601.html

    According to the Wikipedia entry on Hohmann (which gives him perhaps too much benefit of the doubt about his intentions), it took two weeks for the party to expel him (he continued on as an independent in office), and even then party leaders privately said they didn’t think he’d done anything so wrong).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Hohmann

    Charming.

    Like Orac, I don’t believe in criminalizing Holocaust denial (or, for that matter, sweeping “hate speech” laws). Maybe one of the consequences of such laws in Europe is that deniers go underground, and people don’t realize the extent to which their anti-Semitic slime still exists. Better to publicly deride and ostracize them instead.

  13. #13 Karl Withakay
    January 8, 2009

    So let me get this straight: Holocaust denial is failing, basically because the Holocaust actually happened, and that’s a bit of a problem, is that about what he’s saying?

  14. #14 Ahistoricality
    January 8, 2009

    If you follow the logic, Orac, you’re going to start finding a lot of references to Walt and Mearsheimer’s argument. A lot of “anti-Zionists” have been gnawing on this bone since it came out.

  15. #15 Mu
    January 8, 2009

    The reason why I brought up the case is that it’s the German version of political correctness run astray. Hohmann’s original speech actually contained the phrase “neither Germans nor Jews are perpetrators as a people”, as it says in the wiki entry. Which was still enough to break his neck politically, since the “Tätervolk” mentality was one of the prime principles of (West) German political post-war education goals. It was different in the former GDR, where “we were socialists, we were victims” gave an easy way out. Which might be the reason why the right has done especially well in those areas – backlash over the belated introduction to the concept.
    But the whole thing is a prime example for what I said in my original post – relativism. If you put today’s people on the defensive, they start arguing: “Why are six million Jews special compared to twenty plus million in post revolutionary Russia? Dead is dead, if by industrial genocide or mass deportation/starvation/gulag. In a recent poll, Stalin made Nr. 3 in a list of greatest Russians. Why is one mass murderer better than the other, and why can’t we see good in Hitler?”
    I’m afraid that at one point the crimes of the Nazis will disappear in the mist of history because of the guilt tripping, not despite of it.

  16. #16 Dangerous Bacon
    January 8, 2009

    “The reason why I brought up the case is that it’s the German version of political correctness run astray.”

    Interesting to see that Germans (or former Germans) are just as capable of misusing the term “political correctness” as Americans. The Hohmann case actually appears to be a faulty application of “tu quoque” run berserk.

    If a substantial number of Germans actually believe that “well, _your_ mass murderer is as bad as ours, so why can’t _we_ see good in Hitler?” – then there’s a lot more wrong in the country than can be solved by simply dissolving Holocaust denial laws.

  17. #17 Mu
    January 8, 2009

    I don’t see where dissolving Holocaust denial laws would change anything. What I advocated was a new approach to teaching the Holocaust, upholding the uniqueness of the crime, its extraordinary qualities, while at the same time getting away from displaying it as “German original sin” to people three generations removed from the deed. Since you like the Latin, less “mea culpa”, more “vidi”.

  18. #18 Prometheus
    January 8, 2009

    Interesting. So Weber admits that:


    “When the war ended in 1945, most of the Jews of Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and others countries were gone.”

    Where does he think they went? Miami?

    I’ve also heard complaints from Germans that the Holocaust continues to dog the German people even though the atrocities of Stalin, Pol Pot, the Turkish slaughter of Armenians etc. were somehow worse because they either killed more people or did it in a less hygienic fashion.

    I think that what has kept the Holocaust apart from the general human history of atrocity and mass murder is the puzzle of how a modern and civilized country could murder over six million people with industrial efficiency.

    Germany in the time of the Holocaust was a nation with a firm belief in the rule of law and a well-educated and cultured population – as it is today – so it didn’t happen because the German people “didn’t know any better”.

    At the time of the Holocaust, Germany was well on its way to recovery from the Great Depression – it was ahead of the US and Great Britain, in fact – so it was not a matter of societal collapse or privation.

    At the time of the Holocaust, Germany had a society that was in many ways – most ways – more progressive and advanced than most other countries in Europe. That’s why the Holocaust gets more attention than Stalin’s paranoid slaughters or Pol Pot’s madness.

    If people could look at Holocaust-era Germany and find some explanation for why a nation as socially, culturally and materially advanced could not only do such a thing but not even (with a few exceptions) object to such an atrocity, I think they wouldn’t find the Holocaust so unforgettable.

    The fact that progressive, cultured, scientific, law-abiding people like the Germans could have been a party – by action or inaction – to the Holocaust keeps the people of the Western world from being able to comfort themselves by saying, “It could never happen here.”

    That’s what makes the Holocaust unique.

    That’s we can never afford to forget it – because it can happen here, if we let it.

    Prometheus

  19. #19 DLC
    January 8, 2009

    Oddly, I was just watching the cable news, when one of the talking heads used the “gaza is a concentration camp” gambit.

    But, onto the main topic at hand.
    Most holocaust deniers that I’ve seen have been of the sort who wish to venerate Hitler and the NAZI movement. The reason they wish to venerate Hitler is because he wanted the extermination of the Jews. One denier I saw actually said that the holocaust never happened at the same time advocating “bringing back the gas chambers and ovens.”
    I was amazed in the same manner as one who sees a horrific accident about to happen and who cannot turn away.

  20. #20 Paul Murray
    January 8, 2009

    The problem was, even as someone who is intimately familiar with all the horrible aspects of the time, you were attacked as being “insensitive” (using a mild description) for not having any individual feeling of guilt about it.

    Yeah, a lot of white australians feel the same way about our own holocaust – the various massacres of the aboriginal peoples and the “Stolen Generation”.

    I mean – what are you going to do? Go gack to europe? How? This is my home.

    The germans have an additional difficulty with the guilt, given the zionists in Israel doing all the same stuff to the people who have inhabited that land for the past thousand years or so.

    Sure, a jew is not an israeli, but its a damn easy mistake to make. Hard to bellyfeel the guilt, when you have reason to belive that “they would have done the same stuff to us, if they could”.

  21. #21 AnthonyK
    January 8, 2009

    A most interesting post, and comments. Some random thoughts:
    It’s nice (in the most horrible sense) to think that Holocaust denial is to fade, but I don’t quite believe it. After all, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that hoary old fraud, is still doing the rounds after all these years. It’s good to hear this anti-Semite admit that he won’t change public opinion in the US and Europe, and better that he can see that Holocaust denial is seen here as something of an outrage, almost akin to promoting paedophilia. That, we have won.
    More importantly, in most of the world (though there are terrible pockets of anti-Semitism in Europe), the hatred of Jews just seems pointless, even silly. Unfortunately, discrimination has simply moved on to people of other colours, origins, or religions. Alas!
    Where anti-Semitism is still rife though, is in the middle East, where Arab hostility is implacable, and any lie against them is believed. They, of course, make the simple equivalence of Jews and Israelis and hate both. And I’m sure I’m not the only person on this board to think that the Israelis do sometimes act with brutal arrogance, where might is too often right.
    But back to the deniers – good of them to finally own up that they really did know all along that Auchswitz was real, only trouble is they’re closer to claiming that the Jews deserved it. And all their obsession with the mechanics of the camps, and the details – even if only to deny them – is all too clearly just sick pornography for them.
    Good story though, Orac
    AnthonyK

  22. #22 Rune from Oslo
    January 9, 2009

    Posted by: Tang | January 8, 2009 3:03 PM
    “The new fashion is accusing Israel of conducting a holocaust, genocide, massacre, apartheid, or whatever other terms can be thrown out there. Factual accuracy doesn’t matter, repetition does.”

    Posted by: DLC | January 8, 2009 8:00 PM
    “Oddly, I was just watching the cable news, when one of the talking heads used the “gaza is a concentration camp” gambit.”

    Posted by: Paul Murray | January 8, 2009 8:10 PM
    “the zionists in Israel doing all the same stuff to the people who have inhabited that land for the past thousand years or so.”

    QED

    BTW
    I don’t mean to say there isn’t plenty of legitimate criticisms of Israel and Israeli policies, but claiming Israel is “doing all the same stuff” can only mean 1 of 2 things:
    1. The numbered of Jews killed by “all the same guys” was a couple of hundred (or a couple of thousand if you count the last couple years rather the last few weeks)
    2. The number of Palestinians killed by Israel is 5 million plus several hundred thousand.

    If one only goes by numbers that is.

  23. #23 Evan
    January 20, 2010

    Holocaust denial is quite simply to try and make National Socialism acceptable again. It is working in Europe, anti Semitic and Holocaust denial parties are winning represention in local and national parliaments.

    Weber has been an utter failure, since came to the IHR from the neo Nazi National Alliance, were he was editor of that organizations magazine National Vanguard, in 1995, Weber has been an utter failure. He is lazy and suffers from indolance. He destroyed the Journal of Historical Review, he stopped the yearly weekend conferences, he canned the monthly newsletter, he no longer prints or reprints “important” books. He tends himself to sending out news clippings, using the “institute” as a sinecure and bilking the mailing list. Weber is a confirmed Nazi. He was arrested in Germany for wearing a swastika pin while at college in Munich.

    As Ingrid Zundel stated, “Weber is running the IHR right into the ground.” The “Institute” under Weber is a shadow of it’s former self. Once employing eight employees, Weber is the only paid member of staff, his salary is $48,999.

    Deniers accuse Weber of wasting over $2 million in donation dollars. Once having large international denier conferences in plush Southern California hotel conference rooms, with international deniers flying in, Weber can only muster less than sixty people at his last one night event, those in attendence were your usual neo Nazi types, not the suit and tie Holocaust deniers.

    Weber recently had to move his office from Costa Mesa to a small shabby office warehouse in Fountain Valley, California, such is the decline of the “Institute” under Weber’s “leadership.”

    Deniers accuse Weber of being a liar, a coward and a cheat. French denier Robert Faurisson on his blog http://www.robertfaurission.blogspot.com called for “Mark Weber Must Resign from the Institute for Historical Review.”

    Weber is and always has been an anti Semite, Holocaust denial for him was just another way to attack Jews. Weber’s “Institute” is always on the verge of financial collaspe, he sends out constant appeals for donations. A recent Weber large financial donor was outer by the ‘Intelligence Report’ of the Southern Poverty Law Center, ” Doing ‘Right’ in Vegas” showed one James McCrink of the ‘Do Right Foundation’ had donated to Weber’s “Institute” $137,000 over a number of years. The report stated that McCrink donated money to a former associate of the American Nazi Party.

    So times are tough for the Holocaust deniers and Nazis like Weber.

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