[Paleopsych] BBC: The fight against Holocaust denial
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Thu Sep 1 00:25:37 UTC 2005
The fight against Holocaust denial
Published: 2005/04/14 19:04:14 GMT
[Even the BBC spells minuscule miniscule! Where can I get a book that lays out
the arguments and counter-arguments on all sides, a book like "Scientists
Answer Creationists" or "Scientists Answer Vellikowsky" (?sp). There are books
by these approximate titles.]
By Raffi Berg
It is 60 years since the full horror of the Nazi Holocaust began to
emerge with the liberation of Bergen Belsen concentration camp in
Belsen was the first death camp entered by the Western allies and
first-hand accounts of mass graves, piles of corpses and emaciated,
diseased survivors spread quickly around the world.
The BBC's Richard Dimbleby described dead and dying people over an
acre of ground, while US radio correspondent Patrick Gordon Walker
described the camp as a "hellhole", adding that this was not
propaganda but the "plain and simple truth".
But, in the 21st Century, as these events recede into history and the
number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, there are still people who
deny these crimes happened - and it is a tendency that some experts
say is growing.
"Holocaust revisionism is spreading, and not only among neo-Nazis,"
Kate Taylor, of the anti-fascist publication Searchlight, told the BBC
"As survivors are increasingly dying out it is much easier to hijack
history for whatever cause or purpose."
COUNTRIES WITH LAWS AGAINST HOLOCAUST DENIAL
The internet has played a role in this.
While publications peddling Holocaust denial were previously confined
to the race-hate paraphernalia of extremist groups, the same material
is now readily available on the web.
One of the earliest and most infamous publications denying the
Holocaust was a 32-page pseudo-academic booklet entitled Did Six
Million Really Die?, first printed in England in 1974.
It dismisses concentration camps as "mythology", rejects the Diary of
Anne Frank as a hoax and claims Jews were not exterminated but rather
emigrated from Nazi Germany with the help of a benevolent government.
The booklet was widely banned but has resurfaced in electronic form on
At 14-years-old children are not mature enough to make the distinction
between a denialist site and a more legitimate site
Kay Andrews, of the UK Holocaust Educational Trust, says Holocaust
denial sites, subtly questioning the facts, can mislead the young
people her group is trying to teach.
"With the internet, you've got to be fairly well-educated to see
through what revisionist websites are trying to do," she says.
"I think as soon as you look at them closely you can work it out, but
part of the problem that we find is teachers will send pupils off to
do internet research and not guide them to specific sites.
"So as a result kids put the Holocaust into a search engine, which
comes up with all of this stuff, and at 14-years-old they are not
mature enough to make that distinction between a denialist site and a
more legitimate site."
However, the eminent British historian Sir Martin Gilbert believes the
tireless gathering of facts about the Holocaust will ultimately
consign the deniers to history.
I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires.
SS guard, Auschwitz
"I don't think Holocaust denial is really a problem because of the
incredible state of survivor memoirs," he told the BBC News website.
"The number of deniers and the amount of denial literature is
miniscule compared with the serious literature, not only the memoirs
but the history books, the specialist books, and books which cater for
every age group on the Holocaust.
"There is a tremendous range of stuff and some of it is written for
young people and teenagers - in that sense the Holocaust deniers have
totally lost out."
Over a period of many years, Jerusalem's Yad Vashem museum has
documented the lives of more than three million Holocaust victims.
More recently, Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah [Holocaust]
Visual History Foundation (VHF) has recorded more than 50,000
videotaped interviews with Holocaust survivors and witnesses.
But VHF president Doug Greenberg is less confident about the future
than Martin Gilbert.
On the positive side, he notes that in 2000 a British judge rejected a
libel case brought by a notorious British revisionist, David Irving,
against US historian Deborah Lipstadt who had called him one of the
"most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial".
"The most important thing that's happened in terms of Holocaust denial
is the David Irving trial," Mr Greenberg told the BBC News website.
"Because a British court of law said in effect Holocaust denial is not
a valid way to look at the past."
On the other hand, he says, we just cannot tell how far history will
be forgotten in years to come.
"In 50 years from now, not only will there be no survivors alive,
there won't be anybody alive who even knew a survivor, and that is
where the real danger lies," he said.
The fear that deniers could gain the upper hand led an SS camp guard,
Oskar Groening, to break a lifetime of silence earlier this year in a
BBC documentary, Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution.
"I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I
was on the ramp when the selections [for the gas chambers] took
place," said Mr Groening, now in his 80s.
"I would like you to believe these atrocities happened - because I was
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