Holocaust Denial: a short narrative on the growing assault on truth and memory
Dr. Deborah Lipstadt’s famous work, “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” has been some of the most disturbing pieces I’ve read thus far connected with the history of the Holocaust. The rhetoric of Holocaust deniers that she describes, in detail, is sinisterly reminiscent of Germany’s modus operandi concerning anti-Semitism during the Third Reich. At base, the commonalties are linked with “classic” beliefs regarding Jewry: worldwide Jewish conspiracy for economic control and a cold denial of the rational obvious. The denial seems to be, for those in the Third Reich, similar to reporting’s Joseph Goebbles had given about the deportation of European Jewry to concentration camps, which as stated by the Minister of Propaganda, not about annihilation, but “rehabilitation.”
For the more modern denier, doubt has been cast over many different facets, such as: rejecting that there were six million Jews in Europe, the gas chamber itself, purpose (Zionist conspiracy), and perspective (dealing with “enemies” of the state) and so on. However, both for the Third Reich and for modern deniers, the denial itself is simply, at root, anti-Semitism masked behind the clever guise of pseudohistorical interpretation. Both those of the Third Reich and modern-day deniers brush aside the annihilation of six-million Jews simply because of an inherently human predisposition to deny our own capacity for horrendous acts. Instead of facing the truth, despite how difficult the facts are, deniers consciously reject the account as some far-fetched Zionist-tall-tale, because somehow conspiracies are much easier to accept then anything resembling the truth, which is: the Holocaust was real and six million Jews really did suffer and die, either by being rounded up and shot by the Einsatzgruppen or through selection, ushered into the crematoria, or by starvation and disease in the camps. Underneath, the deniers are “invective about Jewish power and influence and… [are convinced] that Jews have the most sinister intentions.”
We could, of course, simply laugh away the claims deniers are making, for as students and teachers of history, their claims are so obviously ridiculous; however, we need to consider that we are now, as of 2013, two generations removed from the events of the Holocaust. The memory of survivors and first person testimony will soon fall into the realm of ancient history. General knowledge regarding the Holocaust has already stared to decline. According to Lipstadt, the Gallup poll conducted during the 1990’s, to ascertain the public’s general knowledge of the events that happened during the Holocaust, 38% adults and 24% high school students “incorrectly [explained] what is meant by ‘the Holocaust.’” This poll was taken during the 90’s, nearly twenty years ago; no doubt that the percentages of Holocaust ignorance have increased. The real danger than becomes, as Lipstadt’s title has implied, a growing assault on memory. Unfortunately, unless something changes in our educational standards, the way we educate, the natural inclination we have to deny the most heinous acts of man and the general lack of historical knowledge will allow Holocaust denial to grow more influential in the years to come. Deborah Lipstadt sums the issue best in saying:
“Those of us who make scholarship our vocation and avocation dream of spending our time charting new paths, opening new vistas, and offering new perspectives on some aspect of the truth. We seek to discover, not to defend. We did not train in our respective fields in order to stand like watchmen and women on the Rhine. Yet this is what we must do. We do so in order to expose falsehood and hate. We will remain ever vigilant so that the most precious tools of our trade and our society – truth and reason – can prevail. The still, small voices of millions cry out to us from the ground demanding that we do no less.”
Deborah Lipstadt, “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” Penguin Books Ltd. January 1994.