Holocaust Denial

The term Holocaust Denial is used to describe the mistaken belief or assertion that the Holocaust did not happen, or was greatly exaggerated. The Holocaust is defined as the mass murder of more than six million Jews by the German Nazi regime during the Second World War.

The origins of the denial movement in the United States dates back to the creation of the Institute for Historical Review. Critics have accused the IHR of being anti-Semitic and of denying the important facts relating to the Holocaust. Members of the Institute include David Irving, who once said he did not believe that Hitler presided over the extermination of the Jews. Irving was sent to jail by an Austrian court in 2006 after pleading guilty to denying that the Holocaust ever took place.

Deniers achieve three goals by their refusal to accept the Holocaust's factual features. First, they remove the status and significance of the Holocaust as a point of reference. Second, they rehabilitate the reputation of the Nazis. Finally, they confirm the basis of their racist rationale, which is that the Jews manipulated the world before and after the Second World War. The denial movement focuses on denying the existence of concentration camps, ghettos, gas chambers, and above all else, the challenge of the claim that six million Jews were killed. Holocaust denial is largely active in the United States, Canada and Western Europe.

Holocaust deniers question what is indisputable; volunteer false evidence while denying historical evidence harmful to their thesis; focus on details to reject all testimonies of survivors, and hide behind claims of scientific or academic status without having any relevant scholarly background. Deniers plead the absence of specific written orders emanating from Hitler and dismiss the technical feasibility of the killing centers at concentration camps such as Treblinka, Chelmo, Sobidor, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. They believe these camps are propagandist fantasies created by Jews. Deniers also argue that the International Military Tribunal was a fraudulent creation.

The majority of Holocaust denial originates in Europe. The European Commission of Human Rights has ruled that deniers' complaints about limitation of their freedoms have been manifestly ill-founded. The EU Commission has also determined that deniers' speeches and writings are aimed at the destruction of the other rights and freedoms as set by the European Convention for Human Rights.

While distinguished professors of history have disagreements over aspects of the Holocaust, they universally agree that the evidence for the genocide of the Jews, many in purpose-built gas chambers, is overwhelming. To deny the facts of the Holocaust, it could be argued, that one must proposition that all these historians are either inept, involved in conspiracy, or in some cases, both.

Experts on Holocaust denial agree that while the deniers' claims must be exposed, deniers should not be the subject of debate. Many fear that the prosecution of Holocaust deniers will lead to the imposition of state-sponsored versions of historical truth. The prosecution of deniers is not conducted with the intent to impose a state-sponsored version of historical truth, but rather to protect the historical record. The Third Reich's responsibility for the Holocaust has been established in trials throughout the world, although none of the fraudulent allegations of the deniers has ever been established on the strength of verifiable evidence.

Some experts in this field believe that denial literature and propaganda oppose truth with lies. Historians may engage in a kind of revision of past events when new evidence supports a rethinking of earlier interpretations, but no such new evidence exists to raise serious questions about the fact that the Holocaust occurred. The deniers' solitary goal appears to be centered on racism.

There are various ways to combat Holocaust denial, which is recognized as illegal hate speech and prohibited throughout much of the Western world. Jewish defense agencies, such as the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the UK's Community Security Trust, the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council, have been particularly active in combating denial. They have done this through a combination of diplomatic, legal and educational endeavors. All the agencies have actively engaged in educating the public about the meaning and implications of denial, stressing that denial of the Holocaust is not really about the facts of the Holocaust, but rather an anti-Semitic view which abuses history in order to demonize Jews.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust
Konrad Kwiet; Jürgen Matthäus.
Praeger, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "The State of Holocaust Negation"
Lying about Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial
Richard J. Evans.
Basic Books, 2001
Holocaust Denial Debates: The Symbolic Significance of Irving V. Penguin & Lipstadt
Hasian, Marouf, Jr.
Communication Studies, Vol. 53, No. 2, Summer 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Forgetting the Fuhrer: The Recent History of the Holocaust Denial Movement in Germany
Long, Anthony.
The Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol. 48, No. 1, March 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
General Semantics and Holocaust Denial
Mathis, Andrew E.
ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, Vol. 63, No. 1, January 2006
The Banality of Irving
Greif, Mark.
The American Prospect, Vol. 11, No. 11, April 24, 2000
Canadian Civil Liberties, Holocaust Denial, and the Zundel Trials
Hasian, Marouf A., Jr.
Communications and the Law, Vol. 21, No. 3, September 1999
Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany after Unification
Hermann Kurthen; Werner Bergmann; Rainer Erb.
Oxford University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "'Revisionism' in Germany and Austria"
Vichy's Afterlife: History and Counterhistory in Postwar France
Richard J. Golsan.
University of Nebraska Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Denying the Holocaust in France: The Past and Present of an Illusion"
Under the Shadow of Weimar: Democracy, Law, and Racial Incitement in Six Countries
Louis Greenspan; Cyril Levitt.
Praeger Publishers, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Judicial Treatment of Incitement against Ethnic Groups and of the Denial of National Socialist Mass Murder in the Federal Republic of Germany"
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