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 Holocaust Denial

Holocaust Denial is an Anti-Semitic propaganda movement active in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe that seeks to deny the reality of the Nazi regime's systematic mass murder of six million Jews during World War II. It generally depicts historical accounts of this genocide as propaganda, generated by a Jewish, or "Zionist," conspiracy.

     Holocaust Denial
Holocaust Denial

One of the most notable anti-Semitic movements to develop over the past two decades has been an organized effort to deny the established history of Nazi Germany's extermination of six million Jews during the Holocaust. In the United States the movement has been known in recent years primarily through the publication of advertisements in college campus newspapers. The first of these ads claimed to call for "open debate on the Holocaust." While discussion of historical events is certainly useful and educational, "debating" the Holocaust would be like debating whether American colonists even, in fact, fought for independence from England in 1776. Another ad questioned the authenticity of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. These ads have been published in several dozen student newspapers on campuses across the country.

Similar examples of such propaganda have begun to appear on the Internet as well. In addition to creating their own home pages, Holocaust deniers have sometimes crashed the sites of legitimate Holocaust and Jewish discussion groups in an effort to spread false information and harass Jews. In addition, Holocaust deniers have advertised their Web sites in classified ads in college and community newspapers.

These paid advertisements and Internet activities have appeared continuously since 1991. Though there is no evidence that they have persuaded large numbers of students to doubt the settled record of events which make up the Holocaust, the ads have sparked controversy between Jewish and non-Jewish students. In fact, this is exactly the goal of the Holocaust deniers.

By attacking the facts of the Holocaust and maintaining that their attack is merely an unorthodox point of view, Holocaust deniers demonstrate their subtle but hateful anti-Semitic beliefs. They try to spread the view that Jews are only using the Holocaust to take advantage of non-Jewish guilt and that Jews control the media and academic world. Some of these beliefs, in fact, are similar to those which helped bring Hitler to power in Germany during the 1930s.

The roots of Holocaust denial - or Holocaust "revisionism," as its adherents refer to the movement - can be found in the language of the Nazis itself, which tried to hide acts of imprisonment, slave labor, and mass murder under euphemisms such as"relocation" and  "The Final Solution." After World War II, former Nazis and their supporters similarly claimed that Hitler's hatred of the Jews had been misinterpreted, and that the numerous confessions of Nazi leaders describing the genocide had been coerced by the Allies. This neo-Nazi movement also dismissed the testimony of survivors from the concentration camps as exaggeration and lies. Other political extremists in the 1960s and 1970s, such as radical anti-Israel groups or fringe conspiracy theorists, echoed the views of these right-wing anti-Semites.

As an organized movement, Holocaust denial began in 1979 with the founding of a group called the Institute for Historical Review (IHR). The IHR publishes a magazine (the Journal of Historical Review), holds conferences, and distributes a variety of anti-Jewish books - all devoted to the idea that Hitler's record of atrocities is a fraud concocted by a powerful, secret conspiracy of Jews. Among those connected to the IHR is Bradley Smith, the man responsible for most of the Holocaust denial advertisements in college newspapers.

Many proponents of Holocaust denial claim that their propaganda has been misrepresented, and that they are victims of yet another conspiracy, also led by Jews, to suppress independent research. In making these claims, Holocaust deniers try to exploit the sympathy of most people, especially students, for academic debate and honest critical thinking. These arguments are dishonest, though, for three main reasons:

(1) Holocaust deniers reject all evidence and research that contradicts their views. Rather than promote honest research, these propagandists wish to challenge the historical record with their own views, which have no credibility.

(2) The "research" the deniers use comes to conclusions that are false. Among the untruths routinely promoted are the claims that no gas chambers existed at Auschwitz, that only 600,000 Jews were killed rather than six million, and that Hitler had no murderous intentions toward Jews or other groups persecuted by his government.

(3) Holocaust deniers conceal the true motivation for their propaganda. Though the deniers often try to assume a scholarly, reasonable tone in their public statements, in their more private newsletters, conferences, and e-mails they typically display hatred of Jews, admiration for Nazism, and contempt for free speech and democracy.

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