Historical Memory vs Holocaust Deniers

This post was written by Dr. Art Pitz on April 1, 2009
Posted Under: Holocaust

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I recently returned from a tour of Holocaust sites in Poland with a group of my university students. Standing in places like the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto, the Maidanek concentration camp near Lublin, or Auschwitz-Birkenau, I thought more about the mentality of Holocaust deniers and their chances of success.

When I teach on the Holocaust, as I am now, I am often asked: “What is going to happen when all of the survivors are gone?”  In essence, I’m being asked, “Will there be more Holocaust deniers and will they be more likely to be listened to?

This is a legitimate concern.  Even with some survivors left (such as Elie Wiesel), there have been a significant amount of Holocaust deniers–especially in the Middle Eastern Islamic world.

Now, how is this possible?  How can someone deny the mounds and mounds of evidence?  Isn’t this akin to believing that the world is flat?

It is, but it is far more malicious.  My experience has been that such deniers almost always have an agenda.  Denying the Holocaust is a way to deligitimize the existence of Israel.  The argument goes like this: since the imperialist west had guilt feelings over its treatment of Jews, they overlooked the legitimate national aspirations of Palestinian Arabs to foist Israel upon the map.  This anti-Zionism is but warmed over anti-semitism.

Will this cottage industry gain more traction once the survivors are gone?  It is not enough to say that this won’t happen since we have the recorded testimonies of so many survivors (along with those of perpetrators and bystanders).  After all, it shouldn’t be happening right now, but it is.

I am sorry to say that as long as there is a widespread desire to wipe Israel off the map that denial will continue to exist.  Whether it will spread once the survivors are gone is hard to say.  If the Middle Eastern Islamic world is finally willing to come to terms with Israel’s existence then this denial will not have such potent force.  But, until then, such denial will continue and it has the potential to capture more adherents particularly amongst the non Middle Eastern Islamic world that seeks to demonize Israel.

This means that, if anything, it is even more imperative that we continue to teach about the Holocaust.  To fail to do so would give Adolf Hitler a posthumous victory.

Dr. Art Pitz
The Professor’s House

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Reader Comments

I agree with you Dr. Pitz. It is imperative that we continue to teach others about the horrors of the holocaust. I believe that anyone who believes the Holocaust never happened has something wrong with them. how can they deny the mounds of evidence ranging from the actual camps, to survivors, to the millions of books that are out there. I myself have about 3 books well over 300 pages long, that give in depth stories about the Holocaust, tons of photos, and much more. You are right, as long as people continue to want to wipe Israel off the map, there will be those who deny the Holocaust. but this was a terrible act that happened in recent history and has happened in other places, though they call it a Genocide. we must continue to teach about the Holocaust to show just how horrible it was, and i believe that we must compare it with other extreme forms of Genocide such as the Genocide between the Hutus and Tutsis in Africa and even the Genocide that occured with the Native Americans that no one ever likes to talk about. to not teach about this, or want to hear about this is wrong. We must continue to talk about the Holocaust because it shows us just what people are capable of and just what they can do another human being just for differences in religion, skin color, history, or anything else

Written By Joseph Pienta on April 2nd, 2009 @ 10:34 am

It’s true that it will always be around but not just becuase of the attempts to delegitimize Israel. I think a larger uninformed audiance make up the mass of that movement. Holocaust deniers in many circles argue that the number killed was much less, and not in the horrific manners in which they took place. Becuase many people will take that information as fact we have a real problem that is hard to end because it is wrapped in so much controversy. Think of the Evolution-Intelligent Design/Creationism debate, in which people who claim that evolution is not real can’t argue with the facts so they wrap it in religious political and social turmoil reguardless if evolution has a say in those ideas. The worst part is people who don’t have a knowladge of the discussion get answers from the wildly misinformed and that catches on now there is a debate that isn’t supposed to be there. It is the misinformed public who will likely stay misinformed that will keep the Halocaust deniers movement active for the forseeable future the only way to deal with it is to hope that people realize they’re being lied too and they move away from the movement.

Written By Shawn Simmons on April 6th, 2009 @ 10:44 am

Dear Joseph and Shawn,

Thanks for your insightful comments. Both of you have well informed points to make.

Art Pitz

Written By Art Pitz on April 8th, 2009 @ 6:30 am

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Written By golden Rama on September 22nd, 2015 @ 10:09 am

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