Friday, February 25, 2011

On Holocaust Denial

June 13, 2009

It comes up every once in awhile, usually in the wake of news events related to the Holocaust, such as last week's tragic and deplorable shooting of guard Stephen Johns at the DC Holocaust museum - deniers of the Holocaust coming out of the woodwork. In fact, the deranged and hate-filled murderer himself was a vehement denier. Another notable example was Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, prior to his visit to Columbia University in 2007, on the "need to be open to scientific questioning of events", including the Holocaust (scientific rigor being a hallmark of Holocaust deniers). But sane grownups know that the historical reality of the event is long settled. And I don't mean settled in the way that the consensus, based on theory, computer modeling, political pressure and religious fervor, is that global warming is settled. The scientific questioning of events Ahmadinejad asked for already happened, was very thorough, and the verdict was in, sixty-four years ago. The evidence was so far beyond what a person of the 1940's could wrap their mind around, that General Eisenhower was afraid that nobody would believe it, would believe that anything that horrible and bestial could have been perpetrated by humans against humans.  "Take pictures of everything," he reportedly said, "I mean everything, because one day some son of a bitch is going to say this never was." 

Ike was prescient in the matter. He foresaw the Holocaust deniers, and so he made sure that as many soldiers, officers, politicians, journalists and German townsfolk as possible viewed the sickening physical evidence firsthand, and gathered a mountain of horrifying and heartbreaking photographic and physical evidence along the way. This, before Photoshop was invented. Would that the deranged murderer, who was a WWII vet himself, had been one of the camp liberators. The mass graves and mounds of dead bodies and the emaciated, hollow-eyed living skeletons gave mute testimony. The large number of Jews today without parents or grandparents or great-grandparents give vocal testimony, as does the dwindling number of quiet, elderly people with tatooed numbers on their arms and horror seared upon their minds and souls.

The deniers are too late. But maybe we shouldn't wish them away.  People aren't going to stop believing the Holocaust happened because of their wild-eyed claims.  They'll stop believing it because it becomes blurred with time and distance and people stop talking about it.  But people are still talking about it because they are determined that the world never forget.  And in a satisfying irony, every time deniers make the news, it adds to the conversation.

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