The future of denial (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By DEBORAH E. LIPSTADT 01/27/05)
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Standing in the biting cold of Auschwitz-Birkenau, surrounded by
aging Holocaust survivors, it struck me that such a gathering will
not be possible much longer. We, who have grown up surrounded by
survivors - as teachers, neighbors, and friends´ parents - can
easily forget how important their personal testimony is.
When today´s children are old enough to really understand this
momentous event, there will be virtually no one around to speak in
the first person singular and to say "This is my story, this is what
happened to me."
Many people worry that when the voice of the witness is lost,
Holocaust deniers will find it easier to spread their lies. This
fear suggests that without the survivors, there will not be enough
evidence to "prove" what happened at Auschwitz. Though a survivor
can speak with the unique voice of the eyewitness, this fear is
This was brought into stark relief during my legal battle in the UK
when I was compelled to defend myself against charges of libel
brought by Holocaust denier David Irving. Without relying on
survivors as witnesses, we amassed a massive cache of documentary,
testimonial, and material evidence about Auschwitz.
With the assistance of a gifted team of expert historians, my legal
team proved that Irving´s and, by extension, other deniers´ claims
about Auschwitz were a tissue of lies. Judge Charles Gray of the
High Court of Justice emphasized this in his 355-page judgment. He
said that the evidence conclusively demonstrated that Irving´s
claims that Auschwitz-Birkenau was not a death camp fell far short
of the standard to be expected of a conscientious historian.
Gray declared that the "cumulative effect" of the documentary
evidence for the genocidal operation of the gas chambers at
Auschwitz was "considerable," "mutually corroborative," and "striking
[ly]... consistent." He concluded that "no objective, fair-minded
historian would have serious cause to doubt" the existence of gas
chambers at Auschwitz. The four different judges who heard Irving´s
As a result of this lawsuit - brought against me by this man whom
the court declared a denier, anti-Semite, and racist - virtually all
denial arguments as they stood until July 2001, the date of the
final appeal, were exposed as completely bogus.
This sweeping and unrelenting dismissal constituted a serious
setback for the deniers. In the Western world, this blatant form of
Holocaust denial has currently been relegated, by and large, to
fringes of the political spectrum.
Other forms of denial - declaring President George W. Bush and Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon to be Hitler´s equivalent or denouncing
Israeli soldiers as Nazis - are still prevalent. These charges are a
form of Holocaust denial because, irrespective of how one feels
about the United States´ or Israel´s policies, comparing them to the
actions of the Third Reich is a complete distortion of the truth.
THERE IS, however, a region of the world where David Irving-style
wholesale denial is alive and kicking: the Arab world. Abdel Aziz
Rantisi, who served as the "general commander" of Hamas until his
assassination in April 2004, expressed his outrage at the Zionists´
success in spreading the propaganda of the "false Holocaust" and
claimed that that no one has clarified how the "false gas chambers
worked." Maintaining a consistent level of historical accuracy,
Rantisi decried the fact that David Irving "was sued" because of his
In August 2004 Muhammad Al-Zurqani, the former editor-in-chief of Al-
Liwaa Al-Islami, the Egyptian government daily, declared on Egyptian
television that "the Holocaust is a big lie." Author Rif´at Sayyed
Ahmad, who had written an article in the daily, entitled "The Lie
about the Burning of the Jews," was appearing on the same show. As
soon as Al-Zurqani made his claim, he chimed in, "Of course."
Though the Egyptian information minister denounced such views, the
Egyptian Journalists Association defended them as being based
on "historical research."
In his recent book The Lost Territories of the Republic, Georges
Bensoussan describes the current situation in many French schools
attended by large numbers of Muslims. These students frequently
dismiss their teachers´ attempts to teach about the Holocaust with
the declaration: "This is an invention." In response, some French
teachers have reportedly backed off from teaching about the
There has been a tendency to dismiss this phenomenon as of matter of
lesser concern because it comes from "disaffected" Muslim and Arab
youth. Most of these students, however, are the French-born children
or grandchildren of immigrants.
Holocaust denial is not the only form of false history that is
gaining ground in the Arab and Muslim world. Increasingly, the myths
of the blood libel and of world Jewish domination have spread.
In 2003, the manuscript museum at the famed Alexandria Library
briefly exhibited The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (it withdrew
them in response to world protests). The Egyptian weekly Al-Usbu
interviewed Dr. Yousef Ziedan, the director of manuscripts at the
library, in conjunction with the exhibition.
Regarding the Holocaust, the weekly quoted the museum official as
saying, "An analysis of samples from the purported gas chambers has
proven that these were sterilization chambers, without a sufficient
quantity of cyanide to kill." He also declared that "Had Hitler
wanted to annihilate the Jews of Europe, he would have." Strikingly,
fundamentalist Muslims have adopted the traditional anti-Semitic
imagery of the Christian world.
While there are those Arab intellectuals who have decried Holocaust
denial by their fellow Arabs, their views do not seem to be in the
ascendancy. The phenomenon of Arab and Muslim Holocaust denial
cannot be ignored or dismissed as "simply" an expression of the Arab-
Israeli conflict. These attacks are not found only at the extreme
ends of the political spectrum. Moreover, it is hard to erase these
notions once they have taken root, particularly in a generation of
The prevalence of Arab Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are a
stark indication that despite the fact that a myriad of heads of
state and their delegations gathered yesterday at Birkenau, history -
particularly inconvenient history - remains a battleground.
The writer, a member of the official American delegation to the
Sixtieth Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz, is author most
recently of History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving. (©
1995-2004, The Jerusalem Post 01/27/05)
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