Whoopi Goldberg’s recent statement quoted in The New York Post that genocide was not “racial” but rather a form of “white-on-white” crime, has continues her failure to understand the nature of the Holocaust.
This follows the response to former President Donald Trump hosting Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier at Mar-a-Lago, and the rapper Ye pronouncing his love for Adolf Hitler, which precipitated a torrent of anger and disgust for providing credibility and legitimacy to antisemitism and to those who spew it.
As historian Saul Friedländer noted, Jews were perceived as seeking to destroy the nations of the world by spreading racial pollution, destabilizing the basic foundations of the state, and by leading the principal devastating forces of the 19th and 20th centuries: “Bolshevism, plutocracy, democracy, internationalism and pacifism.”
Hitler’s fixation with the Jew is clearly demonstrated in Volume One of Mein Kampf, where he portrayed the Jew in very definite terms: “The Jew as a maggot in a rotting corpse, he is a plague worse than the Black Death of former times, a germ carrier of the worst sort; mankind’s eternal germ of disunion; the drone which insinuates its way into the rest of mankind; the spider that slowly sucks the people’s blood out of its pores; the pack of rats fighting bloodily among themselves; the parasite on the body of other peoples; the typical parasite; a sponger who, like a harmful bacillus, continues to spread; the eternal bloodsucker; the peoples’ parasite; the people’s vampire.”
Historian Eberhard Jäckel notes that practically all these terms are from parasitology; the Jew was isolated from the rest of humanity; and “the use of language suggests the methods of his elimination.”
“The attack by the Holocaust deniers is, in a very deep sense, the most hurtful that has ever been leveled against the Jews, “ asserted Arthur Hertzberg. “We have long prepared to defend our religion and our corporate character(to the degree to which it might exist), but the immediate reaction by Jews to the Holocaust deniers is outrage so complete that we cannot think of an adequate response.”
The question of how to respond to Holocaust denial and efforts to stifle free speech is not new. When Michael Shermer, the founder of The Skeptics Society, and editor in chief of its magazine Skeptic, and I co-authored a book on Holocaust denial,* we decided that if we did not respond to their lies, our silence would be interpreted as having no answer to their outrageous and cruel fabrications.
What motivates Holocaust deniers? Historian Yehuda Bauer suggests deniers are trying to create the preconditions to deny the Jewish people the right to live in the post-Holocaust world.
Walter Reich, a former director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, asks “what better way to rehabilitate antisemitism than to make antisemitism arguments seem once again respectable in civilized discourse and even make it acceptable for governments to pursue antisemitic policies than by convincing the world that the great crime for which antisemitism was blamed simply never happened—indeed that it was nothing more than a frame-up invented by the Jews, and propagated by them through their control of the media? What better way, in short, to make the world safe again for antisemitism than by denying the Holocaust.” This theme is also found in Pierre Vidal-Naquet’s book Assassins of Memory: “One revives the dead in order to strike the living.”
Duty to Respond
Unfortunately, the deniers have convinced some in the media that this is a free speech issue, which it is not. No one is asking the government to prevent the deniers from speaking or publishing their literature. We need to know who they are, their objectives and what they are espousing. But we are under no legal or moral obligation to publish and promote their work or provide them with venues to facilitate their hatemongering activities.
As part of their attempt to assert their legitimacy, the deniers allege they are revisionists. By making this claim, they falsely bestow upon themselves an air of erudition and authenticity. The problem is they selectively choose what suits their position and ignore or discount the rest. Genuine revisionists are historians who revise or modify a theory based on new information, or provide a new interpretation of an event, rather than fabrication or omission.
Deniers justify their claim that the Holocaust is a hoax on the three points that define the Holocaust.
1.The Holocaust was a highly technical, well-organized and systematic program using gas chambers and crematoria, among other instruments and methods, to murder Jews.
2. An estimated six million Jews were murdered.
3. There was an intention to commit genocide of Jews based primarily on racial ideology.
Definition of the Holocaust
When we refer to the Holocaust, we mean the systematic bureaucratically administered destruction by the Nazis and their collaborators of six million Jews during the Second World War. The Jews were found “guilty” for being Jews. The Nazi state orchestrated the attempted mass murder of every person with at least three Jewish grandparents.
Having interviewed Holocaust deniers, Michael Shermer and I know that no amount of evidence will persuade them to abandon their belief that the Holocaust never occurred. Those using the Holocaust to portray Israel as behaving like Nazis are equally determined and incorrigible.
Our task is to learn how to respond to those seeking to deny the Holocaust and using it to defame Israel.
A Final Note
By focusing on the unique position of the Jew in the Holocaust, we learn about the nature of Western civilization and culture. European Jewry “was not a dissident minority in a remote corner of the world, but by virtue of its thinkers [Einstein, Freud, Marx, Kafka, Proust] an important component of European civilization which dominated the pre-Holocaust world,” observed historian Henry Feingold.
Arthur Hertzberg notes the Holocaust raises the question of whether our civilization will accept the existence of the Jews and other minorities living in its midst as distinct entities with their own group consciousness. It is clear that antisemitism and racism are still pervasive elements in American society and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
While the Jewish people have succeeded in surviving anti-Semitism, the question that remains is whether the West can “survive its persisting nature.”
Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society, a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and on the advisory board of The National Christian Leadership Conference of Israel (NCLCI). He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is co-author with Michael Shermer of *Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? (Berkeley: University of California Press).