I recently stumbled upon a Holocaust denial forum and was immediately struck by how, well, nasty the contributers were. Their posts all seemed very angry, strident and dripping with sarcasm and rolleyes while discussing the atrocities. They seem like horrible people.
Do you know any Holocaust deniers? What kind of person are they?
Once met a Tunisian guy in a history class. He said he didn’t read one of the local newspapers because the owner was Jewish. The conversation turned to Palestine (not by my doing) and he was an off-hand remark that seemed to question whether or not there had been a genocide of Jews. He mainly seemed to be very pro-Palestinian and to question the Holocaust to prevent its being used in a pro-Israel argument and to make sure the Palestinians won the “bigger victim competition”.
I knew one once. He was a very nice guy, and simply couldn’t believe that the German people would do such a thing. The Germans are nice, fun-loving, musical, highly literate, fond of pastries, etc. He’s travelled in Germany and met many Germans. It simply didn’t make sense (to him) that those nice people ever could have been so horrid. He said that most of the Jews (and others) probably just got lost from each other during the chaos of the war’s end.
It’s a remarkably naive viewpoint, and it marks him as ignorant and susceptible to wishful thinking. But at least there wasn’t anything nasty or hateful in his ideas.
While in Grad School, I met a guy who expressed doubts about the Holocaust, beliefs in a Jewish banking conspiracy, & various racist ideas. When just out of high school, he said he almost joined the local Klan but thought better of it. Actually, a basically decent guy who probably was more a product of his environment & willing to reconsider his prejudices.
Right now, I have a co-worker who has expressed some doubts, but he’s basically a good-humored asshole contrarian who just has fun occassionally saying outrageous things.
What is a Holocaust “denier”? An Indonesian or Chinese who does not know much about that part of history except for some hazily recollected history lesson? Someone who claims that the Germans never imposed genocide and it is all propaganda. Someone who asks what was the actual number of people killed? Me, because I once pointed out that Anne Frank died of typhus not Zyklon B?
A Holocaust denier is someone who claims (in the face of overwhelming evidence) that the Holocaust, or large parts of it never happened - not someone who is ignorant of history or disputes isolated facts or events. The Holocaust denier is always motivated by intense bigotry.
The only such humanoids I know are from online encounters, particularly believers in woo who conjure up conspiracies to explain why their beliefs don’t gain traction. One example is Ryke Hamer, proponent of the “German New Medicine” ((GNM) - a loathsome form of quackery which claims cancer is caused by emotional shocks and fear of mainstream treatment). Hamer, in addition to being a Holocaust denier, thinks an international Jewish conspiracy has killed 2 billion people by denying them his GNM.
Believe it or not, there are nitwits out there who worship this guy.
The thing I don’t understand completely is the psychological relationship between antisemitism and holocaust denial. The more obvious position for an anti-Semite to take is “yeah it happened, and I’m glad.” I can see them fronting for political reasons, but they seem to carry the belief over to their private life.
Maybe I’m just “lucky” but I have had to unfriend half a dozen people on Facebook in the past couple of years for denying the Holocaust. All were from Pakistan originally (as am I) but most live in Canada or US now. Pretty much half my extended family is dead to me for the same reason.
We had Thanksgiving this year with a family we don’t know too well, but whose daughter is good friends with ours. The father (Irish American, first generation) and another guest (Serbian) were banging on about how the Jews controlled everything (money, media) even history, to the extent that they fabricated the genocide of the Jews. The “good news” is that they were just taking a breather from slagging off our secret Muslim president. So they are equal opportunity paranoids.
None of these folks are ignorant in a generalized sense. Most of them have graduate degrees from big name US universities.
I worked with a guy who was of some conservative jewish sect that believed the holocaust was God’s punishment for sinful jews and they deserved it. He casually told this to a coworker in the cube next to me who’s grandparents had been in a concentration camp, I was expecting a fight to break out but he was so stunned that that type of person existed.
He was a strange guy from Russia (or whatever country russia broke up into, there’s tons of Ukranian Jews in my area so maybe there. He was also a useless employee but managed to survive about 2 years before being laid off.
I can’t think of any explicit Holocaust deniers among my current crop of acquaintances. But I do not someone worse: a Holocaust justifier. Two, now that I think on it, both members of the Church of God in Christ: the one a pastor, the other a lay member.
The pastor has opined at least once in my presence that Jews are accursed for refusing the call to Christianity, and that the Holocaust was God’s punishment for their refusal to convert.
The layman says that, when King Saul did not murder the Amalekite King in I Samuel 13 or so, he was not merely disobeying God’s order but bringing about the eventual near-extinction of his own people, as after this bit of mercy, the king fathered a child who was Adolph’s Hitler’s ancestor.
My roomate in college was one. He was a pretty strict christian. He also was of German heritage, and maybe he wanted to be proud of his heritage instead of a little ashamed? He claimed that the evidence of the holocaust was made up.
Well, generally the anti-Semite position is to distrust Jews; as Jewish concentration camp survivors are the ones making the claims to genocide, their stories are highly suspect. It is also common to ascribe motives of “Jewish conspiracy”; that is to say that the Jewish people have spread the story to deceive the world into viewing them as victims while disguising their true role in global domination.
It is not a very reasonable train of thought.
I lived in Germany before the wall came down and believe it or not, the students are taught in school that it was all fabricated and untrue. Their country did not perform any of the atrocities protrayed by
who else but the good ol’ U.S.A.!
I lived in West Berlin for 14 years and nobody, either on the West or East part of Berlin ever ONCE denied the holocaust or said it was fabricated or untrue. Ever.
There were some older Germans who told me that they had no idea it was going on while it was going on. Some said they had heard rumors during the war. But it was not like they had Internet nor was the press reporting on the fact. So it was not common knowledge while the war was on.
But I call BULLSHIT on the concept that Germans were ever taught in school that the Holocaust was anything but a very true, horrible part of their history.
My ex BIL is/was an ardent Germanophile and a conspiracy enthusiast (Trilateral Commission etc style). He is all about how everything German is just the best. Cars, beer, culture - all the best in the world.
About 15 years when we sat down for Thanksgiving he began talking casually about how Hitler was a bit misunderstood and the concentration camp stuff was all faked etc.
I began asking him what he based this opinion on and his father a WWII veteran told him that he was full of crap with strong undertone to STFU. This seemed to shut him down. He later told my then wife he was “just kidding”, but I knew he was very serious, he simply had had a few beers and let the mask slip.
The funny thing is that
1: He is a very high level electrical engineer and project manager with stratospheric government security clearances for the milspec and black box work he does.
2: His parent are both first generation (ie born here) Poles. Given the Poles history with Hitler I guess I thought he would be less of German cheerleader.