The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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From Fri Feb 24 13:26:10 EST 2006
Article: 1097824 of alt.revisionism
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From: (Eugene Holman)
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: It's the Austrians who are in denial
Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2006 15:42:05 +0200
Organization: University of Helsinki
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Here is some informed opinion about the situation in Austria that the
country's law against Holocaust denial was designed to confront.

Eugene Holman


It's the Austrians who are in denial
>From Thursday's Globe and Mail

The Yiddish word "chutzpah" has passed into English as an expression of
shameless gall or unmitigated effrontery. If an example were ever needed
of the word's meaning, it was provided this week by an Austrian judge who
found British historian David Irving guilty, under Austrian law, of
Holocaust denial and sentenced him to three years in jail. Talk about the
pot calling the kettle black!

It's not that Mr. Irving did not do what he was accused of. In fact, five
years ago he was exposed, in a libel trial he lost in London, as a racist
and anti-Semite who manipulated historical evidence to deny the existence
of Nazi gas chambers and the murder of millions of Jews. To keep him from
spreading his message, he was barred from entering Canada, Australia, New
Zealand, Germany and, also, Austria. And yet, what happened to Mr. Irving
in Austria, as deserved as it may be, is a bizarre travesty. Of all
people, the Austrians should be among the last to judge anyone defending
Hitler's murderous racism.

Though Austrians accounted for only 8 per cent of the population of
Hitler's Third Reich, they comprised 40 per cent of the personnel involved
in genocide. Among them were commandants of the extermination camps and 70
per cent of the staff of Adolf Eichmann, the man in charge of
exterminating Jews. Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal estimated Austrians
shared responsibility for the murder of approximately half the six million
Jews who died in the Holocaust.

While all that may be ancient history, more recent events show Austria has
not learned much from its deadly past.

In a way, the Austrians got a free pass from the victorious allies at the
end of the Second World War. For all their enthusiastic welcome of Hitler
when Germany annexed the country in 1938, Austria was declared to be the
"the first victim of Hitlerite aggression." That spared the Austrians the
painful self-examination of their culpability in crimes against humanity.
They simply promulgated the myth that only a handful of "traitors" had
collaborated with Nazi rule. There may be no such thing as collective
guilt. Nor should the sins of the fathers be visited upon their children.
But to ignore the sins of the fathers -- and even deny them -- lowers the
barriers to sinning anew. Austria's societal amnesia about the Nazi period
has tainted its otherwise commendable democracy.

The consequences came to a head in 1986 when Kurt Waldheim, a former UN
secretary-general, ran for the presidency of Austria. Like so many other
Austrians of his generation, Mr. Waldheim had forgotten an inconvenient
fact in his autobiography, namely that during the war he had not been just
a member of the regular German army, as he claimed, but rather a member of
a Nazi storm-trooper unit that had committed atrocities in the Balkans.
Austria's voters elected him anyway.

Mr. Waldheim's forgetfulness let loose the already weak restraints of
dealing honestly with the country's guilty past. It led to the rise, in
the past few years, of the rightist Freedom Party. With its leader, Joerg
Haider, praising some of Hitler's policies and veterans of the Waffen SS,
the Nazi's elite storm troops, the party gained more than a quarter of the
vote in elections in 2000. Under international criticism and sanctions,
the party has weakened since then but remains a powerful force in Austrian

And David Irving got his comeuppance thanks to his inability to resist,
despite an outstanding warrant for his arrest, the lure of a sympathetic
audience of Austrian university students eager to hear his racist message.

His jailing, though, raises a question: Have not the Austrians gone after
the wrong guy? Surely, rather than jailing some nutty Brit, they would
have been better served cleaning up their own mess that they have left to
fester for 60 years. If the Austrians don't face up to what their fathers
and grandfathers did, it is bound to come back and haunt them, their
children and grandchildren.

Joe Schlesinger is a veteran CBC journalist who was born in Vienna and
whose parents and relatives perished in the Holocaust.

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