The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Independent London 03.17.00

Pandora - Commentary

THE HIGH Court case brought by David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt and
Penguin Books wouldn't seem the first place to go for amusement. But Irving,
who is suing the publisher for libel after Lipstadt called him a "Holocaust
denier", has managed to keep the court entertained. In his closing speech,
Irving became a little carried away while describing an encounter with a
group of agitators. The exclamation "Mein Fuhrer!" which somehow found its
way into his oratory caused spectators to fall about laughing. "Whether it
was part of his story or a lapse in concentration is impossible to say,"
explains a witness. Fortunately, the judge managed to restrain any impulse
to respond with a Nazi salute.



COMMENTARY : Those who would deny the truth must not win

By Barbara Finch


MY friends Linda and Jerry volunteer at the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and
Learning Center. Recently, on an almost-spring evening, they greeted a group
of young adults from a local church.

Linda began the tour in the quiet vestibule of the museum, where the walls
are lined with poignant black and white photos of relatives and friends of
St. Louis families, most of whom perished in Europe during the war. She
explained that the word "holocaust" means "destruction by fire," that Jews
were not the only people who were sought out and killed by the Nazis
(homosexuals, Gypsies, the handicapped, intellectuals and Jehovah's
Witnesses were also targets), and that approximately 250 Holocaust survivors
live in the St. Louis area today.

In the display area, Linda talked about how Hitler came to power, the
concept of the master Aryan race, the boycott of Jewish shops,
Kristallnacht, book burnings, Nazi youth rallies, ghettos, concentration
camps, gas chambers and forced marches. The group was quiet, attentive and

Jerry, one of those 250 local Holocaust survivors, described how he and his
family managed to get through "six years of hell on earth." With calm
bordering on dispassion, he described living in a Warsaw ghetto with food
rations amounting to 150 calories a day. He talked about the smell, the
lice, the hunger and the terror. The group sat in stunned silence as he
described how he and 10 other people existed for 20 months in a hand-dug
bunker under a barn, on a small farm six miles from Treblinka. Jerry did not
see the sun shine for nearly two years.

"Sometimes I think: Is it really true?" he said. "Then I look at the
register of Jewish survivors, and I see that my name is there."

Is it really true? As astonishing as it may seem, there are people who deny
the Holocaust. In spite of the overwhelming evidence, the gruesome
photographs, the eyewitness accounts and the personal stories of survivors
such as Jerry, these deniers call the Holocaust a hoax or a myth. What began
as a crackpot fringe movement has slowly worked its way into the public eye.

No one knows this better than Deborah E. Lipstadt, a noted historian and
professor at Emory University in Atlanta. For more than a decade, Lipstadt
has examined Holocaust deniers. She has researched their connections to a
worldwide network of right-wing and neo-Nazi groups. And while many of us
may equate Holocaust deniers with those who believe that Elvis is alive and
living in Montana, Lipstadt believes they are very, very dangerous.

In her 1993 book, "Denying The Holocaust: The Growing Assault On Truth And
Memory," Lipstadt writes: "Though denial of the Holocaust may be an attack
on the history of the annihilation of the Jews, at its core it poses a
threat to all who believe that knowledge and memory are among the keystones
of our civilization. Just as the Holocaust was not a tragedy of the Jews but
a tragedy of civilization in which the victims were Jews, so too denial of
the Holocaust is not a threat just to Jewish history but a threat to all who
believe in the ultimate power of reason."

The power of reason is now being tested in a London courtroom, where
Lipstadt and her publishers are the defendants in a suit brought by David
Irving, a controversial British writer. Irving believes Hitler did not order
the Holocaust, did not know of it and was therefore not responsible for it.
He also has denied that Auschwitz was an extermination camp and claims the
number of Jews killed has been grossly exaggerated.

For such extremist views, Lipstadt has branded Irving as "one of the most
dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial." Irving sued Lipstadt for libel.

My friend Jerry expresses incredulity, anger, frustration and sadness when
he talks about those who deny the Holocaust. If they are successful he
feels, as Lipstadt writes, they will "kill those who already died at the
hands of the Nazis for a second time by destroying the world's memory of them."

Over the exit at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, is a quote from a
survivor: "I have told you this story not to weaken you but to strengthen
you. Now it is up to you."

In view of what is happening in a London courtroom, those of us who believe
in the power of reason must now realize: It is up to all of us.

Barbara L. Finch, Kirkwood, is a free-lance writer. Deborah Lipstadt will be
in St. Louis May 19-20 for three appearances at Congregation Temple Israel.
Call (314) 432-8050 for information.

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