Probably the most abhorrent expression of contemporary anti-Semitism is Holocaust denial. And in recent years, the world has experienced far too many examples of this travesty.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the disgraced British Bishop Richard Williamson, British pseudo-historian David Irving, Ernst Zundel (now in a German prison), James Keegstra and too many others will themselves go down in history as proponents of this worst kind of revisionism.
Not surprisingly, Ahmadinejad will also not be happy unless Israel is wiped off the map. Some of his political cronies on the international scene, such as Venezuela’s anti-Semitic President Hugo Chavez and deposed Honduras president Manuel Zelaya are also virulent anti-Israel proponents.
As part of what has been described as a bizarre rant, Zelaya recently accused Israel of attacking the Brazilian Embassy in Honduras with high-frequency radiation and toxic gases while he took refuge there. One of Zelaya’s chief propagandists,David Romero Ellner, the director of Radio Globo in Honduras, stated in a broadcast that Hitler had been right and that it was unfortunate that he had not gotten the chance to finish off the Holocaust.
Why is Holocaust denial so evil? It denies the lives, suffering and deaths of six million innocent people murdered solely because they were Jewish. It is an obvious attempt to characterize the Holocaust as a Jewish conspiracy aimed at gaining sympathy, enhancing support of the State of Israel and seeking compensation for wrongs done. Moreover, Holocaust denial is an attempt to delegitimize Israel and its vital mission of survival in a hostile environment that extends beyond the Middle East to many capitals around the globe.
In an article called “Deep Denial: Why the Holocaust Still Matters,” which was published recently in The New Republic and reprinted in the National Post, Michael Oren outlined how Holocaust denial is a strategic weapon in the armoury of anti-Israel proponents. He points out that “many [people] might be unaware of the extent of ignorance of the Final Solution… especially among youth. Confronted with the enormity of the horror, many young people today… react with incredulity, rendering them susceptible to denial.”
All this underscores the importance of Holocaust Education Week – Nov. 1 to 11 in Canada. Many CJN readers will have seen the program of activities scheduled for the Greater Toronto Area distributed in a recent edition of this paper. The diversity of topics focusing on various aspects of the Shoah is impressive. These include personal testimonies of survivors, a screening and discussion of recent Holocaust motion pictures, musical responses to the Holocaust and a writing workshop for children of survivors. There is also consideration of the legal responses to hate propaganda and a discussion on how aging survivors confront their future, as well as a lecture on restitution for the Holocaust.
Another important theme is the vital question about how our children and grandchildren will remember and preserve the memory of the Shoah. This is addressed in one session on children born in Europe after liberation, survivors’ children born in Canada and the following generation. And this important theme is also creatively addressed in the North American Hebrew-language première of And the Rat Laughed, an opera exploring the multi-generational power of memory that blends the Holocaust experience from past, present and future perspectives.
The Holocaust Education Week program is most impressive. One can only hope that the message and lessons taught and learned during this week are imprinted on the minds of Jews and non-Jews alike, and will endure as lasting memories in the narrative of the world’s darkest hours.
In June of this year, Canada became a full member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research (ITF), an international, inter-governmental organization committed to teaching future generations about the Holocaust. Canada has also established the National Task Force on Holocaust Research Remembrance and Education in order to share and enhance important Holocaust research and education initiatives in our country.
The antidote for Holocaust denial is widespread Holocaust education. This will not completely eliminate anti-Semitism, but it may curtail the deliberate distortion of historical fact and put to shame those who deny this pernicious chapter of 20th-century history and the Jewish experience in order to thinly masquerade their vile and atrocious hate.