MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Deniers in different countries

The best known Holocaust denier in the UK is David Irving. Despite not being trained as a historian, he has written numerous books about the history of the Second World War in which he expresses his pro-Nazi sympathies. He denies that the nazi Germans murdered Jews in gas chambers, maintains close ties with the IHR, and testified in Zundel’s defense. He has been fined in Germany for publicly denying the Holocaust and sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment in Austria.

Nick Griffin, leader of the far right British National Party, has expressed similar views.

Robert Faurisson was banned from university teaching in France for denying the Holocaust.

Holocaust deniers Albert Szabo and Istvan Gorkos are under judicial investigation in Hungary for Holocaust denial.

Opole University lecturer Dariusz Ratajczak became the most notorious Holocaust denier in Poland. He was fired and brought to trial, but the court dismissed the case against him on the grounds of “negligible social harmfulness.”

Among organizations in Poland that deny the Holocaust, the leader is the Polish National Rebirth (Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski), publisher of the periodical Szczerbiec (the title refers to the coronation sword of the Polish kings). In issue 3-5, 1997, it published a translation of the IHR’s 66 Questions and Answers. As for Auschwitz, it states that “It was an internment center and part of a large-scale manufacturing complex. Synthetic fuel was produced there, and its inmates were used as a workforce.” The characteristic attitude is mockery and sarcasm, vying with obsessive hatred of the victims who, in the case of Auschwitz, were not only Jews, but also Poles. Other nationalist organizations and individuals in Poland voice similar views. 

What impact does this propaganda have on wide-scale public opinion?

The most vulnerable targets for such views are people who do not wish to accept historical co-responsibility for Nazi-era crimes—the people who supported fascism in Germany and other countries and who participated to various degrees in the functioning of the criminal apparatus of violence and extermination. This is a symptom of refusal to come to terms with history, to use the popular expression, or to overcome the past. In inter-generational terms, these people are passing on their views and attitudes to their biological and spiritual successors.

Another group of people who approve Holocaust denial consists of those driven by antisemitic obsessions, extreme nationalists, and all sorts of proponents of the prewar and wartime regimes that collaborated with the Third Reich.

Also vulnerable to these views are groups of people that know history poorly or not at all, and who happen to come across revisionist propaganda by chance.

On several occasions in recent years, the press has reported on instances of the acceptance of revisionist views. As a rule, these concern organizations and individuals who are well known because of their professional or social positions.

In 1997, the press reported that one of the best known German neo-Nazis, Manfred Roeder, was invited to lecture at the Bundeswehr Command Academy.

There have been cases of far-right brochures being distributed in German barracks, and of soldiers exchanging the Nazi salute or reenacting the burning of Jews.

On June 9, 2005, the Polish press reported that Austrian senator John Gudenus had questioned the existence of the gas chambers on television. He later stated that there were no gas chambers in Germany, but that they did exist in Poland.

In Wales, a police constable, Robert Pulling, told participants in a police academy training session that “Hitler was right.”

The acceptance of revisionist claims or ignorance about the crimes committed by the German regime and the regimes that collaborated with Nazi Germany leads to the glorification of people and institutions responsible for genocide. In Slovakia, the president of the wartime Slovak Republic, who shared responsibility for the deportation of the Jews ands their killing, is adored. Many aspects of the glorification of the Wehrmacht in Germany are objectionable, since the army cleared the path for the criminals in the SS and Gestapo, and itself participated on more than one occasion in executions of civilians and POWs.

In many countries, despite the laws in force, there is a tendency to turn a blind eye on Holocaust negation and genocide in the name of a misguided concept of freedom of speech. In Poland, the controversial politician and journalist Janusz Korwin Mikke, for instance, voices such opinions. While referring to Voltaire’s maxim about defending the right to express even unpopular views, such people forget about the equally important political and moral aspects of genocide denial.

In essence, this was not only the most tragic of human experiences, but also the most significant—not only in terms of the past, but also of the present and the future. Denying the Holocaust and genocide is also an affront to the victims. It strips those who died of their right to remembrance; for those who lost loved ones, it is a painful slander—a covert, or indeed an overt accusation that they are telling untruths.